Shanghainese dishes are commonly stewed and braised over slow fire. One can expect richer and heavier flavours as Shanghainese cooking involves generous use of soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, and sugar.
Today, we contrast the different methods of Shanghainese cooking and share notable dishes that represent the best of Shanghainese cooking. Read on and discover the craft of Shanghainese cooking with us.
Red-braising is a cooking style specific to Shanghainese cuisine that results in even flavours and softer ingredients. The dishes adopt their signature reddish-brown colour from the common use of cooking wine, sugar, and occasionally vinegar. Unlike Cantonese braising, red-braising does not require ingredients to be fully submerged in sauce, and requires a shorter amount of time to be cooked. However, this does not affect the taste; instead it is one that intertwines sweet and savoury elements.
The ‘Lion Head’ Meatballs features minced pork rolled into balls. They are steamed and pan-fried before being braised in clay-pots with red sauce and bamboo shoots (or soybean products)—it is a delicate craft to master.
The Braised Pork Belly with Beancurd Sheet—百页结东坡肉 (Bai Ye Jie Dong Po Rou) is a thick cut of pork with an equal fat to meat ratio, braised with fermented wine, sugar, and soy sauce over low heat for hours. The resulting red-braised meat is soft to the bite, fragrant and rich.
Stir-frying involves thinly sliced or cubed ingredients tossed together in a heated wok with minimal oil. Typically, sauces and condiments are added to the wok when the dish is almost fully cooked. However, Shanghainese stir-frying involves adding the sauces and condiments to the wok before the main ingredients enter the equation.
Stir-fried River Shrimps — 清炒虾仁 (Qing Cao Xia Ren) is a signature dish of lightly fried freshwater shrimps. The shrimps are tossed in small portions of Shaoxing wine over high heat and salted lightly to retain their natural sweetness.
Bamboo containers or modern day steamers produces steam from slow boiling water that cooks the dishes. Used mostly to prepare dim sum, dumplings, and meats in Shanghainese cooking, steaming retains the natural flavour of vegetables and meats by keeping the juices locked in the food.
Steamed Shanghainese Pork Dumplings — 南翔小笼包 (Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao) originated from Nanxiang, a suburb in Shanghai. They are soup pork buns that consist of marinated minced pork and broth made from a simmer of gelatinised chicken, pork bones, and cured ham, wrapped in delicate dough skin, pleated, twisted at the top and steamed.
Each bite is a burst of flavours from juicy meat and rich, delicate broth.
Unlike steaming, simmering food involves cooking them over a gentle fire in boiling water for an extended period of time. This allows the essences and flavours of ingredients to infuse with the liquids. Many Shanghainese soup dishes are prepared in this manner.
Fish Head Soup in Claypot — 砂锅鱼头汤 (Sha Guo Yu Tou Tang) features fried Song Fish (松鱼—Bighead Carp) head in a brew of chicken and pork ribs. A dash of Shaoxing wine is added to enhance the sweetness of the fish and rid the soup of any fishiness. Mushrooms, bamboo shoots and bean noodles are also included to give the soup a multi-layered flavor. The result is a delectable kaleidoscope of sweetness.
Larger-sized ingredients are usually used for pan-frying. Items are not tossed in a wok, but flipped from time to time. Encased with a thin golden crisp all around, pan-friend dishes are non-greasy, with just enough oil used to prevent ingredients from sticking to the wok.
Pan-fried Pork Buns — 上海生煎包 (Shang Hai Sheng Jian Bao) features minced pork in fluffy buns. The buns are placed on a heated pan and seared till their bottoms become light golden brown. Boiling water is added to steam the buns, resulting in a crisp bottom and fluffy body that wraps the juicy meat within.
Come sample the signature dishes of Shanghai, refined over decades of mastery and craft at Grand Shanghai. Step right in for traditional flavours of old Shanghai today.