Shanghai cuisine is derived from simple home cooked meals, and their ingredients and cooking techniques have been upgraded overtime to become the wonderful foods that they are now. The ingredients and cooking styles are simple and economical. Shanghai local cuisine uses sugar as a main seasoning, and are partial to sauces. There is an almost endless variety of dishes and each one seems more delicious than the last. It's recommended to try Shanghai Crawfishes, Xiaolongbao, Guotie, tangyuan, Guotie, new year cake, freshwater crab, shark's fin, dim sum, pear candy, etc. during your Shanghai trip.
For traditional Shanghai foods, visitors are recommended to visit the Maylinge Restaurant, the Zun Pin Shao Cai Gong Fang Restaurant (near Jing An Temple), and the Paul Restaurant. Their most popular dishes are: Braised Yellow Croaker with Potherb Mustard, Pork Chop with Sour Plum and Puree of Lima-beans. In these restaurants, visitors can experience real Shanghai local dishes.
Crawfishes usually come into season during the summer. In Shanghai, the spicy crawfish are a particular favorite among local people. A plate of crawfish and a bottle of beer are absolutely the best choice for summer night snacking. Fumao Crawfish is a famous restaurant in Shanghai. It has a number of chain stores throughout the city. The crawfish sold at their restaurants are handpicked from Taihu Lake, a big lake near Wuxi City, in the southern part of Jiangsu province. Before the crawfish are cooked, the heads are removed making them easier to eat. The crawfish are unsalted, and spicy.
Xiaolongbao, literally "little basket bun" originated in the town of Nanxiang in the suburbs of Shanghai, one kind of Shanghai snacks. The buns are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets, hence the name. The small buns are served with a sweet and spicy shredded ginger sauce that diners can dip the Xiaolongbao into. The buns are covered with a thin covering which is made of unraised dough, which gives the skin a smooth and translucent appearance. Unlike other stuffed buns, or Baozi, found throughout China, Xiaolongbao have more filling than dough. The buns are traditionally filled with broth and meat, but other fillings are available. The buns are extremely delicious, and it is said that the more you eat, the more you want. There are two famous Xiaolongbao shops in Shanghai. One is Nanxiang Mantou located in the YU Garden Shopping Street, and the other is Guqiyuan Snacks, near the Yanan crossing of Tibet Road.
Tangyuan is a traditional Shanghai local food originally eaten only during China's lantern festival. Tangyuan is small balls made from glutinous rice flour. They can either be stuffed with sweet or savory fillings, or unstuffed. The flour is mixed with water until it forms dough. Then the dough is rolled into small balls and cooked and served in boiling water. The sweet fillings consist of ground black sesame seeds mixed with sugar, chopped peanuts and sugar, or red bean paste. The savory filling is usually made of pork and spices. In Shanghai, there are many old stores for Tangtuan. The Wang Jia She Confectionery Store located on West Nangjing Road of Jing'an District is one of the most famous. Another well known shop selling Tangyuan is the small restaurant located in the Town God's Temple.
Shengjian, fried steamed bread and Guotie, fried dumplings (pot stickers) are two of Shanghai's most famous exports. These foods can be found throughout China, and across the globe. These two dishes can be found at almost every breakfast table in Shanghai. Two of Shanghai's most popular Shengjian restaurants are the Fengyu Shengjian Restaurant, and the Xiaoyang Shengjian Restaurant. These restaurants are so popular that they usually have lines of people outside waiting to place an order.
One of Shanghai resident's favorite dishes is New Year cakes. They are small cakes made of glutinous rice with meat inside. The cakes are fried, which gives the outside a crisp coating, while the inside is soft and sticky. The most famous shops for New Year Cakes in Shanghai are the Xiaochangzhou Confectionery Branch Store and Xiandelai Confectionery Branch Store, located at the Fuzhou Crossing of the Middle Sichuan Road.
Zongzi, can be filled with a variety of fillings. Shanghai Zongzi is one kind of Shanghai specialties. There are bean Zongzi, chestnut Zongzi, pork Zongzi, and lotus seed paste Zongzi, just to name a few. In China different areas have different styled fillings. Guilin, for example, has traditionally made Zongzi stuffed with taro, pork, preserved pork, and chestnuts. The best part about this traditional Chinese food is that it can be refrigerated and when wanted, just heated in a microwave.
Pear candy has been around for over 2,300 years, since the Tang Dynasty. The Prime Minister Weizhen's mother got sick, and was afraid to take medicine. Her son did not know what to do. One of the emperor's doctors decided to help. He took herbal medicine and condensed it. He then mixed it with pear juice and sugar. This mixture being sweet and delicious made it easy for the mother to take. From then on, the doctor used this technique to cure people of their chills or cough. It was used exclusively by the Imperial household for over one hundred years until the technique leaked out to the general public. This medicine is still being produced, and because it is so delicious, it is called candy. The ingredients in Pear Candy have remained relatively unchanged for over 2,000 years. The candy today is still used to relieve cough and asthma, act as expectorant and work up people's appetites. The Shanghai Pear Candy Store is the exclusive retailer for Pear Candy. It is located in the Yu Garden Shopping Center.
For a list of places to eat in Shanghai during your tour in the city, please visit our Shanghai Restaurants page.