Shanghai in China is the most populous city and the largest city in the entire world. Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta in East China and is both a major financial center and a global city. The city has a good reputation around the world and is known as the Pearl of the Orient and the Paris of the east. In 2013 the population of the city surpassed the entire population of nearby Taiwan and is estimated at 23.9 million people.
In 2013 the population grew with aproximately 200 000 people. The city ranks first in China and the world in terms of population and has a population density of 3700 people per square kilometer. The total area of the city is 6340 square kilometers and is mostly flat with an average elevation of just 4 meters. The city has an extensive network of rivers, canals, lakes and streams which all makes it a perfect setting for a large population. For the past twenty years Shanghai has seen impressing growth with double-digits every year since 1992 except during the global recession of 2008/2009.
Shanghai grew in importance during the 19th century as europeans started recognizing it for its favorable port location and economic potential. After the British victory over China in the First Opium war while the subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nanking and the Treaty of Whampoa allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession, Shanghai was one of five cities in China open for foreign trade. The city became the undisputed financial hub in the 1930s after years of succesful commerce between east and west. However in 1949 when the Communist Party took over the control of the mainland trade was reoriented to focus on socialist countries and the city’s global influence declined.
In the 1990’s Shanghai made a comeback with the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping which lead to an increase ones again of finance and foreign investment in the city.
The name Shanghai come from shàng (“above”) and hǎi (“sea”) which if put together means “Upon-the-Sea”. This name first occured in the Song Dynasty (11th-century).
The streets of Shanghai are packed with cheap and delicious foods of all kinds. Here is a list of eight wonderful dishes which can be found all over this great city. So avoid the tourist traps, get out there to try this convenient, cheap, authentic food and eat like a local in Shanghai!
Xiao Long Bao
Perhaps one of Shanghai’s most popular snacks these “soup dumplings” are steamed and served across the city. The dumplings are made by wrapping fresh pork and occasionally crab in wafer thin flour pouches which when cooked fill with mouthwatering soup. Served in bamboo steamers with a side dish of vinegar 6 Xiao Long Bao should set you back about 8 RMB.
Mornings are a great time to experience some of Shanghai’s street food. The Chinese version of pancakes- Jian Bing are often eaten by many busy commuters on their way to work. Watch your pancake being freshly made on a hot iron griddle and topped with shallots, Chinese pickle and an egg. You can then choose between sweet or spicy sauce and a crispy wafer or fried bread to complete your delicious pancake. At 4 RMB Jian Bing are a cheap and tasty way to start your day in Shanghai!
Ya Rou Fen Si Tang
Duck is an extremely popular meat in Shanghai which makes the soup Ya Rou Fen Si Tang a good choice if you want to eat like a local. The soup is made with a wholesome broth, duck meat, duck blood and rice noodles. If don’t you feel like congealed duck blood in your soup tell your waiter- bu yao ya xue (不要鸭血) to make sure it isn’t put in your soup. One bowl of soup will cost around 15 RMB.
Going for Chinese BBQ can be a quick snack or a great cheap night out. A variety of meat, tofu, vegetables and fish can be grilled in minutes and washed back with beer as you and your friends sit road-side and watch the world go by! Favorite items include grilled squid, lamb, needle mushrooms- jin zhen gu (金针菇), Chinese bread named man tou (馒头) and for the more adventurous chicken hearts. 25 to 40 RMB will buy you a nice night of BBQ and beers.
Liang Ban Mian
Summer in Shanghai can turn the city into a sweltering oven. It is during these hot days when street carts selling cold mixed noodles, Liang Ban Mian, are popular. The noodles are mixed with strips of cucumber, beansprouts and glutinous Chinese style croutons known as Kou Fu (口腹) and then mixed in sesame oil and vinegar. Cool down with a snack of noodle salad for just 5 RMB.
Ma La Tang
A good way to keep you warm in winter the soup Ma La Tang is served in little shops all over Shanghai. The twist to this convenient meal is that you choose the ingredients. After picking an array of fresh vegetables, meat and noodles they will be cooked in a clear broth which can then be flavored with a choice of garlic, spring onions, peanut and of course spicy sauce. A substantial and filling bowl of Ma La Tang will cost you 20 RMB. Great for a quick, warming, snack or a filling meal.
Buns which are filled with pork, placed on a griddle and covered to cook until soft on one side and wonderfully crispy on the other, Sheng Qian are a popular snack in Shanghai. Be careful not to burn your mouth with the succulent juices trapped inside. Locals usually get around this by holding the bun on a spoon, biting a hole in the side and sucking out the meaty gravy before devouring the rest of the bun! Four buns cost 5 RMB.
These glutinous rice dumplings are sold in high end shops, markets and by the side of the road. This filling snack is made by surrounding fatty meat with special rice and wrapping it with bamboo leaves. As the rice dumpling is slowly cooked the fat from the meat dissolves and flavors the rice. A truly authentic Chinese food which can be enjoyed either hot or cold. These snacks are usually eaten in Shanghai during the time of the Dragon Boat Festival and cost about 3 RMB for one.