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Shanghai Dining

Shanghai is a metropolitan city that offers a wide range of cuisines, and numerous restaurants have sprung up here specializing in various China’s regional cuisines, like Beijing cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, Suzhou Cuisine as well as Shanghai local dishes. Apart from its local cuisine traditionally called Benbang cuisine, it also has successfully integrated cuisines from Zhejiang and Jiangsu Province. Due to its advantageous position at the south of the Yangtze River, a wide range of fresh water fish and shellfish could be found in Shanghai cuisine.

Shanghai cuisine aims at lightness in flavor and is slightly sweet in taste compared to some other Chinese cuisines. Since sweet and sour is a typical Shanghai taste, Sugar is an important ingredient in Shanghai cuisine, especially when used in combination with soy sauce. Thus the taste created is not so sweet but rather savory. Visitors are usually surprised to learn this “secret recipe” when it is revealed by local people.

Some Traditional Food and Snacks in Shanghai

Xiao Long Bao (Small Steamed Bun)

Xiao Long Bao is the famous type of Chinese steamed bun of Shanghai. Unlike the buns in northern China, these buns are very small. The buns are usually steamed in containers made of bamboo. They are very popular with tourists both home and abroad for the thin skin, meat stuffing and soup. The fillings are made with minced pork, a little ginger powder, salt, sauce, sugar and water. The buns are now popularized and consumed widely throughout China as a kind of Dim Sum.

Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-Fried Pork Bun)

Sheng Jian Bao is one of the local specialties in Shanghai. It is a type of Chinese bun which fried then steamed in a flat pan. The filling contains minced pork, spring onion and various seasonings, and is very palatable and moist. There are three restaurants that make the best Sheng Jian Bao in Shanghai: “Feng Yu Sheng Jian”, “Fei Long Sheng Jian” and “Xiao Yang Sheng Jian”. There is one chain store of “Feng Yu Sheng Jian” on West Huaihai Road.

Da Zha Xie (Hairy Crab)

Da Zha Xie is a special type of crab found in rivers and lakes, and is normally consumed in late autumn. The crabs are tied with ropes or strings, placed in bamboo containers, steamed and served. There is little artificial ingredient added when steamed which maintains the original flavor of the crab. Da Zha Xie is usually consumed with vinegar and ginger. It is very fresh and delicious.

Ba Bao Fan (Eight Treasures Rice)

It is a traditional Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice and eight kinds of fruits or nuts, also called Eight Treasures Rice. It is usually served on Chinese New Year to celebrate wealth and good things to come. Prepare sticky rice and eight dried fruits including Chinese red dates, lotus seed, longan, Goji berries, apricot, lily bulb and winter melon. Mix the rice with sugar and lard. Arrange the fruit in an attractive pattern in the bottom of the bowl and pack the rice on top of the fruits. After it is cooked, pour hot syrup over the rice and serve.

Shanghai Wonton

Shanghai Wonton is a popular breakfast or street food among Shanghai people. There are two things that set Shanghai wonton apart from all the other wonton: the wrappers and the stock. The wrapper is very thin and as smooth as silk. The stock is fresh and delicious with chicken and pork bones cooking in a big pot for a long time. When it’s served, sometimes fried egg skin, dried small shrimp and seaweed will be added.

Lion's Head Meatball

A typical Shanghai specialty, this dish features oversized pork meatballs that represent a lion’s head. The meatballs are actually a mixture of regular ground pork and fatty ground pork. Tofu is also added to the meatballs to make them extra tender. They are usually thoroughly cooked in broth after fried until golden in a pan.