The most delicious and wallet-friendly street food in Shanghai. Some of them are Shanghai-native eats, others are popular snacks from around the country.
1. Xie ke huang (crab shell pie, 蟹壳黄)
Why we love it: Although those hairy crustaceans from Yangcheng lake aren’t available year-round, xie ke huang, aka the poor Shanghainese man’s hairy crab, can be found around the town in any season. Baked in a clay oven until golden brown, these little oval pies are stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. The name is inspired by its appearance — freshly baked xie ke huang looks like crispy golden crab shells.
2. Sheng jian (fried bun, 生煎)
Why we love it: It’s hard to resist succulent pork buns, especially when they are fried and garnished with fresh spring onion and toasted sesame. They taste best just out of the pan — totally worth the blisters on your tongue.
3. Chinese-style fried chicken (中式炸鸡)
Why we love it: Picture a chicken fillet being fried in a wok with chopped dried chilies, scallions, ginger and garlic, then sprinkled with sesame and five-spice powder. Viva fusion street food.
4. Ci fan (rice ball, 粢饭)
Why we love it: Ci fan is one of the most popular breakfast foods in Shanghai. These glutinous rice balls have everything you ever needed for an energetic start to your day. Typical stuffing includes a you tiao (fried dough stick), pickled vegetables, pork floss, white sugar and sometimes eggs and ham. Tastes best when hot.
5. Pai gu nian gao (pork chop with rice cakes, 排骨年糕)
Why we love it: The best part of this Shanghainese dish is neither the deep-fried pork chop nor the sweet soy sauce glaze, it’s the nian gao. Made of glutinous rice flour, nian gao has a compact texture that seals the subtle, fragrant taste of sticky rice from any heavy sauce.
6. Xiaolongbao (soup dumpling, 小笼包)
Nothing tastes more Shanghai than these porky dumplings. Why we love it: You can get eight of these velvety and delicate Shanghai classics for next to nothing. The cure for any hunger pang, these are seriously good.
7. Chai Pan wonton (柴爿馄饨)
Why we love it: Nothing beats a bowl of warm wonton soup at 3 a.m. on a freezing winter night. We know the soup is laden with MSG, but one bite of the translucent wrapper and its tasty pork stuffing, and you’ll know it’s worth it.
8. Cong You Bing (green onion pancake, 葱油饼)
Why we love it: The best green onion pancakes are cooked up by little old grannies (and grandpas) who get up at 6 a.m. to cook, knead and slap these petite bing in the city’s many longtangs.
9. Tofu flower soup (豆腐花)
Why we love it: Made by curdling soy milk, this smooth tofu soup contains the subtle flavor of soybeans beneath a colorful mixed dressing of dried shrimps, pickled radish, seaweed, scallion, soy sauce and chili oil.
10. Mung bean pie (绿豆饼)
Why we love it: Most Shanghainese prefer their snacks savory over sweet, but mung bean pie is one exception — you will find locals queue up around the block to buy them.
11. Tang gao (deep-fried donut, 糖糕)
Why we love it: Shanghai’s answer to donut, these deep-fried Krispy Kreme look-alikes are made from glutinous rice flour and coated with white sugar. They look seriously greasy, but taste seriously good.
12. Hong shan yu (baked sweet potato, 烘山芋)
Why we love it: Sweet, fluffy, and fibrous, these baked sweet potatoes are a nice contrast to most cheap eats in Shanghai. Usually sold out of a pushcart, they are one of the healthiest snacks in town.
13. Yaxue fensi tang (duck blood and glass noodle soup, 鸭血粉丝汤)
Duck blood soup has attracted some die-hard followers on Shanghai’s street food scene.
Why we love it: Brought to Shanghai by a few duck-loving Nanjing natives more than a decade ago, yaxue fensi tang is what many Shanghainese consider the go-to choice for a quick but hearty lunch. It’s got everything: duck soup, duck blood and entrails, green vegetables and glass noodles. What more could you ask for?
14. Ci fan gao (deep-fried rice cake, 粢饭糕)
Why we love it: Sometimes, simple is best. This salted glutinous rice cake doesn’t have fancy stuffing or pretty garnish, but one single sheet will instantly hit the spot.
15. Stinky tofu (臭豆腐)
Why we love it: You know you are becoming a true Shanghailander when you start craving stinky tofu. Once we got over the initial shock of the stench of the snack we found the tofu clean and silky.
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