Shanghai, a former fishing village, is now an international metropolis and one of the most dynamic cities worldwide with lots of attractions and an incredible food scene. When you visit Shanghai, it’s very likely to find yourself in some of Shanghai’s tourist hotspots such as The Bund, Jing’an Temple and Old French Concession and there you’ll come across plenty of restaurants for every taste. Here are the top ten must try foods in Shanghai.
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10. Yangchun Noodles 阳春面 Yángchūn miàn
These noodles got their name after the 10th Lunar month in the Chinese calendar because when they came to Shanghai, they costed ten "fen." The noodles themselves are thin and in a clear broth with soy sauce, green onion and sesame oil to soften the noodles. These very simple and plain noodles are surprisingly tasteful and are quite prevalent as a hot breakfast.
9. Squirrel Shaped Fish 松子鲑鱼 Sōngzǐ guīyú
Squirrel Shape Fish hits all the important points in fancy Chinese cuisine: shape, color, taste and quality. Typically, Mandarin Fish is used to make this dish. A popular dish in Suzhou that has made its way to Shanghai, it is a staple in banquets and feasts. The fish is deep fried to give it a crispy outer texture and soft interior. Hot broth is poured on the fish, which produced a high pitched sound. It is topped off with sweet and sour sauce for flavor and color.
8. Sweet and Sour Ribs 糖醋排骨 Táng cù páigǔ
Sweet and sour spare ribs are one of the best known rib dishes in China. In Chinese, it is literally called “sugar and vinegar spareribs” which indicates the main ingredients of this dish. This dish epitomizes the sweet and sour dishes of China. The fresh pork ribs, which appear shiny and red after being cooked, are traditionally deep fried then coated in a delicious sweet and sour sauce. It originated in Wuxi City of Jiangsu Province and is incredibly popular in Shanghai.
7. Big Wontons 大混沌 Dà hùndùn
Arguably Shanghai’s most popular breakfast food is Shanghai Big Wontons. Wontons come in different shapes and forms based on location, but Shanghai’s wontons are big and round. Local Shanghai streets are filled with Wonton vendors in the morning. What makes the Shanghai version so special is the size, shape and filling. Resembling a ravioli, the wrapper “ears” are folded inwards and the wonton is cooked in chicken stock. For those wanting the real, local Shanghai breakfast, give three delicacies wontons a try. The filling consists of pork, shrimp and fish and can be served in soup or dry.
6. Braised Eggplant 红烧茄子 Hōng shāo qiézi
Few truly love eggplant before they come to China, but once here, almost everyone's a convert to this purple veggie. Of all the eggplant dishes offered in this city, the braised version of this hearty vegetable is by far the most savory. Stewed in shaoxing wine, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, sugar, chilies and sometimes even pork, this Shanghai favorite has become a staple menu item at most restaurants. It boasts the perfect combo of saltiness, sweetness and savoriness -- and we don’t feel so guilty eating it because it’s a veggie.
5. Lion Head Meatballs 狮子头 Shīzi tóu
The name derives from the shape of the meatball which is supposed to resemble the head of the lion and the cabbage (or other vegetables), which is supposed to resemble the lion’s mane. The red variety in Shanghai can be stewed with cabbage or cooked with bamboo shoots and tofu derivatives. Lion head meatballs might not be as big as a lion’s head, but they are delicious anyway, sort of like the foie gras of meatballs with indulgent crab meat and a creamy texture. The delicate, porky nuances of these meatballs are quite irresistible with lots of rice.
4. Hairy Crabs 大闸蟹 Dàzháxiè
Hairy Crab is a Shanghai specialty that is often eaten for Mid Autumn Festival because these crabs are “in season” in September and October. Around this time of the year, the crabs are getting ready to lay their eggs, which makes them the tastiest according to Chinese people. They are highly sought after because they are a rare delicacy that are high in amino acids and protein. These steamed crabs go great with ginger and vinegar at family gatherings to celebrate the holiday.
3. Pan Fried Dumplings 生煎 Shēng jiān
The crispy, pan-fried cousin of the soup dumpling. Usually filled with pork, shrimp or cabbage, these dumplings are also filled with soup. The proper way to eat them is similar to Xiao Long Bao. As they are filled with soup that is very hot, if you bite right into it the soup will squirt out. It’s best to poke a small hole in the Sheng Jian, and either drink the soup out or catch it in a spoon for after.
2. Braised Pork Belly 红烧肉 Hóngshāo ròu
Shanghai cuisine is known for being sweeter than most, and Braised Pork Belly is a perfect example of this. This dish is almost like candy. The pork belly is braised for hours in soy sauce and sugar so the meat can absorb the flavor and the fatty white parts just melt when you put it in your mouth. Because it takes so much care and effort to cook, famous old Shanghai restaurants do this dish the best.
1. Soup Dumplings 小笼包 Xiǎo lóng bāo
The mecca of Shanghainese food is of course the Soup Dumpling or Xiaolongbao. If you come to Shanghai and don't eat it, you'll forever hate yourself. These sultry dumplings usually have thin skin with pork or vegetables inside along with delicious and savory soup. They are steam cooked to unlock the gelatinous soup from it's solid barrier. It's best to poke a small hole in the dumpling and drain some soup into a spoon, then eat it all together.
To find any of these foods at place near you, search their names in the Spoonhunt app!
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