Shanghai in Food – My favourite Chinese dishes!

Ah, the sheer vastness of Chinese food! Since China is so big, the food is some of the most varied you can find in the world. Unfortunately, a lot of it has been reduced to greasy takeaway fried noodles and rice that is consumed by ravenous students after a night out. SHAME! But fear not, I am here to right the reputation of Chinese food and give you a glimpse of the foodie wonders it can behold. After this, you will never be able to order Chinese takeaway ever again. Let's have a look, shall we?

CUPCAKE

  1. Dumplings

I have to start with my absolute favourite food ever, Chinese dumplings. Now, most of us know them as a starter or a side (probably in a portion of 3-4), squeezed into a transparent plastic takeaway container, kind of cold and glistening from oil? That is such a tragic misrepresentation of the awesome dumpling.

First of all, they come in a variety of cooking ways: boiled, fried, in soup, you name it. Secondly, there are different types: there is the classic “Shui Jiao” (boiled) or “Guo Tie” (fried, “pot sticker” in the US); the “Xiao Long Bao” (technically a bun, but more like a very juicy, round dumpling), and the famous “Hun Tun”, or Wonton.

Fried Dumplings shanghai
Fried Dumplings

So, a little bit on the history of dumplings. Apparently, the shape was inspired by human ears (not very appetizing, but bear with me). According to legend, a man called Zhang Zhongjing noticed that many poor people in his village had frostbitten ears, and invented dumplings to give to the poor, so that they would have sustenance and warmth (see, even their backstory is awesome). A different theory says that, since the shape of the dumplings resembles that of gold and silver ingots, eating them is meant to bring wealth.

Xiao Long Bao shanghai
Xiao Long Bao

Regardless of whether or not eating dumplings will make you rich, they are a staple Chinese dish that is delicious and versatile. You can pair them with soy sauce or chili sauce, or a combination of both, but my favourite will always be my mother's home-made boiled dumplings dipped in Chinese black vinegar!

In Shanghai, they have a different variety of the traditional fried dumpling called “Sheng Jian Bao". Personally, I didn't find them amazing, since they were quite doughy. But here is a detailed review with restaurant recommendations if you want to try for yourself!

2017-06-21-14.02.15_watermarked
Sheng Jian Bao at Yang’s Dumpling

And if this ode to dumplings has given you a craving and you aren't able to travel to China anytime soon, I found a great recipe and how-to for you to make them yourself! Now get on it and see takeaway dumplings pale in comparison.

  1. Dim Sum

Now, technically, dumplings are dim sum. Dim sum is the collective designation for small portions of food that together make up a meal. You share them between the whole table. Think of it as the Chinese version of Spanish tapas.

Dim sum originated in Hong Kong and the Guangdong province, but has now spread to all corners of China (and Asia in general). It started off as a snack to accompany Chinese tea, but has evolved into a full-sized meal tradition.

Char Siu buns shanghai
Char Siu buns

The best thing about dim sum is that the small portions allow you to order many different varieties. I am not going to go into all the different dishes (there are too many!!), but I will outline my favourites:

Of course, dumplings are indispensable when it comes to ordering dim sum. Then, there are Char Siu buns, which are steamed rice flour buns filled with barbecue pork. When well-made, they are fluffy and soft, and the pork inside is juicy and fragrant. Get Cheong Fun as well! They are wide rice noodles filled with shrimp, pork or vegetables splashed with sweet soy sauce. When it comes to vegetables, I always order radish cake. It is made of radish purée pressed into squares with dried shrimp and fried. I love it with a bit of chili sauce on the side! For the more daring among you, there are delicacies such as chicken feet (marinated in soy sauce, or cold with chili and vinegar dressing), or thousand year egg porridge.

Radish Cake shanghai
Radish Cake

Next time you go out for Chinese food, look out for the dim sum, order something you've never tried before, and be surprised (I don't take any responsibility for negative surprises, that's on you)!

