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9 Must-Try Shanghai Cuisine

December 14th, 2009 by

Although not part of the eight traditions, Shanghai cuisine has borrowed the best from its surrounding provinces and made it into its own notable style of cooking. One special aspect of Shanghai cooking is the liberal use of alcohol, where fish, eel, crab and chicken are “drunken” with spirits and then quickly cooked or steamed, or even just served raw. Another distinctive technique is the combination of sugar and soy sauce to balance the flavor. Shanghai cuisine is also known for its “red cooking”, where food is gently braised in a flavorful soy sauce-based liquid with sugar and spices.

Here are 9 Shanghai cuisine worth trying out:

Beggar's chicken

Beggar’s Chicken
– chicken wrapped in lotus leaves, covered in clay and baked, resulting in a tender, lightly-flavored meat. Legend has it a beggar stole a chicken and buried it in mud. When he came back for it and cooked it whole, a thick crust formed from the mud which, upon cracking, removed the feathers and released a savory aroma.

Hairy Crab - high-quality Yangcheng Lake crabs with green shells and white bottoms which are in season by late autumn. Although there several ways to prepare hairy crabs, the best way to preserve the flavor is by tying the legs, placing them in bamboo containers, and steaming them.

Shanghai-style nian gao – a favorite during the Chinese new year, this rice cake is packaged with a thick soft rod to be sliced up when prepared Shanghai-style.  Non-glutinous rice is used to make the Shanghai variety as well, keeping the nian gao white.

Shanghai fried noodles – a meal that uses Shanghai-style noodles, which are stir-fried  with beef cutlets, cabbage, spinach and onion.

Thousand year eggs

Lime-and ginger-flavoured thousand-year eggs – duck, chicken, or quail eggs preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, lime, salt and rice straw for several weeks or months, turning the yolk into dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulphur and ammonia. The egg white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly in turn. Thousand-year eggs may be eaten in several ways, such as a cold appetizer with a side of pickled ginger, or cut into small cubes, sprinkled with chopped spring onions and a dash soy sauce and served with chilled silken tofu.

Xiaolongbao - also called Shanghai dumplings, these smalls buns are filled with pork and soup, steamed in bamboo baskets and served with vinegar. Well-made dumplings have very thin, almost translucent shells upon steaming. A popular way to eat xaolongbao is to bite the top off, slurp up all the soup, then dip in vinegar before consuming the rest.

Youtiao - a dough-like food that is deep fried in oil until crisp and is eaten in all parts of China, wrapped in thick pancake, accompanied by soy milk. The most well-known foods for breakfast are the “Four Heavenly Kings” , which include da bing (Chinese pancake), youtiao (deep-fried dough stick), ci fan tuan (steamed sticky rice ball) and soy milk.

Shengjianbao - small, fried buns filled with pork and gelatin which liquifies into soup upon frying on a large, greased pan. Salty with a hint of sweetness, with a thicker and chewier shell than xiaolongbao, shengjianbao is a common breakfast item in Shanghai, served in groups of 4.

Lion’s Head
– large pork meatballs stewed in chicken broth with vegetables, such as bok choy. The shredded bok choy represents the lion’s mane.

One Response to “9 Must-Try Shanghai Cuisine”

  1. Tom Brown Says:

    Food in china is very good, I stayed for last 2 years and comparing English meals, I would prefer Chinese food any time, even the food is cheap compared to London and one can eat a full dinner under $5 each day.

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