Whoa, yet another listicle of Shanghai food, really? I know, right. There are just so many wonderful street snacks around town I doubt anything less than a thick anthology could capture them all. Of course, there are many books on the subject such as “Glutton Guide Shanghai” which I recommend.
However, this blog is about my favorite experiences which I’ll certainly add more as time goes. Most of these are sold at stalls or pop-up stands and are fairly inexpensive. Often when I go on walks around Shanghai I like to stop at several different places and sample a little bit here and there; It’s great fun.
jiānbǐng 煎饼 ; literally: “fried pancake” is said to be China’s most favorite street breakfast. It is very similar to a crêpe usually filled with crunchy crackers, egg, scallions, and sauces. Made to order so people line up and choose what ingredients to add. Usually only sold in the morning as a breakfast so you gotta go out early to find a vendor and enjoy this truly delicious snack.
Often called mantou 馒头, these bread buns are stuffed with things like pork, pickled vegetables, black sesame, and so on. You find them a most convenience shops and street stands. A popular chain called Babi Mantou specializes in making varying steamed buns and can be seen on many streets around Shanghai.
…Or meat on a stick are usually found near Muslim neighborhoods. Typically the meat is lamb grilled to order and dusted with a mix of spices.
Famous specialty of Shanghai, Shengjian 生煎 is very popular. Shengjian is like a dumpling that is both steamed and fried. The inside is usually filled with pork and scallion meatball wrapped in a thick dumpling skin. Then the dumpling is put into a covered skillet with a bit of oil and water. The water steam cooks the dumpling then the oil fries the bottom to create a crispy texture.
There is a trick to eating Shengjian. The insides are filled with both the pork meat ball and its scalding, rendered juices. So, do not just bit into it otherwise you will get squirted and scald the inside of your mouth. Best method is bite a pinch from the top and slurp out the juices then when cool, bite into the remainder.
Chinese Green Onion Pancakes
Chōng yóu bǐng, 葱油饼 is a thick bread like pancake that is lightly fried crispy on the outside. Very popular in the morning and with a smear of hot sauce they hit the spot for a quick snack fix.
Stuffed Rice Balls
Don’t really know what this is called in Chinese but they have become very popular. At first I only saw stuffed rice balls here and there but now it seems every street vendor is doing it.
Basically this snack is normal rice with a bit of black rice for color stuffed with egg, pickled vegetables, meat floss, crunchy bits, etc. The stuffings are wrapped with the rice into a ball or tube shape for the eating.
Oh God. Stinky tofu is quite popular but I cannot take it. I enjoy the smell a little bit for nostalgia reasons but I just cannot eat it. Believe me, I have tried a few times but never could finish more than a few bites.
Simply put, stinky tofu (chòudòufu; 臭豆腐) is rotten tofu that is deep fried and served with hot sauce. It is very polarizing and you either love it or hate it. In China, lots of people love it and I think, like durian, part of the allure is some sort of rite of passage.
Tánghúlu; 糖葫芦 is a traditional Chinese snack of candied fruit put onto a stick. The fruit used most often is Chinese hawthorn and other fruits like pineapple, kiwi, mandarin orange, or strawberries can be used.
The stick of fruit is dipped into sugar syrup which creates a hardened shell. These snacks show up in the warmer months and are a favorite among kids.