Shanghai China – Food Scene and Dishes to Try

Shanghai has a bustling food scene, famous worldwide. It’s as trendy and cosmopolitan as the city itself, offering a wide variety to satisfy the fussiest palate. Whilst keeping the mom-and-pop corner restaurant vibe, there has been a move towards more sophisticated dining.

Local Dishes

Local Shanghai dishes are well loved throughout China and are influenced by the cooking styles of neighbouring provinces. Shanghai dishes are often pickled in wine, “drunken” dishes are produced by incorporating alcohol whilst being briskly cooked or stewed. Due to the fact that sugar is often used (in conjunction with soy sauce), Shanghai dishes are light and sweet in taste. Shanghai is a port city, so there’s also tons of seafood! Here are some tasty dishes to check out.

Crab tangbao

A steamed dumpling filled up with crab roe, served in a soup. Often eaten for breakfast in China, this is a fantastic on-the-go snack. You’ll be in love from the first bite.

*Jia Jia Tangbao
90 Huanghe Lu, near People’s Square
The air in this cosy little dumpling eatery is electric. The scents from the nearby kitchen waft across the happy customers as they slurp down their delicious dumpling soups. A simple menu, cooked expertly, fresh and cooked to order. The ambience of plastic chair eatery.
Also make sure you try one of Shanghai’s other famous dumplings- xiao long bao. There’s no set closing time-when they’re sold out, they close-usually late afternoon.
Cost: from 5 RMB.

Shanghai Steamed Hairy Crab

A source of pride for the locals, who are very picky about when and how to eat them, although most agree a simple steam is sufficient. Locally sourced from Yangcheng Lake, the crab season begins around September. Males and females have distinctive tastes (ask a local to explain the intricacies!). Dine like a local- drink it with some Shaoxing yellow wine! Where?

  • Cheng Long Hang Crab Palace
    Huaihai International Plaza, 1 Fenyang Lu.
    This beautifully decorated restaurant gives visitors a luxurious dining experience, and the ambience is stunning- enjoy a Sizhu musical recital every night. Enjoy private, cosy dining in individual rooms. There’s a wide variety of dishes prepared using the tasty crustacean- crab rice, crab dumplings, crab meatballs. For the real deal, get a whole crab for yourself.
    Cost: buy a crab from 200RMB. Expensive, but worth every cent.

Beggar’s Chicken

The old legends tell us this dish originates from the Qing dynasty, when a beggar stole a chicken from a farm. To make sure the owner didn’t find out, he tucked the chicken inside some lotus leaves and buried it underground. The bird was covered in mud, but he cooked it anyway. The mud hardened around it, sealing in the flavour- and a legendary dish was born. Concern over China’s toxic soil raises doubts, but you can still get the original version in many places in Shanghai, like

  • Xindalu Kitchen
    199 Huangpu Road, the Bund
    This is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, specializing in regional Chinese cuisine. The vibe is awesome because there is an open kitchen- it’s thrilling to watch the chefs ply their art at four live cooking stations.
    Cost: It’s a world class establishment, so be prepared to fork out some money.

Eat on the Street

Shanghai has some of the best street food in the world. Many Chinese citizens travel to Shanghai in search of work opportunities, if they fail, many open street food stores for it’s many hungry residents. They bring their hometown’s cuisine to the big city, so the variety is truly remarkable. Pick up a quick snack or go at night to enjoy the vibe!

Wujiang Road food street is one place we absolutely loved! It’s been revamped, so guests have a convenient pedestrian walkway to explore the various establishments. Enjoy both local and western cuisine. Pick up some dumplings from Nánxiáng Steamed Bun Restaurant (5 RMB), be sure to get some of Shanghai’s famous xiaolongbao, delicious dumplings served in a soup.

Or, try Chenghuangmiao Old Street. This gives you a more traditional feel, various tiny restaurants preparing food that is to die for. Try pork balls, crab cakes, or some sticky pork ribs, all for less than 20 RMB.

The Western and International Options

Being a metropolitan city that has always been home to a large Western population, there are loads of eateries to please the foreign palate. It’s home to large international chains like MacDonald’s, Taco Bell or Burger King. There are also various high-end restaurants preparing some of the more elegant dishes in the world (be prepared to pay).

We suggest our personal favourite Table No.1, a glitzy eatery serving food tapas style- try the razor clams. The chef was trained by Gordon Ramsay. You’ll pay around 400 RMB per person.

For fine dining with a view, check out Mercato. It boasts a fantastic view of the Bund, and the prices are affordable. The menu is mainly Italian, taste the salami & ricotta pizza (118 RMB) or the delicious lobster ravioli (178 RMB).

In general, Western establishments are usually more expensive than the local options.

Cafés and Coffee Houses

Influenced by the large foreign population, cafés have been sprouting up all over the city in recent years. The most obvious place to visit there is the French Concession. Despite being renovated repeatedly over the years, it has retained a unique character, and it’s streets are lined with authentic French Cafés.

In this area, try &&Café del Volcán** at 80 Yongkang Road. We liked it because all the coffee here is ground and roasted on site. The beans come from as far as Ethiopia and Indonesia. It’s tiny- but this just adds to the cosy atmosphere, and they even offer free delivery.

There’s also Makoo Café: hard to find, but a café that’s also hard to beat. Its offers a unique vibe- drink your coffee whilst listening to the soothing sounds of folk music and a mini waterfall. A small but delicious menu includes a large variety of cakes from only 38 RMB. Their tea is highly recommended, from only 32 RMB for a cup.


Shanghai is also home to world-class pubs. They have both Chinese style (expect loud music and karaoke), and western style (sport on TV, craft beer). Again, the Bund is a popular place to enjoy drinks with a view.

Flair Restaurant and bar is one such place, on top of the Ritz-Carlton with a stunning view of the river. The Asian-fusion menu offers guests a massive variety of tapas style dishes. The drinks menu is huge, offering any kind of cocktail you can think of with their own signature cocktails. Drinks are expensive, from 90 RMB.

For a more affordable option, we recommend Blue Frog. It’s part of a nation-wide chain that serves local, international and craft beer. They have a great menu too, of both Chinese and western style meals. Beer on tap, and four hour long happy hour daily! Drinks from 30 RMB.


The Shanghai food scene is diverse to say the least. Enjoy an outstanding variety, at a variety of prices. When you do go, we recommend you eat local as much as possible- there are plenty burger joints back home.