10 Local Street Food Dishes to Try in Shanghai

Bun Steamers
Bun Steamers | ©Ash Chuan/Flickr
Rachel Deason

Due to a citywide crackdown on sanitation, street food vendors are becoming increasingly scarce in Shanghai, but that doesn’t mean the food itself is disappearing. You may have to look harder to find these simple culinary treats, but the search is worth it.

Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai’s signature dish is Xiao Long Bao, delicate soup dumplings that make an addict out of anyone who tries them. It takes patience to learn the proper eating technique, but once you developed a method, you’ll see why this dish has so many proclaiming its superiority over all other types of dumplings, including its fried cousin, the sheng jian bao.

Xiao Long Bao

Cong You Bing

Cong You Bing are scallion pancakes that differ from their western counterparts in their use of dough instead of batter. This ubiquitous thick and filling treat is perfect for breakfast or a midday pick me up.

Cong You Bing

Crab Shell Pie

River crabs are an integral part of Shanghai’s food scene, but only available seasonally. To combat your year round craving, try crab shell pie, a crispy bun filled with savoury ingredients, whose appearance is reminiscent of a golden crab shell.

Crab Shell Pie

You Tiao

Literally meaning “oil slick,” this fried doughnut like delicacy doesn’t try to fool anyone into thinking it’s healthy. You Tiao make for a great on the go breakfast and are best paired with fresh hot soy milk.

You Tiao

Baked Sweet Potato

The smell of baked sweet potato is how you know it’s winter in Shanghai. Usually sold from the back of a scooter, these sweet potatoes are fluffy and fibrous and will warm you up on even the coldest day.

Sweet Potatoes in Winter

Stinky Tofu

Don’t be put off by the name, or the pungent smell, stinky tofu is one of Shanghai’s best street foods. Follow your nose to this playful dish, whose taste is as fragrant as its smell. Cut into rectangular cubes and smothered in sauces, stinky tofu will have you questioning why you ever thought tofu was bland.

Stinky Tofu

Sesame Ball

Red bean paste fills many a popular dessert in China, and sesame balls are no different. These glutinous dough balls are chock full of the sweet filling, covered in sesame seeds, and fried to crispy goodness.

Sesame Balls

Tea Eggs

Even as Shanghai’s street food scene fades, tea eggs are still available everywhere, from convenience stores to newspaper stands. The chicken eggs are hard boiled in a mixture of green tea and soy sauce and kept in a crock pot for warmth.

Tea Egg

Kebabs

Known in China as chuanr, kebabs are usually found at night on pushcarts parked strategically outside of bars and clubs. The sellers definitely know their target audience, as there’s no better drunk food than greasy meat on sticks. A variety of vegetables and starches are also available, but the epitome of chuanr is fatty lamb meat.

Lamb Kebabs

Jianbing

This crispy crepe like treat is not only popular throughout China, but has recently gained fans in America as well. The wrap is made from a batter of wheat, grain flour, and eggs. Its fillings vary but typically include a crispy fried cracker, scallions, and chili sauce.

Jianbing

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