Moveable Feasts aims to research, savor, catalogue, preserve, and engage with Shanghai’s rich street food heritage. Today in cities across the world a street food renaissance is taking place. However, in Shanghai, an attitude prevails that equates urban development with “cleaning up the streets” — including getting rid of street food vendors.

Shanghai’s street food is a culinary repository of migrants’ culture from all over China, and sometimes the world, assimilated and synthesized with each successive wave of immigration. It started from the initial native Shanghainese who originated mostly from nearby Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces, out of which developed the foods that are considered Shanghai’s signature dishes. During the treaty port era and now since Reform and Opening Shanghai has drawn immigrants from new regions, who have brought recipes and tastes that subsequently shaped and were shaped by the Shanghai flavor, both in mainstream and street cuisine.

Street markets are also a vital part of the city’s vast informal economy. This is of particular importance to Shanghai’s migrant workers (calculated at 1/3 of the city’s population) for whom street vending offers an entrepreneurial business opportunity with minimal start up fees. This low-end commercial activity produces cheap and convenient goods while also providing a crucial contribution to the culture of the street, which is so critical to the vibrancy of urban life.

Moveable Feasts aims to learn from cities across Asia, Europe, America and that have found ways to preserve and celebrate its street food heritage. It hopes to contribute to a local model of urban growth in Shanghai that can honor and enjoy its culinary heritage, provide safe and nutritious snacks and preserve and expand the richly diverse life and culture of the street.

celebrating shanghai streetfood heritage