Don’t-Miss Dishes in Shanghai
Thanks to its location and cosmopolitan nature, Shanghai is known for the diversity of its cuisine, which mixes flavors and techniques from throughout China with its own dishes and ingredients. From dumplings to noodles to seafood, here are some of the dishes that you must try when you are in Shanghai.
Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)
The iconic dish of Shanghai, these delicate thin-skinned dumplings contain a savory filling (of pork or pork and crab typically) and a fragrant hot soup that bursts in your mouth with an explosion of flavor. You can try them everywhere, but one of the most famous locations is just outside Yuyuan Gardens.
Fried Dumplings (Shengjianbao)
Unlike the more delicate xiaolongbao, these are made with a heavier dough that’s steamed, and then pan fried for a texture that’s both doughy and and crispy. A popular snack you can find just about anywhere, fried dumplings are usually made with minced pork, but also come stuffed with prawns and vegetables.
There are many styles of noodles served in local restaurants. Shanghai’s contribution,cumian, is a thick-cut noodle dish that is stir-fried with meat, cabbage, and onions in a soy sauce-flavored broth. Also popular, especially late night, are scallion oil noodles (cong you ban mian) and Muslim hand-pulled noodles—the latter are usually served in a savory broth.
Seafood lovers are spoiled for choice in Shanghai. Popular seafood dishes to try include squirrel-shaped mandarin fish (served with a thick sweet and sour sauce), steamed river prawns, cold-smoked fish, and freshwater eel (freshwater eel noodles are especially popular). Some local favorites are seasonal, including crawfish (summer) and steamed hairy crab (fall and winter).
Red Braised Meat
Hongshao, or red braising, refers to a special cooking style that's a hallmark of Shanghai cuisine. Meat (usually pork and sometimes fish) is braised in a thick, sweet mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, aromatics, and sugar for up to 24 hours until it’s so tender it melts in the mouth. It's a staple in home kitchens and restaurants, and you can try it just about anywhere in the city.
Although this dish originated in nearby Hangzhou, beggar's chicken is also popular in Shanghai. To make it, a whole chicken is marinated and stuffed; it's then sealed tight in lotus leaves and baked in clay that hardens in the oven. The result is a juicy and aromatic chicken dish that bursts with flavor.