Monday, June 18, 2007

Miscellaneous Food: Shanghai

Shanghai! I really enjoyed the place. I used to be so biased, always a Beijing loyalist at heart, the history, the hutongs, the political circles. After this trip, I could really spend more time in Shanghai. The art! The crowds! The food...

The food is...well, varied. It's a very cosmopolitan city. However, I must say I'm not a big fan of Shanghai food proper and even my favourite Shanghai dishes are rather akin to similar Cantonese dishes.

I was due at a conference in Shanghai but left early to spend the weekend with my cousins first. A. is studying business school there and his wife, C. was also there to visit. We stayed at his apartment in Pudong and on the second day, they brought me to XinJishi for some authentic Shanghainese food.

Later in the trip, I went back to XinJishi which has several locations around Shanghai. My favourite location is the one in Xin Tian Di, where it is housed in a little old stone shikumen, a traditional 1930s Shanghai home. The whole area of Xin Tian Di is meant to be a rejuvenated commercial and culinary area and given the cool night air and the twinkling Christmas fairy lights that adorned the trees, it looked suitably festive. The location in Xin Tian Di also looks out to the magnificent Peacemark-Tourneau store with its luxury watch displays.

The first dish we had was an appetizer of stuffed red dates. These had been steamed and then stuffed with a ground mixture of glutenous rice. It was really interesting, a savory and sweet mixture, kind of bulbous and satisfyingly chewy to boot.

We had a whole bunch of smaller dishes to follow, the long beans, the cold tofu, which I love and these little duck skin pancakes with tiny caplin roe. I was impressed at the speed of the service, the tastiness of the food and the detail in presentation.

The fourth dish was quite perculiar, it's a clear glass noodle, but served with a thick crab mixture, made from the hairy crabs that Shanghai is so known for. The crab and crab roe sauce is thick and a bit gooey, it's a good contrast to the noodles but a bit too heavy for my taste.

The last dish was my favourite and it's what I wound up eating the most often. I think it's called Kou Rou, or spare meat, it's really layered pork that's been braised and then steamed in these old-fashioned pots, until the dark sauce has been infused through the meat and also the fat of the pork, rendering it translucent in layers. This was irresistable and also terribly bad for you! Yay, Kou Rou Shanghai...

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