One thing about Shanghai that stood out to me during my trip, was the incredible variety of street food. Step out of your house and you’ll easily find yourself spoilt for choice by the sheer amount of drool worthy creations. Best of all, you can grab and go most of them!
While xiao long bao is one of the first things that come to mind when recalling Shanghai’s street food, I thought I would compile a checklist of sorts for foodies to check out based on what my family brought me to during my very brief trip last month. Enjoy!
1. Egg Pancake 煎饼
This unassuming pancake packs both convenience and flavour. The best stalls are said to have long, snaking queues of locals clamouring for this simple, savoury creation.
Jian Bing is prepared by spreading sticky dough across a circular cooking surface, before being sprinkled with finely chopped scallions and coriander, and a single egg cracked. The crêpe like result is then folded in half, before being generously slathered with a slightly sweet bean paste. You can choose to add other ingredients like hot dogs and lettuce, but you should definitely give the original a shot! With its many textured and flavoured layers, it’s hard to not see why Jian Bing is the go-to breakfast of the Shanghainese.
2. Savoury Tou Hua 咸豆花
Singaporeans may be familiar with this one. However, unlike the syrupy sweet concoction we’re used to having for breakfast, Shanghai’s rendition of Tou Hua is a savoury, slightly oily one. Minced drip shrimps, chopped spring onions and pickled radish, and a dash of chilli oil and vinegar elevated the otherwise plain tasting, silky smooth bean curd.
Be sure to check out Taoyuan Village, a Taiwanese breakfast style chain near Tianzifang 田子坊 for an authentic bowl of Tou Hua amidst modern comforts!
3. You Tiao 油条
Of course, no Tou Hua is complete without the quintessential You Tiao! Made by deep frying sticks of dough, this oil laden accompaniment is a definite guilty pleasure. You can eat it plain or dip it into your beancurd for extra taste.
4. Steamed Bao
The classic steamed bao has undergone a cute makeover in some dim sum restaurants, and Shanghai is no exception. These photo worthy treats can be found in Tianzifang itself, at a popular stall with a bright yellow signboard. I did not get the name but it does seem to pop up in a lot of travellers’ Instagram posts (oops!) – so it’s not exactly an obscure spot either.
Steamed baos come with a variety of filling, including red bean and pork. Tear into one and savour the comforting aroma of its piping hot contents wafting up your nose before you enjoy your snack!
5. Braised Pig’s Trotter 扎肉
Most commonly seen in the streets of Zhujiajiao Water Town, braised pig’s trotter may look somewhat like a dare for only the hardiest of hearts at first glance. Those that have ventured to try this, though, have sung praises of its incredibly rich, fatty meat that is oh so satisfying to devour.
6. Steamed Pork Rice Dumpling 粽子
Another common sight at Zhujiajiao, is the steamed pork rice dumpling, also known as Zongzi. Legend has it this local delicacy originated when villagers threw leaf wrapped rice and pork into the Miluo River to prevent the fish from devouring the body of Qu Yuan, an upright scholar and minister who had committed suicide in a protest against corruption by jumping into that same river.
Macabre origins aside, the Zongzi at Zhujiajiao was one of the highlights of my visit, with the combination of glutinous rice, salted egg yolk, and pork coming together to create one satisfying umami bomb. So good we bought seconds to bring back to my family’s apartment! Best eaten hot.
7. Scallion Oil La-Mian 葱油拌面
La Mian, which literally translates to “pulled noodles” is another staple of a Shanghainese meal. The noodles are usually cooked al dente in scallion oil and soya sauce, and topped with dried shrimps for added crunch.
8. Shengjianbao 生煎包
My friends told me I absolutely could not leave Shanghai without trying Shengjianbao, and now I’m telling you the same! This breakfast staple is somewhat like a pan fried version of the xiaolongbao, with its pork and melted gelatin filling bursting onto your tastebuds as soon as you bite into the skin.
The buns are pan fried on one side on an oiled, shallow pan, giving rise to its crispy bottom. The contrast between the hardened and soggy skin on top of the generous filling is certainly one to remember for first timers like me!