See those low red tiled roofs through the smog? They are longtong, the alley ways where you’ll find Shanghai’s famous street food.

Shanghai Longtong Shanghai Longtang or Lane up clos









No menu needed. Unless you know Mandarin, order with your eyes.

Shanghai Street Food Menu

On an unanticipated business trip to Shanghai, I got to sample its street food.  Without any guidebook nor advance planning, I found “breakfast street”, one of dozens traversing busy Nanjing Road. (Click on any photo to get a closer view.)

Shanghai Breakfast StreetShanghai Street Food Bunds and Bread










The smells of unfamiliar fried foods can be off-putting so I spent a good deal of time just observing. This vendor is making what looks like a sushi roll from cooked black and white rice. And the woman to the right served scallion pancakes and buns filled with pickled vegetables.

Shanghai Rice Roll UpShanghai Scallion Pancake










These guys did a brisk business making Yóu Tiáo, fried crullers or doughnut sticks. (I was tempted but the oil smelled like diesel.)

Shanghai Doughnut Shanghai Doughnut Being Cooked










Jiānbing (egg pancake) is a large crêpe spread with hoisin sauce folded around a thick rectangle of crisp fried dough and diced scallions. I devoured it. (Now there is a food cart in Manhattan specializing in these addicting pancakes.) The containers of pickled things went into buns.

Breakfast PancakeShanghai Street Food Fillings










Some streets hosted markets or small stalls dedicated to fruit, pork and tofu.

Shanghai Fruit Market








Fish vendors offered eels and small karp swimming lugubriously in water-filled Styrofoam boxes. The woman in the photo to the right sold tofu and bean sprouts in many forms.

Shanghai Eels and ShrimpShanghai Tofu Stand










The fresh cilantro, Chinese asparagus and long beans made me want to start shopping. The 12-inch diameter cucumber just made me laugh.
Shnaghai Green GrocerShanghai Ginat Cucumber










Side Trip:

Constant urban expansion threatens Shanghai’s street food vendors. Get there while you can. Here are some articles I enjoyed reading albeit after I got home. Serious Eats has a comprehensive article on Shanghai Street food. This post from the Guardian includes a fun video of a Jiānbing cook at work. UnTour does eating tours in the city.  If you do plan that trip, make sure to include a tour of the city’s  Art Deco architecture.