Shanghai Cuisine

Woman Cooking Street Food
Chris Li / EyeEm / Getty Images

What is called eastern Chinese or Shanghai cuisine reflects the cooking styles of the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Jiangxi. Shanghai, the largest city in the People's Republic of China, incorporates the cooking styles of the surrounding provinces.

What Makes Shanghai Cuisine Stand Out?

Shanghai cuisine is characterized by a greater use of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine and rice vinegar than other regional cuisines. That’s not surprising since China’s finest rice wine is produced in the city of Shaoxing in eastern Zhejiang province, while famous Chinkiang black rice vinegar originated in Jiangsu province.

Main Cooking Method:

People like to cook their food slowly here. Eastern China is home to “red-cooking,” where food is gently braised in a flavorful soy sauce-based liquid with sugar and spices such as five-spice powder. Many families develop their own “master sauce” for red-cooking that is passed down through the generations. Lion’s Head Meatballs is another popular slow-cooked dish. Even in stir-frying, a sauce is frequently added near the beginning of cooking, instead of at the end.

Geographical Influences: "The Land of Fish and Rice":

The dominant geographical feature is the mighty Yangtze river, which flows from Qinghai province in the west out into the East China Sea. The longest river in Asia, the Yangtze River is a major transportation source. Hundreds of freshwater lakes flow into the river and the fertile floodplain wetlands are perfect for rice cultivation, earning this region the name “the land of fish and rice.”

The Higher the Elevation, the More Tender the Tea Leaf":

Another prominent geographical influence is the mountainous terrain; tea growers believe the best climate and soil conditions for growing tea are found in areas where the mountains are under 6,000 feet high. Several famous teas are cultivated in the Wuyi mountains that form the border between the provinces of Fujian and Jiangxi. Two examples are Ti Kwan Yin, the famous oolong tea named after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and white tea, made from immature tea leaves before the buds have fully opened.

Shanghai Signature Dishes:

  • Xiao long bao (steamed Shanghai buns)
  • Hairy Crab
  • 1,000-year-old preserved eggs
  • Beggar's Chicken
  • "Stinky Tofu"
  • Eight Precious Rice
  • Pickled and preserved dishes

Shanghai Recipes: