Due to its proximity to Guangdong province, Shanghai cuisine is very similar to Cantonese cooking and many consider it to be a subset of that cuisine. Shanghai cousine, however, tends to be less bland and many dishes are actually quite boldly flavored, usually with both soy sauce and sugar.
The use of sugar is very unique to Shanghai cuisine and, especially when used in combination with soy sauce, effuses foods and sauces with a taste that is not so much sweet but rather savory. A typical Shanghai household will consume sugar at the same rate as soy sauce, even excluding pastry baking. Non-natives tend to have difficulty identifying this usage of sugar and are often surprised when told of the "secret ingredient."
Seafood is also as popular if not more so than in Cantonese cuisine. Locals favor freshwater fish just as much as saltwater products like crabs and oysters. However, as is the case with much of China, recent health concerns with shellfish due to pollution and poorly-regulated use of antibiotics and hormones have sharply decreased their popularity, much to the deep regret of gourmets who often feast on seafood at least once a week.
Due to the rapid growth of the city of Shanghai and the central government's plans to position Shanghai as the foremost East Asian city, the future of Shanghai cuisine looks very promising.
Some famous Shanghai dishes include: