Whether to visit Shanghai or Beijing is one of the most common debates for people travelling to China. Although the majority of people travelling with us don’t have to choose between these two great destinations, for food lovers the Shanghai dining scene sees this Chinese city end up on top almost every time. As the mainland’s most cosmopolitan city, Shanghai offers a food lover’s paradise for people of all tastes and budgets.
From its street food treats to its Michelin star cuisine, the city is one of the top places to experience regional Chinese food at its best. Dine like a local in Shanghai on your upcoming China trip with the following insider tips direct from our team.
Sample the king of Shanghai street eats
You can’t visit Shanghai without experiencing its street food scene. Street food is an integral part of Asian culture, but in Shanghai there’s one food item that is the king of street eats. Shanghai dumplings come in all shapes and sizes, and with all manner of fillings. The xiao long bao is the most common on the street and in the many dim sum restaurants lining each and every Shanghai district. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Managing Culinary Director at Serious Eats, shares his love for xiao long bao:
“This is the meal I’ve been waiting for—the main reason I felt compelled to make my wife re-visit Shanghai, in fact. Ever since having my first taste of a Xiao Long Bao—variously referred to as ‘soup dumplings’ or ‘juicy steamed buns’ on American Chinese menus—I’ve yearned to taste them at the source in Shanghai. Why the love? Well, if you’ve yet to experience XLB (as those cool kids in the know like to refer to them in tweets), they’re made by gently folding a gelatin-rich filling into a thin round of stretchy wheat dough.”
Don’t forget the noodles
When talking about iconic Shanghai eats, you can’t overlook the city’s noodle dishes. Like dumplings, Shanghai noodles are found in a variety of flavours throughout the city, with many noodles hand pulled to ensure the best texture and taste.
Whether you love salty, sweet or a mixture of both, you’re certain to find a noodle dish for you. Shanghai fried noodles are popularly served across many street markets providing a hearty vegetable and meat combination. In more well-to-do eateries, it’s scallion oil noodles that are the must-try.
Discover where East meets West
Unlike many Chinese towns and cities, Shanghai has a strongly international feel and this influences the food and drink it serves, particularly at breakfast time. Breakfast in Shanghai offers just as much of an experience as dinner, with its authentic street breakfast and decadent, restaurant-served brunch both delivering powerful insights. Think sweet and savoury steamed buns, Chinese crepes, fried dough sticks and sesame seed pastries, and try not to drool!
Enjoy afternoon tea in a fabulous setting
Although synonymous with British culture, the UK isn’t the only place that observes afternoon tea. We know that the Chinese love their tea, but afternoon tea in Shanghai is an experience all its own. Many top restaurants and hotels throughout the city host afternoon tea, offering British high tea customs with a classic Chinese tea culture twist. First time in Shanghai, or China as a whole? Check out these top tips and plan your itinerary to perfection.