With a focus on sweet rather than spicy flavors, Shanghainese cuisine can be a great option for kids. Here are our top eight menu staples to order for kids when eating Shanghainese food.
1. Shengjian Bao 生煎包. Pan-fried pork dumplings with soup inside, usually topped with a sprinkle of scallions and sesame seeds. Found at both restaurants and street stalls. Allow to cool before serving to children.
2. Xiaolongbao 小笼包. Classic steamed dumpling with pork and soup inside. Allow to cool before serving to children.
3. Congyoubing 葱油饼. Fried pancakes stuffed with shredded greens and scallions. Found at street stalls.
4. Caibao 菜包. Fluffy steamed buns filled with shredded greens and small chunks of dried tofu. Available from street-side stalls at breakfast time. Be sure to also pick up some soymilk to wash it down.
5. Niangao 年糕. Chewy rice cakes cut into batons or wide strips. Usually stir-fried in a sauce with meat, or served with fried pork cutlet and thick soy sauce.
6. Congyou Banmian 葱油拌面. Dry stir-fried noodles with strips of scallions and light soy sauce.
With light and pure flavors, Cantonese food is an excellent option for children, particularly dim sum. Unlike in Hong Kong where it’s a breakfast/brunch staple, many Cantonese restaurants in Shanghai serve dim sum during dinner service.
Xiajiao 虾饺. Steamed dumplings with whole shrimp inside, flavored lightly with garlic and sesame oil.
Chashabao 叉烧包. Fluffy steamed buns filled with diced honey barbecued pork.
Chashao 叉烧. Barbecued pork with a sweet honey glaze. Boneless and served in slices.
Liushabao 流沙包. Steamed buns filled with sweet egg yolk custard. Allow to cool before serving to children.
Changfen 肠粉. Steamed rice noodle rolls with a variety of fillings, including barbecued pork, shrimp or youtiao (油条，deep-fried dough sticks).
Malagao 马拉糕. Mildly sweet steamed sponge cake with a subtle molasses flavor.
Shaomai 烧卖. Steamed open top dumplings with a minced pork and shrimp filling. Lightly flavored with sesame oil and garlic.
Nuomiji 糯米鸡. Steamed sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf with shredded chicken and sometimes pork. Lotus leaf isn’t edible.
If you’ve taken a stroll on the streets of Shanghai, chances are you would’ve walked past a Xinjiang or Lanzhou hole-in-the-wall eatery. Owned by Muslim ethnic minorities hailing from northeastern China, they serve halal meat and use mutton and beef instead of pork.
If you forgo the cumin-loaded meat skewers, many of the flavors in these cheap and filling dishes are simple and accessible for children. Most are served over rice or noodles, specify ‘gaijiao fan’ (盖浇饭) for rice, and ‘gaijiao mian’ (盖浇面) for noodles.
Xihongshi Chaojidan西红柿炒鸡蛋. Scrambled egg and tomatoes with a very mild soy sauce flavor, can be eaten over rice or noodles. This is a popular Shanghainese home-style dish and can usually be found in Lanzhou noodle shops.
Niurou Lamian 牛肉拉面. Beef noodle soup with scallions and coriander (specify ‘bu yao xiangcai’ 不要香菜 if you don’t want coriander). Soup is made from beef broth.
Shuijiao 水饺. Boiled plain dumplings with mutton (yangrou 羊肉) or vegetable (cai 菜) filling.
Tudou he Niurou 土豆和牛肉. Cumin-flavored stir-fried beef and potatoes, sometimes with green pepper and onions. Suitable for ages 6 and up. Specify ‘bu la’ (不辣) for non-spicy.