It originated in the Ming and Qing dynasties (c. 1368-1840). In the later part of the 19th century, after Shanghai became a major domestic and international trading port, Benbang dishes underwent some substantial changes, adopting influences from other cuisines which added to its complexity.
Shanghai dishes usually appear red and shiny because they are often pickled in wine. They are cooked using a variety of methods including baking, stewing, braising, steaming and deep-frying. Fish, crab and chicken are made "drunken" with spirits and briskly cooked, steamed or served raw. Salted meats and preserved vegetables are also commonly used to enhance various dishes. Sugar is an important ingredient in Shanghai cuisine, especially when used in combination with soy sauce. Another characteristic is the use of a great variety of seafood. Rice is more commonly served than noodles or other wheat products.