Shanghai Food Specialities

September 21, 2011 by

Eating & Restaurants, Local Recommendations, Things To Do

A colorful seafood dish in Shanghai - photo courtesy of Juan Carlos Madrigal via Flickr

Shanghai cuisine, also known as Hu Cai, includes two styles – Benbang cuisine and Haipai cuisine.

Benbang, literally means ‘local’ and is the traditional family style cuisine that has been a mainstay in Shanghai for over 100 years. Fish, chicken, pork and various vegetables are the main ingredients of Benbang Cuisine, which is flavorsome, brightly colored and sweet tasting.

Haipai cuisine translates as ‘all-embracing’ and is derived from the cosmopolitan culture formed in Shanghai during the final years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Haipai is heavily influenced by many cuisines from other regions in China (and also some Western dishes), which are adapted to suit local tastes. Fish, shrimps and crabs, are the main ingredients of Haipai cuisine.

Benbang and Haipai cuisines have many commonalities. Protein heavy, it almost always includes fresh meat, chicken or seafood as well as vegetables. Ingredients will often vary according to the season. If you are worried about spicy food, Shanghai cuisine will surprise you with its mellow and sweet flavors.

Don’t miss the chance to visit a famous restaurant or try at least one specialty dish while you are in Shanghai. Culinary adventurers may wish to try Xia Zi Da Wu Shen, perhaps the most famous seafood dish in this cuisine. In this dish, dried sea cucumber is immersed in water and then stewed with oil, yellow wine, soybean sauce, sugar, shallots, starch sauce and shrimp roe.

One of the few spicy Benbang dishes, Ba Bao La Jiang features bean sauce mixed with chilli sauce that is stir-fried with a wide array of ingredients including shelled shrimps, chicken, chicken stock, pork, pig offal, bamboo shoots and various kinds of seasoning.

- Emma McMahon

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