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Eating in Shanghai

People in China take food as their first important thing. There are four life factors: dressing, eating, housing and commuting; eating occupies the first place. When people meet each other and send their best regard, the first thing they ask is not "how you doing?", "good morning", etc..., but "ni chi liao ma which means have you taken your meal?" Although it doesn't mean to invite someone to have a meal, but one can see how important eating is. Chinese people believe in "Men are Iron, Food is Steel". When the Chinese people offer a sacrifice to Heaven and Ancestor, asking the God and paying tribute to the Buddha, they all prepare three kinds of meat dish to pay their respectfulness, so again one can see the important respect of eating.

With the rapid economic developments in China, eating is not only for appeasing people's hungers anymore, but also for life enjoyment. The Chinese food had been abundant and developed with the economy, gradually eight food categories emerged -- Sichuan, Guangdong, Shandong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Fujian. Shanghai, being a relatively new city in China, does not really have a cuisine of its own, but successfully refines all the work of Jiangsu and Zhejiang style.

There are five key features of the food in china:varied in flavor, expert in cookery, beautiful in shape, delicious in taste, fragrant in aroma, and bright in color.

Shanghai local delicacies
Freshwater crabs: Freshwater crabs were called Dazhaxie in Chinese by the locals, the name of it was mainly derived from the way of eating them. the word Dazhaxie is actually composed of the chinese characters. Da means big or large, Zha is a kind of sluice, and Xie refers to the crab. For the fishmen, who tried to catch the freshwater crabs. usually set up a bamboo woven sluice in the river or lake at night with the lure of the light, freshwater crabs would be allured by the light and crawl upwards druing the flood tide, where they would be trapped after the ebb.

Steaming is the most common way of cooking for the large freshwater crabs,before steaming,the frishwater crab should be banded to prevent its large legs from moving while cooking.Shallot,ginger,rice wine and salt should be put into the utensil together with the freshwater crabs in order to disperse the inner chilliness and fishy smell.Dipped in vinegar sauce with ginger and sugar mixture,the meat of the crab would be more tastefull.

Boiled chicken: In Shanghai, "Authentic Three-yellow Chicken" signs are hanging in front of many restaurant and eateries, the Three-yellow Chicken is the boiled chicken ,and which is featured by its crispy skin,tender meat,delicious taste and nice shape.

The boild chicken sold in the reataurant comes from Pengzhen town in Pudong, home of famous chicken, when coming to Pengzhen town to buy this chicken, the purchaser will check each and make certain it meets the high standard of quality, the chicken must have a yellow beak, yellow feet, and yellow feather, hence the name of Three-yellow Chicken.

Spring roll: Chunjuan(spring roll) is a kind of deep-fried snack with either salty filling if mainced meat and vegetable slices or sweet adzuki bean paste,the name of spring roll is originally a folkway of greeting the coming of spring. now people can enjoy it at any time of the year.

Hundun: it is a kind of ravioli similar to Jiaozi(dumpling), Hundun bears a strong resemblance of Yuanbao(gold or silver ingot used as money in ancient China), and could share the fillings with Jiaozi. Hundun first appeared in the Period of Three Kingdoms mainly in south china and spread to the whole China gradually. Hundun is usually eaten with soup, which is the favorite for Shanghainese. Hundun is pronounced by Chinese mandarin and it was pronounced by Cantonese as Wonton, which is an English word now, but actually it is derived from Cantonese.

Niangao(year cake): Niangao(year cake) is mostly made of glutinous flour and is highly favored. Nian means "year",and gao means "cake", Niangao literally means "year cake", which is now actually eaten by the people all the year round, it can be sauteed with spinach in salty flavor or cooked in sugar juice. There is a legend about Niangao which says that the famous general Wu Zixu from the Kingdom Yue(today's Suzhou 100km to shanghai), once told his people, "If our country is in dire straights and you have nothing to eat, just dig at the city wall and you can find food to eat". After Wu Zixu died, the Kingdom Yue was attacked by the Kingdom Wu(today's Shanghai) and people suffered from hunger, They remembered Wu Zixu's words and started to dig at the city wall and found out that foundation of the wall was made of bricks of glutinous rice. Since then, people started to eat Niangao every year.

Shanghai local food is light and sweet.

Written by Yenny Guo,
Author/Editor By : Yenny