Hairy Crab Shanghai. Credit: nomfluence

Enjoying delicious cuisine is a good way to understand more about the culture of the place you visit. Shanghai cuisine is always praised for its flavor and uniqueness. Shanghai is not only famous for dumplings, rib rice cakes, green onion noodles, chicken porridge, yellow crab shells,… but also has many other delectable dishes. If you haven’t tried these dishes, you haven’t truly experienced Shanghai. So, what to eat in Shanghai? Let’s check out our top rated 10+ must eat food in Shanghai, must try food in Shanghai, popular food in Shanghai, traditional food in Shanghai, best food to try in Shanghai as follows!

Braised pork Hong Shao Rou is one of Shanghai’s specialties. | must eat food in Shanghai
Credit: nomfluence | must eat food in Shanghai
| must eat food in Shanghai

Xiaolongbao 小笼包 (# must eat food in Shanghai)

Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung 23
| must eat food in Shanghai

No “Shanghai Must Eats” list would be complete with xiaolongbao. These delicately pinched wrapped steamed soup dumplings are savory, fragrant and just all around delicious. Usually served with a pork filling, you can find places that also serve xiaolongbao with crabmeat and crab roe inside (usually only available in the late autumn months when crabs are in season). One basket of a dozen of these bad boys will also only set you back RMB10-15.

Click here to see some of our favorite local spots in Shanghai for xiaolongbao.

Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung 235
| must eat food in Shanghai
Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung 2
| must eat food in Shanghai
Din Tai Fung's famous 'Xiao Long Bao'.
Famous ‘Xiao Long Bao’. | must eat food in Shanghai
Xiaolongbao in Hualien
Xiaolongbao in Shanghai | must eat food in Shanghai

Shengjianbao 生煎包 (#what to eat in shanghai)

Photo by brunozwx
Photo by brunozwx | must eat food in Shanghai

Think xiaolongbao but heftier, doughier and less refined. Much like xiaolongbao, shengjianbao is filled with savory pork and piping hot soup, but unlike it’s delicate and dainty cousin, the skin is much thicker and it’s pan-fried. These fist-sized baos are commonly found street-side, tightly packed on a large, shallow pan covered with oil, cooked until the bottoms are crisped and browned.

Pan-Fried Pork Buns (Sheng Jian Bao) | must eat food in Shanghai
| must eat food in Shanghai
| must eat food in Shanghai

For the less adventurous, you can grab yourself one or two shengjianbaos at one of the many Yang’s Fried Dumplings shops scattered throughout the city.

小杨生煎 | Yang’s Fried Dumplings
吴江路269号湟普汇2楼 (近泰兴路), Jīng chǎng sì Shanghai Shanghai, 200041 China

Congyoubing 葱油饼 (#Best food to try in Shanghai)

Photo by shanghai_bites
Photo by shanghai_bites | must eat food in Shanghai

Rain or shine, you can see locals lined up to buy one, two or three pieces of congyoubing (scallion pancakes). These savory, flaky, buttery and scallion-sprinkled fried bings (pancake) are something of a guilty pleasure for us, but for locals it’s a pretty normal way to start their day.

| must eat food in Shanghai
Scallion pancakes (Cong You Bing) | must try food in Shanghai
| must try food in Shanghai

You can find these greasy, yet great, fried flatbreads being sold at nearly any street-side vendor in the city in the mornings, but are more difficult to come by in the afternoons as they are considered breakfast food.

Congyoubanmian 葱油拌面 (# must try food in Shanghai)

Photo by alien_rou
Photo by alien_rou | must try food in Shanghai

Between congyoubing and congyoubanmian (scallion oil noodles), it’s obvious Shanghai knows how to use scallion right. A bowl of congyoubanmian might look plain and simple, but the flavors pack some punch and will make you salivate for more.

The fine hand-pulled noodles are dressed with scallion oil (made by frying actual shredded scallions) mixed with soy sauce, topped with the crispy fried scallion and sprinkled with fried and dried shrimp. As the noodles are tossed, each strand gets coated with the oil and soy sauce giving each bite some major flavor.

Shanghai Spring Onion Noodles – Cong You Ban Mian | must try food in Shanghai
| must try food in Shanghai

We like adding splashes of black vinegar to our noodles for extra local flavour.

Lion’s Head Meatball 狮子头

Photo by wanlai86
Photo by wanlai86 | must try food in Shanghai

This has a bit of a funny name but regardless, it’s one of the better known Shanghai dishes. These giant pork meatballs are made with pork fat, cooked in a sand clay pot and served with shredded greens. They are meant to represent a lion, with the greens its shaggy mane – hence the name.

| must try food in Shanghai
| must try food in Shanghai

The meatballs are tender, juicy and represent a traditional, rustic and homey dish to most Shanghainese.

Hairy crab 大閘蟹

Photo by agaseen
Photo by agaseen | must try food in Shanghai

If you’re in Shanghai from late October to early December, you’re in luck because it’s hairy crab season. Renowned for their rich and abundant orange roe, hairy crabs are considered a delicacy in Asia. Normally steamed with fresh ginger, the crabs are cracked and dipped in gingery black vinegar making for a beyond tasty experience.

Credit: rove | must try food in Shanghai
Credit: nomfluence | must try food in Shanghai
Enjoy hairy crab in Shanghai. Credit: Michelin guide

Though it may be hard to initially see the appeal of these crabs – they’re small, and require a lot of work to get through to the meat – it’s well worth the effort.

Xiaolongxia 小龙虾 (Hot and Spicy Crayfish)

| must try food in Shanghai

Another crustacean that dominates the food scene in Shanghai for one season out of the year is xiaolongxia (crayfish). Though technically available year-round, the best time to eat these critters is June to September where they are at their fattest and most abundant. At local restaurants, they’re also sold by the pound (about 500 grams) – one pound is good for two people.

| best food to try in Shanghai
| best food to try in Shanghai

So this summer, grab a friend, roll up your sleeves and dive right into some xiaolongxia. Pairing them with a couple bottles of cold Tsingtao beers to help cut the spice never hurt either.

Hongshaorou 红烧肉 (Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly)

Photo by kathychennnnn
Photo by kathychennnnn | best food to try in Shanghai

Bite-sized cubes of sweet and savory soy glazed fatty pork belly. Need we say more?

| best food to try in Shanghai
Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly | best food to try in Shanghai
| best food to try in Shanghai

Youtiao 油田

Photo geoffngaround
Photo geoffngaround | best food to try in Shanghai

The savoury churros of China. Commonly found streetside, they are eaten as breakfast with congee or a bowl of steaming sweetened soymilk. The crispy and oily exterior is hides an airy interior and makes it a sinfully tasty way to begin your day.

| best food to try in Shanghai

Beware though, if you wait too long to eat it (more than 10 minutes), it will become cold, tough and kind of rubbery. These deep-fried dough sticks are best eaten freshly plucked from the fryer,

Suzhou-style Mooncakes

Photo by aisakuraharuka
Photo by aisakuraharuka | best food to try in Shanghai

So these mooncakes didn’t originate in Shanghai, but with Suzhou just a 20-minute high speed train ride away, we can pretty well count these as a local specialty. Unlike the sweet, decorative mooncakes handed out during Mid-autumn Festival, these Suzhou style ones are eaten year round.

They come with either a sweet or savoury filling, with a crisp flaky pastry. The most popular kind is xianrouyuebing (鲜肉月饼), which has a savory pork, soy and ginger filling. They are usually baked fresh in the morning and sold in snack shop booths throughout the city.

Shanghai skewers

Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Shanghai you can refer to

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