A true gourmand’s paradise, Shanghai runs the culinary gamut, from tasty street food delights along hidden alleyways to Michelin-starred fine dining. The vibrant metropolis is home to an exquisite array of flavour sensations, so follow our food lover’s guide to Shanghai to ensure you taste the best of the city.
Street food supreme
Perhaps nowhere else in China is street food as big a phenomenon as in Shanghai. Located in the heart of the Yangtze River Delta, the city is where traders and merchants have travelled to for centuries, bringing all manner of exotic dishes and ingredients with them.
You’ll find hole-in-the-wall eateries and hawker carts piled high with bamboo steamers on many street corners, selling everything from dim sum dumplings to jianbing crêpes. Seek out xiao long bao soup dumplings that burst with broth as you bite. Be sure to try Shanghai favourite, cong you bing; a savoury spring onion pancake that has locals queuing around the block.
Discover irresistible street food at Tianzifang – a trendy neighbourhood with an abundance of laid-back cafés and food stalls, while Qibao Old Street is filled with hawker carts dotted around the area’s pagoda-style buildings.
Given its cosmopolitan city status, Shanghai is one the finest places in China to sample its incredibly divergent regional culinary styles. Think; fiery, mouth-numbing Sichuan from the southwestern province and gentler, balanced Cantonese flavours from the Guangdong province. No visit to Shanghai would be complete without experiencing traditional Chinese dishes that have centuries worth of rich heritage and history.
For an authentic taste of Guangdong, Sun Wing Kee is one of the best Cantonese restaurants in Shanghai. Loved for its excellent dim sum and signature roasted pigeon, it’s an unassuming yet delicious affair. In China’s far west, the Xinjiang region draws influences from its Middle Eastern neighbours. Sample spice-infused lamb and naan breads at Xinjiang Fengwei and Qia Ni Xinjiang restaurants.
Taste the chili-infused, hot and spicy dishes of Sichuan, such as pickled pepper crab at the award-winning elegant Pin Chuan or Yu Xin, which imports its peppers and herbs direct from the region.
Being a business and luxury shopping powerhouse, Shanghai has an equally well-heeled culinary scene. A total of 30 restaurants have been awarded with Michelin stars and the options of enjoying haute Chinese and international cuisine in the Paris of the East are endless.
Perhaps the most esteemed dining destination is super-chef Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet on the Bund. Holder of three stars, the restaurant presents a fully immersive, multi-sensory dining experience, serving a 20-course set menu. Also on the Bund is chef Alvin Leung’s Bo Shanghai. A sophisticated, speakeasy-style eatery that marries French technique with regional Chinese flavours.
Housed in the grand old 1930s British embassy, the two-star YongFoo Elite in Xuhui executes classic Shanghai dishes such as shark’s fin and soybean soup with elegant finesse. With stylish antiques adorning the interior and a beautiful garden, it’s a delightful place to relish a leisurely lunch.
Chinese street food © istock/Nikolay Tsugulev
Ultraviolet restaurant © Scott Wright
Dim Sum © istock/redtea
Shanghai cafe © istock/lovegull