Shanghai's many Chinese restaurants offer a wide variety of food experiences, from the city's own cuisine, to Chinese regional favorites, to gourmet international cuisine. This variety is due to the city's history, from a fishing village, to a port town, to the most European city on the Chinese mainland, to its position today as the fashion capital of the People's Republic.
Enjoy Typical Shanghainese Food
Shanghai's own version of Chinese food is down-home and comforting, which is to say it's not considered the most refined. (On occasions meant to impress, the dishes more likely have a Cantonese or Beijing provenance.) The food tends to be stronger flavored and somewhat more greasy than other regional cuisines. Hot summers created the need for preservation through salty pickling -- which then would be balanced out with sweetness from sugar. It also led to the liberal use of soy, a traditionally cooling food. In response to cold winters, Shanghainese food traditionally featured plump noodles, and, most gloriously, dumplings. Visit Jesse for a traditional Shanghainese meal, or hit Jinxian Lu, which is lined with small traditional restaurants.
Nosh on Street Food
Street food is an essential part of the Shanghai experience. If you're not seeing a vendor on a main thoroughfare, duck down into an alleyway, where you'll doubtless find your quarry. In the morning, keep an eye out for "Oily Stick", or Youtiao, which is a long strip of fried dough that you can dip into rice congee or soy milk. (The earlier in the morning the better as these don't keep very well.) At any time of day, you can find small dumpling shops hand making their fine, fine wares. With a little more time on your hands, you'll likely visit a Zhujiajio, also commonly called a "water town", an ancient village just outside of Shanghai. While you're there, don't miss the chance to sample zongzi and roasted soy nuts.
Experience Glitz and Glamour at Shanghai's Finest Restaurants
Explore China's Regional Cuisines
If you're craving variety from Shanghainese specialities, why not explore some of China's other regional cuisines? Cantonese food is the best-known style of Chinese cooking in the United States, but the real thing is nothing like what you get at your average Chinese restaurant state-side. Try T'ang Court in the Langham Yangtze Boutique for very upscale Cantonese food. (See photos of a few dishes here.) Head down south to Yunnan at Southern Barbarian (don't miss the fried goat cheese), or west to Szechuan at Pin Chuan (47 Taojiang Lu) in the French Concession.