When it comes to dining, Shanghai offers every extreme. Whether you’re looking for multi-sensory experiences with celebrity chefs or entire restaurants committed to dumplings, you’ll find them. But one of the city’s most exciting culinary faces is its street food. For a truly local and delicious experience, here’s a bunch of snacks that any adventurous foodie should sample while in Shanghai.
Jianbing at the Wulumuqi Lu Market
Jianbing are traditionally sold for breakfast, so most stalls selling them have packed up by 11am. However, there’s a lady at Wulumuqi Lu Market who’s much more committed than that, drop by anytime of the day to pick one up. A dish that originated in the province of Shandong, the jianbing is a type of Chinese pancake, made of millet flour and water and cooked over a fire. Filling is added in the form of egg, coriander, onions, soy bean paste and spicy chilli, and, occasionally, a deep-fried stick or wonton wrapper is added, for the crunch factor.
Rice balls (ci fan) at 100 Nanyang Lu
Another popular breakfast option is the rice ball and one of the best places to get it is at 100 Nanyang Lu, right near the corner of Xang Lu – a stall that’s been operating for more than two decades. You’ll have to wake up reasonably early, though – even if you have found one of those amazing Pudong hotels to stay in. The stall is only open between 7am and 10am.
It’s not hard to figure out why the mighty rice ball has become such a staple. For a start, it’s got enough carbohydrates and protein to fuel your day; secondly, it tastes wonderful. Common fillings include fried egg, special sauces, pork floss, fried dough and vegetables.
Wonton soup in the middle of the night
Every night at 11pm, a stall opens on Jinling Dong Lu, you’ll find it between Jiangxi Lu and Sichuan Zhong Lu, and serves steaming hot wonton soup into the wee hours of the morning. It’s definitely the place to be after a night out spent at the theatre or drinking in one of Shanghai’s up-and-coming wine bars. Think succulent pork filling hugged in perfectly slippery wonton wrappers.
For vegetarians – tofu flower soup
Animal lovers, if all the talk of pork has got you wondering how you’re going to cope in the realm of Shanghai street food, here’s one for you: tofu flower soup. You’ll find it at loads of eateries, but one of the city’s finest is Fengyu Shengjian (281 Shaanxi Nan Lu), open between 6am and 8:30pm. Smooth, silky tofu is dressed with chilli, soy, seaweed, pickled radish and spring onions, inside a broth derived from curdled soy milk.
And dessert? Mung bean pie
If you happen to see a long queue of locals outside a food stand, the chances are it’s selling the humble mung bean pie. Made of sweetened mung bean paste, it’s the ideal post-meal sugar hit. Some of the best pies in town are sold at Jianlilai Lvdoubing (31 Lane 1725, Gonghexin Lu), open between 8am and 9:30pm.