5 Street Foods you have to try when you are in Shanghai

5 Street Foods you have to try when you are in Shanghai

Since I am back in Shanghai I have fallen into my old addictions. China has tons of great food. But you don’t always have to go to the twenty dishes banquets in one of Shanghai’s fancy restaurants. In the spirit of real local lifestyle, you have to try these five most delicious street foods.

1. Xiaolongbao 小笼包 (soup dumpling)

xiaolongbaoThis little dumpling, filled with ground pork and a steaming hot broth, are maybe the most popular steamed dumpling in Shanghai.

They are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets, but as you can see on the picture, in fancy restaurants they also come on plates (sometimes even filled with crab meat, instead of the traditional pork filling). You can get them in nearly every corner of Shanghai. You shouldn’t miss it!

Here’s a fun explanation on how to eat this soup dumpling :)

2. Shengjianbao 生煎包

shengjianbaoThese crispy – bottomed     dumplings are filled with pork and broth, pan-fried, and garnished with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

I have to admit, I had them nearly every night since I arrived in Shanghai. You kind find shop selling them everywhere in Shanghai.

If you live near People’s Square 人民广场, come over to Fengyang Road 凤阳路, a street behind People’s Square Metro exit No. 9. Here you can get all kinds of street food 24/7 and I recommend the Shengjiaobao dealer in the middle of the street. Four Shengjiaobao cost 6RMB nowadays.

3. Jianbing 煎饼

jianbingThis is a traditional breakfast crepe, but you can also get them in the evening. The crepe made from mung bean flour is topped with an egg, chopped pickled greens, scallions and coriander. When the crepe is golden brown, the cook will also smear a sweet sauce made from red bean paste and hoisin sauce. If you don’t like it to spicy, tell him/her to leave out the chili sauce. The final and most important ingredient is a fried wonton skin or dough (youtiao 油条, see below). I recommend the fried wonton skin though.

If you work in Pudong, you can find vendors selling Jianbing in the morning and in the evening at nearly every important metro exit (line 2), like Zhangjiang Gaoke 张江高科 or Century Avenue 世纪大道. It’s perfect to start a long working day, or finish one off.

4. Youtiao 油条 (fried dough stick) and doujiang 豆浆 (soy milk)

youtiaoWhile in Germany we drink coffee and eat buns for breakfast, here in Shanghai, I usually get steaming hot soy milk and a freshly fried dough stick for take away.

The deep-fried, golden-brown dough isn’t sweet, so it is perfect to combine with some congee.

The soy milk can be served sweet, with added sugar, or savory.

I recommend the sweet version. You’ll find youtiao where ever they sell buns, dumplings or other things are being fried in the morning.

5. Chuaner 串儿 (skewers)

shanghai street foodOne of my favourite midnight snack. Traditionally the chuaner, or skewer, originated in Xinjiang province, home to a predominately Muslim community.

At many places you find solely lamb skewers, but they also come with chicken, beef, seafood or vegetarian versions with eggplants or my favourite pak choi.

Usually you find skewer stands close to night clubs or other crowded nightlife places. Just follow the smell of freshly barbecued lamb, chicken and beef meat. Very easy to find.

There are so many more delicious street foods you can try. Those are just the most popular ones I have been addicted to recently. But one cautious note on the side: If you go for street food and have a sensitive tummy, try to avoid the really dirty looking street stands. Or if possible ask some friends or even locals about specific locations. Especially if it comes to skewers, I am not going into detail, so not to ruin the fun of eating delicious lamb skewers, but no matter, how hungry you are, always go to the street vendor you know and trust.


Do you have any favourite street food in China you could recommend?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

5 thoughts on “5 Street Foods you have to try when you are in Shanghai

  1. Youtiao are so delicious! I had a serving of those when we first arrived in China last year and still think about getting back to that street vendor one of these days…

    My favorite street food would have to be a toss up between huotong bing (flatbreads baked in a fire-powered oven, usually stuffed with either vegetables or meat or both) or just plain old veggie baozi.

  2. I love 生煎饅頭 the most <3 although I always have a pressure eating them 'don't spill the soup' – my husband's grandma used to punch him and his cousin's if they 'wasted' the soup inside :) soup dumplings are good too, but I'm a fried person :3 in general shanghainese cuisine is delicious (but I still hate the local dialect haha) so don't get fat haha just joking :)

  3. I must approve of all the foods as I also eat them everytime in China :)
    In Xi’an they also have a kebab snack, but I forgot the Chinese name at the moment. Sure it tastes different to what I am used to from Germany but it is great in its own way

  4. I looove 串儿, when my bf and I lived in Beijing, we would always buy 串儿 and bring back home, but only at night time :P I only eat it at night time though haha. Eating it at day time is .. just not right :P haha. I also like 小笼包, last time I was in Shanghai my friend and I would buy them and bring back to the hotel after a night of partying :P haha.

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