How To Nail A Chinese Breakfast In Shanghai

Want a truly authentic experience whilst exploring China? There’s nothing more immersive than a breakfast run before work. On a recent trip to Shanghai with Cathay Pacific, we managed to get into the morning routine during a tour of the French Concession. From that we learnt how the locals do it in the big city.

Basically the four stages of a staple Shanghai brekky are called the “Four Heavenly Kings,” which is a reference to the four Buddhist gods who preside over each cardinal direction of the world. Each stage provides a different kind of taste and texture, but all of them are delicious. So what exactly are the foods that pay homage to the heavenly kings?

Da Bing (大饼)

These Chinese pancakes are widely available but a little different depending on how they’re made, with sweet or savoury options available. They may seem like a simple baked bread, but in reality there’s a fair bit of process behind making them. Raw dough is dashed with seasoning and then placed inside a metal barrel of burning coal or wood. It emerges baked, golden and delicious; definitely a great way to start the day.

Doujiang (豆浆)

Pair up your feed with doujiang, or soy milk. In China it’s served piping hot and drunk like a morning coffee. Whilst typically sweet, you can also have savoury version featuring a mix of small dried shrimp, minced pickles, dried meat floss and a touch of oil. It’s warming, scrumptious and can be had on the go.

Youtiao (油条)

Youtiao is the perfect introduction for any newbie. A churros like deep-fried dough stick, it’s the perfect accompaniment to doujiang. They are a great breakfast when you’re on move, savoury and easily eaten without additional toppings. Dip it into your soy milk to get the whole nine yards.

Ci Fan Tuan (粢饭团)

These rice roll breakfast eats can again be sweet or savoury. Stuffed with warm gooey sticky rice, the other ingredients vary depending on your choice. They can include deep fried dough sticks, minced pickles and dried meat floss, with sweet red bean and sugar options for the sweeter side.


These are all great starters for the day, but make sure you transition to lunch with some excellent dumplings and buns. Caibao, xiao long bao and xiao hun tun are the go to eats, with xiao long bao’s famous enough to be named “Shanghai dumplings”.

If you’re also in the French Concession also make sure you hit up Egg, a very western coffee shop that serves a great range of brews. The coconut infused coffee is a must and is a pleasant departure from all the Chinese food.

Make sure you hit up the pleasures of cosmopolitan Shanghai with the Cathay Pacific crew. More details on flights can be found here.

For more details on Cathay Pacific (@cathaypacific) who flew us to Hong Kong & Shanghai, head here. Thanks also to UnTour Food Tours for showing us around, check them out here