The food scene in metropolis Shanghai is dynamic, with a wealth of restaurants specialising in cuisines from every corner of the world, headed by ambitious chefs eager to innovate.

But equally rich is the local street food. These five must-try dishes can be found all over the city’s various alleys and pavements.

1. Ci fan gao

Ci fan gao – or deep-fried glutinous rice cake – is a local breakfast favourite.

Unlike other heavily-flavoured street eats, it is made with only one ingredient – glutinous rice – which is steamed, shaped into blocks and deep fried.

Slightly salted, this local speciality will delight you with its crunchy exterior and soft interior – simple yet addictive.

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2. Shengjian bao

Shengjian bao, or raw-fried bun, is the pan-fried cousin of the famous xiaolong bao, steamed soup pork bun.

Shengjian bao are golf-sized pork buns that are first fried in a large, shallow pan, then doused with water to create steam that cooks the filling thoroughly. The result is a crispy bottom and fluffy top. As you bite into the yeast-dough wrapper, the piping savoury broth inside immediately hits your palate.

The secret to the broth is the gelatinous pork filling, which melts as it cooks. The bao is garnished with finely chopped chives and toasted sesame before serving.

3. Guo tie


Cooked in the same way as shengjian bao, guo tie are pretty crescent-shaped, neatly-pleated dumplings with a golden-brown, crispy bottom.

It comes in a wide range of fillings but the most popular are ground pork and chives, and minced shrimp. Unlike shengjian bao, the guo tie wrapper is springy and chewy. The locals prefer them with a Chinese black vinegar dip to balance out the greasiness.

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4. Egg crepe


This popular breakfast item is sold at hawker stands that always have long snaking queues in front of them. As the vendor spreads the mung-bean batter on a hot iron griddle to make the crepe, choose from a wide range of ingredients for the stuffing: egg, greens, fried wonton, scallions, pickles, and hoisin or chilli sauce.

5. Xian dou hua

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Overwhelmed by all the rich offerings? Tuck into xian dou hua, or savoury tofu blossom.

As the beautiful name implies, this dish is all about simplicity and subtlety. Freshly made soy milk turns into silken curd as gypsum powder, cornflour and water are slowly added to it.

Though it can be enjoyed as a dessert, Shanghainese prefer it with savoury toppings such as dried seaweed, scallion, soy sauce and chilli oil.

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