  1. Char Siu (or Cha Shao in Mandarin)

Speaking of Char Siu (the barbecued pork in the buns, remember?), it is a wondrous dish all in itself. Although it is commonly known as Chinese barbecued pork due to the savoury and sweet glazing, the spices used to make it are quite different from the Western barbecue spices. Most recipes contain five-spice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. Check here for a nice recipe if you want to make Char Siu at home.

char siu shanghai
Char Siu

Typically, it is served with rice, fried noodles or in a bun. In my opinion, it goes really well with a side of garlic-fried broccoli or pak choi.

  1. Chinese Tea

No Chinese meal is complete without Chinese tea. Many different types are available, but the most common one served in restaurants is Jasmine tea. Read up on the different varieties here.

Typical Chinese teapot
Typical Chinese teapot

There you go, now you know the important things about Chinese food! These are just my favourites, and of course, there are many many more amazing things to eat in China. Go forth and explore!

For a little guide on what to see in Shanghai if you're a tourist, take a look at this post!

Let me know in the comments what your favourite Chinese foods are!

Shanghai Food-Pinterest
Share the love:)
Helene is a lifestyle blogger whose goal is to inspire others to live their life to the fullest. She loves dancing, and she would love to see as much of the world as possible!

49 Comments

  1. theitalianguest
    June 28, 2017

    Dumplings are my favourite 😀 Check out my blog if you stop by 🙂

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 29, 2017

      Awesome!! Yeah I will do!:)

      Reply
  2. I love Jasmine tea!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 29, 2017

      Me too! It’s so refreshing:)

      Reply
  3. thejaneeffect
    June 30, 2017

    I love dumplings, but now I’m inspired to try new things!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Dumplings are the best! I’m glad I inspired you☺️☺️

      Reply
  4. Who do I do
    June 30, 2017

    I love dim sum and absolutely adore dumplings. Chicken feet I’m not so keen! Have you tried gunpowder tea?

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Yeah chicken feet are not everyone’s thing…I don’t think so! What is that?

      Reply
  5. Megan
    June 30, 2017

    I had no idea there was so much to it! I do love dumplings though!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Yay! Dumpling love! I’m glad my post was informative then:)

      Reply
  6. findworldsbeauty
    June 30, 2017

    Great article! I will definitely try out these foods when going to China, thanks for sharing:)

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Thank you! Cool! Let me know how it goes:)

      Reply
  7. Chinese food is one of my favorite cuisines – I can eat dumplings and Dim-sums till they come out my ears haha. I’ve not been to china yet but I can imagine the food will be amazing. It’s funny when I lived in Bali I was able to sample some real authentic Chinese food and when I returned home to England that Chinese take-away food just didn’t cut it anymore! – Great article 😀

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Completely agree! I wish everyone could try authentic Chinese food sometime in their lives:) thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  8. I love Chinese food, I can’t say I’ve ever had truly authentic Chinese food but my local Chinese is pretty damn tasty.

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      Haha I’m sure it is! I can guarantee you you’ll love the real stuff even more then!

      Reply
  9. Natasha Haley
    June 30, 2017

    I just finished Chinese take out. It was good but this food looks way nicer and much better for you. I will need to try some of these things when I am in China

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      June 30, 2017

      It’s definitely healthier:) For sure, let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  10. Karthik Rao
    July 1, 2017

    Hey super post. Any vegetarian dishes ? 🙂 A new post idea 😉

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 1, 2017

      Thanks! True, I should do that:)

      Reply
  11. Earth's Pilgrim
    July 1, 2017

    This blog looks yumm.. Chinese/oriental are my all time favourite cuisines…. Love Dumplings

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 1, 2017

      Thanks!! Mine too, among others!;) dumplings😍

      Reply
  12. Elise Cohen Ho
    July 2, 2017

    I featured you for a Blogger Recognition Award. I even wrote about why I chose you. Check it out here: http://elisecohenho.com/blogger-recognition-award/

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 2, 2017

      Oh wow, I feel really honoured, thank you so much!!

      Reply
  13. Katie Kuo
    July 2, 2017

    mm dumplings are definitely one of my favourite food!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 2, 2017

      Right?? So simple but so delicious😍

      Reply
  14. digitaltravelg
    July 2, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this great post on food, now I’m very hungry as I write this, I will order a Chinese meal soon lol, some tasty dishes you have shared and the food looks delicious.

