Shanghai Cuisine is not one of the Eight Major Cuisines†of China but is a choice blend of the most appealing aspects of other Chinese cuisine.
Shanghai Cuisine, also known as Hu Cai, includes two styles – Benbang Cuisine and Haipai Cuisine.
Benbang Cuisine, literally meaning ìlocal cuisineî, is the traditional family style cuisine that appeared in Shanghai over 100 years ago. Using fresh fish, chicken, pork and various vegetables as the main ingredients,†it always has a delicious flavor and a bright color derived from the oil and soybean sauce. Like the food of Suzhou and Wuxi cuisines, Benbang food tastes fresh, mellow and sweet.
Haipai Cuisine, literally meaning all-embracing cuisine is derived from the cosmopolitan culture formed in Shanghai in the end of the Qing Dynasty. It absorbs the advantages of many food from other regions of China and even western food, and then adapts them to suit local tastes. Fresh fish, shrimps and crabs are the main ingredients of Haipai Cuisine. The appearance, flavors and cooking techniques of the Haipai dishes have many variations.
Features of Shanghai Cuisine
Benbang Cuisine and Haipai Cuisine have many things in common: First, they make great use of fresh meat, chicken, vegetables and especially various marine ingredients such as fish, shrimps and crabs. Secondly, they have a great number of signature dishes made from various seasonal ingredients. Thirdly, a wide range of cooking techniques have been adopted and include steaming, braising, stewing, stir-frying, quick-frying, deep-frying, boiling, marinating, smoking and roasting. Fourthly, hot food is hardly ever a part of Shanghai Cuisine. Most of the dishes taste fresh, clear, mellow, sweet or subtly spicy.
In recent years, Shanghai Cuisine has been greatly influenced by Cantonese Cuisine. Consequently the foods are now less oily and more delicate with the use of more high quality and expensive ingredients since locals have become more concerned about eating a healthy diet. This means there is an upsurge in the trend towards the use of fresh ingredients and in particular good quality fruit and vegetables.
Local snacks are not to be missed in Shanghai. Try the famous Nanxiang steamed stuffed buns, crab-yellow pastry, fried stuffed buns, chop rice cake, vegetable stuffed buns, Leisha dumplings and wontons at a snack street or restaurant. Wujiang Road, Old Town God Temple Snack Street, South Yunnan Road and Xianxia Road are the best among them.
Shanghai offers various delicacies from other regions of China and many foreign countries and areas that would appeal to even the most fastidious visitor.