So again, MSG is in everything here. You’ve been warned.
That said, the food in Shanghai is distinctive, flavorful, and very rich.
Because China is so big, different regions have very distinctive food styles. In the south (Canton, Hong Kong, Guangzhao, Shenzhen, etc.) rice is served all the time and dishes are stirfried. In the north (Shanghai, Ningbao, and the like), meats are commonly braised in rich sauces and their main staples are noodles and dumplings; foods that are heavier, heartier, and made with flour because of the colder climate. In Beijing, there’s lots of hotpot, goat, and lamb. Hunan food is infamously spicy.
So here are three highlights from our trip to Shanghai:
JADE GARDEN – Classic Shanghainese food in a colonial French setting. The place is eternally packed, so make sure you call for reservations no less than a week in advance. We enjoyed the Braised Pork (pictured below) and the Crystal Shrimp served with dark vinegar.
XIAO LONG BAO – This isn’t a restaurant but arguably the signature dish of Shanghai (pictured below). It is steamed dumplings filled with pork and sometime some seafood like shrimp or crab. It is so damn flavorful and there’s a special way to eat them so you don’t waste the “tong” or soupy oil that’s sitting inside the dumpling. You can get them at any Shanghainese restaurant but the best have both a flavorful tong/soup and meat filling inside AND a super thin delicate dough. If there’s one thing you HAVE to order while in Shanghai, it’s a steamer full of these puppies.
YU YUAN GARDENS VARIOUS FOODSTANDS – This is a good place to experience “street food” without questioning how unsafe they are. Because these foodstands are within the Yu Yuan Gardens Bazaar, they’re cleaner and a bit safer. And the food is very tasty. You can try classics like soy sauce tea eggs, fishballs, tripe, egg rolls, and my favorite, fried stinky tofu with chili sauce. It’s like cheese for the Chinese because they ferment the tofu much like cheese. Hence the stinkiness. If you are an adventurous eater, it’s not to be missed.
Much of the food we had during our trip was sublime. But I have to admit, my husband and I are COMPLETELY burnt out on Chinese food for quite a while!