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 2, 2017

      Thank you! Enjoy your meal!😘

      Reply
  15. balanoblog
    July 3, 2017

    This was an amazing post!!! I’m Chinese and you definitely taught me quite a bit about food history haha. Great writing 🙂

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 3, 2017

      Awww thank you!!:) I’m Chinese by ancestry too, but I’ve never lived there! I think if I did I would be fat…

      Reply
  16. Stewie Overseas
    July 15, 2017

    Oh, this makes my mouth water! The dumplings look good.

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 15, 2017

      Hehe that’s the point of the post😋 glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  17. I loved YANG’s I wish I had found this post before my trip, there are some great recommendations

    Hannah @ The Northern Writes | http://www.thenorthernwrites.co.uk

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      July 21, 2017

      Aw I’m glad!!:) maybe for next time you go;)

      Reply
  18. Kimberly Kruty
    August 31, 2017

    That is definitely some interesting food ! I feel like I would enjoy the radish cake for some reason. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever tried ??

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      August 31, 2017

      Thank you! I think a lot of people enjoy the radish cake even though it sounds weird… errrr, the craziest food I’ve ever tried was probably rotten tofu (it’s completely black, and a delicacy in Asia…), it tasted pretty disgusting in my opinion?

      Reply
  19. WhodoIdo
    August 31, 2017

    I love reading food posts! They always seem to make me hungry! Dumplings are my favourite … steamed, fried I will eat them all! I’ve heard that the dumplings in Shanghai are AMAZING! Love dim sum too, especially Har Gau and Siu Mai – not to keen on the chicken feet though.

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      August 31, 2017

      I love Har Gau!! Siu Mai I’m not too keen on…yes, welcome to the dumpling fan collective!!?? haha I feel the same way about food posts?

      Reply
  20. Gabi
    August 31, 2017

    I simply got lost into a labyrinth of flavours and scents. The richness of Chines culture is perfeclty mirrored in their cooking. Well, I am going to eat now, all this reading about food made me hungry!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      August 31, 2017

      Haha have a good one!! I know, I love the diversity of Chinese food (and culture)!! Thanks for your comment:)

      Reply
  21. Shaily
    September 1, 2017

    Nice post! Thanks for sharing details of the Chinese delicacies. The food looks so flavourful and delicious! I like dumplings and jasmine tea. 🙂

    Reply
  22. Lyf&Spice
    September 1, 2017

    This ought to be one of my favourite posts, because it has so much drool-worthy food in it. Char Siu and dim sums of all sorts are a regular feature out here in Malaysia, although I would really want to try Sheng Jian Bao sometime. Cheers!!

    Reply
  23. Dumplings are my absolute favourite! I haven’t been to mainland China yet but have visited Hong Kong. One of the biggest issues I ran into was finding dumplings (and a lot of food for that matter) that didn’t have pork or fish in them. Luckily, I was able to find some places and everyone was super helpful!

    Reply
  24. kad8585
    September 1, 2017

    I wish I made it to Shanghai when I was in China but sadly no. I never met dum sum/dunplings I didn’t like and I think its hillarious that they may be shaped from a human ear. I like the whole bring you wealth idea better perspnally.

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      September 1, 2017

      Haha who doesn’t love the idea of getting rich by eating dumplings?? you’ll have to go to Shanghai next time then??

      Reply
  25. margarethvfurtado
    September 1, 2017

    You have no idea how like I’m to find your post! I’m in Ulaanbaatar and tomorrow I’m going to Beijing…and then…Shangai! And I’m a foodie. Oh my god, I almost save your post to remember all the things that I’ll like to eat… <3
    Thank you for sharing this amazing tips. \o/ Char Sou is already on my list, but Dim Sum just pop in…Lol

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      September 1, 2017

      Thank you so much!! ???? haha you have to try Dim Sum!!

      Reply
  26. Sandy Dobbs
    September 2, 2017

    Sure makes me want to go to China! I have never been, but the food alone looks amazing!

    Reply
    1. Helene Choo
      September 2, 2017

      You should gooooo! There’s such a huge variety of yummy food????

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *