One of the best things about the Shanghai food scene is that it's constantly growing and evolving. New restaurants are opening every week, each one competing to serve unique foods in over-the-top-settings. While this is exciting, traditional cuisine can easily get lost in the hyperactivity of China's biggest city. If you're looking for inexpensive, authentic and classic eats to kick off your day in Shanghai, these five street-food staples always satisfy.

Jianbing  煎饼

Photo by Aaron May via Flickr


A savory crepe made from wheat and mung bean flour, this snack has people forming queues to get their fix before work. Inside is a strip of crunchy, deep-fried tofu, sweet hoisin sauce, tangy pickled ginger, fresh spring onions and coriander (although you'll find many variations and regional takes). It’s all cooked on a large cast iron grill, ready in 30 seconds and incredibly addictive.

 

Baozi — 包子

Photo by Sarah 罗美沙 via Flickr


The bao is another favorite that, luckily, is available all day. The bread is light, soft and slightly sweet. Inside you'll find rich, succulent pork cooked with minimal spices. Have a napkin ready; the juices are guaranteed to drip down your chin.

 

Spring Onion Flatbread — 蔥油餅

Photo by Xalekd via Flickr


I’ve heard different names for this bread, but the one that describes it best is “thousand layer bread.” Thin layers of slightly salty bread are made into one huge pancake, then cut into triangles for serving. The top layer is crispy, with scallions and toasted sesame seeds sprinkled throughout. It’s delicious alongside a big bowl of won ton soup.

 

Fried Dumplings — 上海生煎包

Photo by Alpha via Flickr


Shanghai is famous for its dumplings. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but sheng jian bao take first prize. They're like normal steamed dumplings, except they're fried on the bottom for an amazing crunch (as well as a few extra calories…). The pork soup filling is known to burn the mouths of the overeager, so be careful when biting in. Dip in rice vinegar first.

 

Tea Eggs — 茶蛋

Photo by Mokiko via Flickr


These eggs are first hard-boiled before having their shells lightly cracked. They are then added into a big pot of black tea water and spices, such as star anise. The tea seeps in through the cracks and gives the eggs incredible flavor and a marbled appearance. Luckily, they're available all day long.


By Josephine Piehl

Josephine is an England born Swede based in Shanghai, with an acquired taste for a cheap deal. She loves travel, taking photos and laughing at her jokes when nobody else will. Check her out on instagram: @jvlpiehl.