Chinese cuisine is an important part of Chinese culture, which includes cuisine originating from the diverse regions of China. The preference for seasoning and cooking techniques depend on differences in historical background and ethnic groups.
Shanghai cuisine, usually known as Benbang cuisine (Běnbāng cài, 本帮菜) which literally translates to “local cuisine.” is one of the youngest major regional cuisines of China with 400 years of history. Its most notable flavor is the hint of sugar that is added to almost every single dish, from fatty braised pork belly to iconic Shanghai soup dumplings. These layers of flavor come from the “red braising” cooking method, which includes marinating meats and vegetables in wine and herbs, then lightly simmered until the dish turns a deep crimson color and is infused in flavor.
Here we have summarized a MUST-TRY Shanghai local food list, including dishes, snacks, noodles, etc. Get excited with our local foodie experts!
Shanghai Soup Dumplings/Xiao Long Bao （小笼包）
Xiaolongbao is definitely the TOP must-try Shanghai food. With delicious pork filling and hot broth inside the wrapper, novice eaters should be careful as the soup may burn your tongue. Some restaurants also offer other creative fillings such as crab roe, mushroom, shrimp, chicken…
The most “professional” way to eat:
1. Have a very small bite of the wrapper to let the hot steam out;
2. Use your mouth to blow some wind into the bun to cool it down
3. Dip it into the vinegar and shovel it down!
Location：No.650 YuYuan Road (Near Jing’an Temple)
JiaJia Tang Bao（佳家汤包）
No. 90 Huanghe Road (Near People’s Square)
No. 62 Liyuan Road (Near Lujiabang Road Metro Station)
Floor B1, CrystalGalleria, No.68 Yuyuan Road (Near Jing’an Temple)
LaiLai Xiaolong （莱莱小笼）
Location：No. 504 Tianjin Road (Near People’s Square)
Dried Soup Dumpling/Sheng Jian (生煎)
Shengjian bao is sort of a brother of xiaolongbao, the round pork buns are first fried in a large pan and then steamed with water to cook the filling thoroughly. Finally, the buns will be seasoned with chives and sesame, and they are crispy in the button and juicy inside.
The secret to the broth inside Xiaolongbao and Shengjian bao is the pork jelly, which will melt into the broth during the cook.
Da Hu Chun (大壶春)
No. 136 Middle Sichuan Road (Near the Bund)
No. 9 Yuchun Road in Yu Garden
Dong Tai Xiang Shengjian (东泰祥生煎馆)
Location：No. 188 North Chongqing Road (Near People’s Square)
Fengyu Shengjian （丰裕生煎）
No.41, 2nd RuiJin Road
No.140, 1st RuiJin Road
No.281, South Shanxi Road （All Near South Shanxi Road Metro Station）
Salty Soy Milk——Xian Dou Jiang (咸豆浆)
This is a top local breakfast choice for Shanghainese locals. Hot soy milk is mixed with toppings such as dried seaweed, dried shrimp, deep-fried dough sticks, scallion, pickles, soy sauce, and a twist of vinegar. The mixture sounds a bit weird but trusts us, it is better than you expected!
A Wen （阿文夜市豆浆店）
Location：B1, Plaza, Pujiang International Finance Plaza, 1118 Dong Da Ming Road (Near International Cruise Terminal Metro Station)
Taoyuan Village （桃园眷村）
1/F, Hu Bin Dao Mall, 150 Hubin Road (Near Xintiandi)
1/F, Jiu Guang Mall, 1618 West Nanjing Road (Near Jing’an Temple)
1/F, Riyueguang Shopping Mall, 618 Xujiahui Road
Scallion Oil Noodles——Cong You Ban Mian (葱油拌面)
Shanghainese are true noodles lovers. Scallion oil noodles are most typical among thousands of different noodles we have. It is really simple: boiled noodles, crispy fried scallions, oil, and soy sauce. And you won’t believe how delicious this simple combination could be until you try it! It is so common that you can easily find it in almost every local restaurant in Shanghai with prices starting from just 1 USD / 7 RMB.
Wan Shou Zhai (万寿斋)
Location: No. 123 Shanyin Road (Near Hongkou Football Stadium Metro Station)
Da Fu Gui (大富贵酒楼)
Location: No. 1409 Zhonghua Road (Near Shanghai Confucian Temple)
Cang Lang Ting (沧浪亭)
No. 183 South Shanxi Road (Near Nanjing Road Pedestrian)
No. 355 Madang Road (Near Xintiandi)
Red Braised Pork Belly——Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉)
“Red Braising” is a Shanghai-style that cooks meat with wine, soy sauce, and sugar, to create the crimson color and caramelized savoriness. Red Braised Pork Belly is a popular dish that almost all the Shanghai families will cook at home. The strong flavor of sweetness and salt will stay with you for a long time!
Spicy Eight-treasure——Ba Bao La Jiang (八宝辣酱)
Eight is a lucky number in China as the pronunciation of it is similar to “making a fortune”. This auspicious dish is made of diced vegetables, pork, tofu, peanuts, etc. These ingredients are then stir-fried with spicy bean paste and sugar covered with a sweet and spicy flavored topping sauce. It is a perfect companion for rice!
Shanghai Smoked Fish——Xun Yu (熏鱼)
Shanghai smoked fish is a signature cold dish that is first fried and then marinated in the sweet brown sauce. What makes it special is its crispy texture outside and the tenderness inside, the sweetness will fill your whole mouth at your first bite!
Yuan Yuan （圆苑酒家）
Location: No. 108 Xiangyang Road (Near South Shanxi Road Metro Station)
Old Jesse (老吉士上海菜）
Location: No. 41 Tianping Road (Near South Shanxi Road Metro Station)
Time-Honored Shanghai Cuisine Restaurants
Last but not least, we have a list of well-reputed local Shanghainese restaurants here if you are thinking of having an authentic local dining experience:
Lao Fandian (老饭店)
Location: No. 242 Fuyou Road (Inside Yu Garden area)
Wang Jia Sha （王家沙）
Location：No. 805 West Nanjing Road (Near West Nanjing Road Metro Station)
Xing Hua Lou (杏花楼)
Location: No. 343 FuZhou Road (Near Nanjing Road Pedestrian)
Lao Zheng Xing (老正兴)
Location：No. 556 FuZhou Road (Near Nanjing Road Pedestrian)
De Xing Fang（德兴馆）
Location: No.471 Guangdong Road (Near the Bund)
Guang Ming Cun（光明邨）
Location: No.588 Middle Huaihai Road (Near Xintiandi)
Enjoy food, enjoy Shanghai!