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Shanghai cuisine, sometimes known as Hu cuisine, is a popular style of Chinese food. Shanghai's cuisine is closely related to those of the surrounding provinces – Jiangsu and Zhejiang – and taken together these are known in China as Benbang cuisine (本帮菜, lit. "local cuisine"). Shanghai cuisine is epitomized by the use of alcohol. Fish, crab, chicken are "drunken" with spirits and are briskly cooked, steamed, or served raw. Salted meats and preserved vegetables are also commonly used to enhance the dish. Sugar is also very common in Shanghai cuisine, especially when used in combination with soy sauce. The most notable dish of this type of cooking is "sweet and sour spare ribs" (Chinese: 糖醋小排; pinyin: tángcù xiǎopái). "Red cooking" is another popular style of stewing meats and vegetables.
"Beggar's chicken" (simplified Chinese: 叫化鸡; traditional Chinese: 叫化雞; pinyin: jiàohuā jī) is a dish of a southern origin, wrapped in lotus leaves and covered in clay. Though usually prepared in ovens, the original and historic preparation involved cooking in the ground. The lion's head (simplified Chinese: 狮子头; traditional Chinese: 獅子頭; pinyin: shīzǐtóu; pork meatballs in brown sauce) and Shanghai-style niangao (Chinese: 粘糕; pinyin: niángāo) are also unique to Shanghai, as are Shanghai fried noodles, a regional variant of chow mein that is made with Shanghai-style thick noodle. Lime-and-ginger-flavoured century egg (Chinese: 皮蛋; pinyin: pídàn) and stinky tofu (Chinese: 臭豆腐; pinyin: chòu dòufǔ) are other popular Shanghai food items.
As Shanghai faces the East China Sea, seafood is very popular in the region. However, due to its location among the rivers, lakes, and canals of the Yangtze Delta, locals favour freshwater produce just as much as saltwater products like crabs, oysters, and seaweed. The most notable local delicacy is Shanghai hairy crab (Chinese: 上海毛蟹; pinyin: Shànghǎi máoxiè).
Shanghai people are known to eat in delicate portions so servings are usually quite small. For example, notable types of baozi from Shanghai such as xiaolongbao (simplified Chinese: 小笼包; traditional Chinese: 小籠包; pinyin: xiǎolóngbāo) and the shengjian mantou (simplified Chinese: 生煎馒头; traditional Chinese: 生煎饅頭; pinyin: shēngjiān mántóu) are usually about four centimetres in diameter, much smaller than the typical baozi or mantou elsewhere.
Shanghai people do not usually spend too much time on having breakfast, so breakfast in Shanghai is pretty simple. Shanghai people are used to grabbing some food in small snack stores or having a bowl of paofan (simplified Chinese: 泡饭; traditional Chinese: 泡飯; pinyin: pàofàn; rice in soup or water) with pickled cucumbers, pickled vegetables or a salty duck egg at home.
Shengjianbao ("Sangjibo" in Shanghainese)
Breakfast is commonly bought from corner stalls which sell pork buns, for the best xiaolongbao. These stalls also sell other types of buns, such as shengjian mantou and guotie (simplified Chinese: 锅贴; traditional Chinese: 鍋貼; pinyin: guōtiē), all eaten dipped in black vinegar. Luo bo si bing (simplified Chinese: 萝卜丝饼; traditional Chinese: 蘿蔔絲餅; pinyin: luóbò sībǐng), or pancake stuffed with radish strips, is also a popular dish for breakfast. A typical breakfast combination is youtiao (simplified Chinese: 油条; traditional Chinese: 油條; pinyin: yóutiáo), a long strip of deep-fried dough, wrapped in thick pancake, and soy milk. One can also tear a loaf of youtiao into pieces and dip them in the soy milk.
A notable Shanghai delicacy is xiaolongbao, sometimes known as Shanghai dumplings in English-speaking countries. Xiaolongbao is a type of steamed bun that is filled with pork (most commonly found) or minced crab, and soup. Although it appears delicate, a good xiaolongbao is able to hold in the soup until it is bitten. They are steamed in bamboo baskets and served with black vinegar and in some places, shredded ginger. A common way of eating xiaolongbao is to bite the top off, suck all the soup, then dipping it in vinegar before eating.
"Four Heavenly Kings"
The most well-known foods for breakfast are the "Four Heavenly Kings" (simplified Chinese: 四大金刚; traditional Chinese: 四大金剛; pinyin: sìdà jīngāng), which include dabing (simplified Chinese: 大饼; traditional Chinese: 大餅; pinyin: dàbǐng; Chinese pancake), youtiao, ci fan tuan (simplified Chinese: 糍饭团; traditional Chinese: 糍飯團; pinyin: cífàntuán; steamed sticky rice ball) and soy milk.
Among the "Four Heavenly Kings", ci fan tuan belongs to typical Shanghai food. Ci fan tuan is made of warm steamed sticky rice. Shanghainese people like putting sugar and youtiao inside steamed sticky rice. People also put salty duck egg yolk, rousong (simplified Chinese: 肉松; traditional Chinese: 肉鬆; pinyin: ròusōng; crushed dried pork) or other stuffing in ci fan tuan.
The name pays homage to the Four Heavenly Kings in Chinese Buddhism.
Chinese mitten crab
The Chinese mitten crab (simplified Chinese: 大闸蟹; traditional Chinese: 大閘蟹; pinyin: dàzháxiè) is a hairy crab found in the Yangcheng Lake. It is normally consumed during winter (September to November every year). The crabs are tied with ropes/strings, placed in bamboo containers, steamed and served.
Crispy chicken is prepared by first boiling the chicken until its flesh becomes tender, then roasting it for long periods of time or until the skin goes dry and crispy.
Congshao crucian carp
This is rather involved and complex preparation for the common crucian carp. The dish, congshao jiyu (Chinese: 蔥燒鯽魚; pinyin: cōngshāo jìyú; literally "scallion stewed crucian carp"), requires long hours for preparation since the fish needs to be soaked in vinegar, and then deep-fried, stewed for a long prolonged period, and cooled to make the fish tender enough to consume together with all its bones. Due to the complexity of its preparation and the difficulty in perfecting it, the dish was sometimes used by families as a test when recruiting a cook.
Shanghai snacks include steamed, boiled, fried, baked, many other varieties. Soup dumpling, Baiye (Chinese: 油面百叶; pinyin: Yóu miàn bǎiyè; literally "Hundred Sheets"), and You mian jing(Chinese: 油面精; pinyin: yóu miàn jīng; literally "Fried Gluten Puff") are the three most popular snacks in Shanghai. In addition, there are other famous Shanghai snacks, that are generally not expensive.
- English recipe for "Shanghai dumplings" accessdate = 2009-09-10
- Lee, Jesse (2008), 上海味兒, 旗林文化, ISBN 978-986-6655-14-2
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- china.org.cn Top 10 most famous Shanghai snacks September 12, 2011