For all of Shanghai's glamorous world-class restaurants located in restored colonial edifices or the most modern of skyscrapers, some of the city's best (not to mention cheapest) food can be found on its streets. At holes-in-the-wall or flimsy makeshift stalls about town, you can find everything from your average roubao/caibao (meat and vegetable buns) and shaomai (glutinous rice dumplings) to Shanghai's classic snacks like cong you bing (scallion pancakes), jiucai hezi (leek pie), xiaolong bao (pork-filled soup dumplings), and even chou doufu (stinky tofu), to the Muslim-influenced yangrou chuan (spicy grilled lamb skewers). A perennial favorite is shengjian bao, medium-size buns filled with fatty ground pork, shallow-fried on the bottom, then steamed, and sprinkled with sesame seeds and chives. You can eat it plain or dip it in black Zhenjiang vinegar. But the piece de resistance of Shanghai street food has to be jidan bing (egg pancake), a kind of local breakfast burrito. Batter is poured onto a hot round griddle to form a thin crepe. A fresh egg is added, along with a dash of bean paste, chili sauce, chives, finely diced pickled mustard greens, and the optional salty cruller (youtiao). The whole thing is then folded into a square or a roll and presto -- a most tasty breakfast you won't find back home.
Though these snacks are available on many a Shanghai street corner, those in the know head for the corner of Changle Lu and Xiangyang Lu in the French Concession, where you can find some of the best street breakfasts and snacks in town. Sipailou Lu in the old Chinese city (south of Fangbang Lu and west of Zhonghua Lu) also features many food stalls selling all kinds of local snacks.
Chinese on the Cheap
Fast, tasty, and cheap Chinese food can always be found in the point-and-choose food courts that blanket the basements (usually) of the large shopping malls and department stores. A multitude of stalls proffer everything from basic stir-fries to Hong Kong-style dim sum, Southern-style casseroles to Northern-style noodles and dumplings. Simply point and choose from the dishes or models on display. Prices are very reasonable, allowing you to try a variety of dishes. You will have to purchase coupons or a card to pay for your food at each stall. The Megabite (Dashidai) food courts in Hong Kong Plaza (Huaihai Zhong Lu 282, Luwan) and Raffles City Mall (Xizang Zhong Lu 268, Huangpu) are excellent places to sample the goods.