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  • Last Updated: 25th July 2013

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Shanghai - Food and Drink

Shanghai, it will come as no surprise, is a city that loves to eat. Everywhere you go, you’ll detect the aromatic smells emanating from the city’s excellent street carts, selling fast and fresh delicacies, such as egg pancakes, flat breads, pork kebabs and dim sum.

The city’s famed for its pork dishes - usually served sweet, sticky and as fillings for dumplings, buns and soups. As a rule ‘meat’ will usually mean ‘pork’, on menus. Red cooked pork is a delicious, sweet stew, with pork slow-braised and wonderfully tender.

Sea and freshwater fish are everywhere, with braised and steamed bass, carp and crab cropping up in soups and stews, or served simply with sticky noodles, soy and ginger.

Tofu skins, soy milk (both sweet and savory), firm tofu and bean curd are the options open to vegetarians, shot through with the moreish, savoury bite of soy sauce and ginger.

Probably the most famous Shanghai fast food is the small steamed buns - with hot broth inside laced with pork or crab. Delicious, but hot - so watch out!

The seasonal (autumn) delight of hairy crab is also worth battling with - it’s delicious, but you’ll need patience to get at it!

Dim sum is excellent, although usually served as a breakfast food. Fried dumplings, dougy parcels served with soy milk, or thick pancakes encasing pork or chicken are all wonderfully filling food on the go, and safe to eat from street food vendors as they’re so fresh. Dipped in black vineger, or served with fiery radish, they’re rather acidic, but great for giving you the energy you need to tackle a day’s sightseeing!

In downtown Shanghai, you’ll also have no problem locating fine French, Italian, Indian, American and every other culture’s cuisines, too. And the city’s top hotels are renowned for their excellent, creative fusion food, blending the best of homegrown produce with international influences - such as tempura, barbecue ribs, carvery and - yes - even a good British roast dinner all on the menus.

Shanghai loves its tea. A visit to one of the city’s tea houses is a must - but just ensure you’re not conned by any of the touts around the People’s Square, or the main tourist spots: if you’re approached to be guided to a tea house, politely decline.

In Shanghai, there are now over 3,000 tea houses in operation, and the safest area to try is around Shanghai Old Street, along the Yuyuan Road, Middle Huaihai Road, or ask your hotel to recommend one. The ceremony, together with the dainty tea service, and elegant little morsels of food, is simply charming.