Chinese food is a universe of flavored traditional food, cooked in a thousand different ways.
The western world often misunderstands Chinese culture, especially Chinese food (since much of what is served in western countries has been adapted to western tastes).
In the past ten to fifteen years, even in some acclaimed Chinese restaurants outside China, the most frequently served and ordered dishes were spring rolls, Cantonese rice (a sort of boiled rice with vegetables) and chicken with cashew nuts.
Well, spring rolls are a Vietnamese food, boiled Cantonese rice with vegetables doesn’t exist because in Guangdong Province the dish is called fried rice and chicken with cashew nuts is totally unknown.
Trying to describe Chinese food, even Shanghai food, an encyclopedia of over a thousand pages would be needed. In reality, every home has its own interpretation and the Chinese people’s passion for food is similar to our Latin approach.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF EVERY MEAL
When Chinese people sit at the table for lunch or dinner, they divide the time in three parts: 33% to decide the menu, 33% to eat and 33% to check the bill because they've usually ordered many different dishes.
Tradition says that a good host orders more food than people can eat because in this way he shows a great sense of hospitality.
When food remains on the table, it is mandatory to call for the “Ta-Bao” (big Bag), to bring the remaining food home. You can be a simple street worker or a tycoon, but food is never to be wasted.
Chinese food is considered the most sophisticated in the world and thinking about the huge variety, it can lead to some extreme experiences.
Shanghai, the megalopolis of 30 million people, offers a wide, amazing variety of restaurants offering food from every part of the world. But the original Shanghainese food is sweet, a mix of fish, vegetables, noodles and some meat, mainly chicken and pork.
Shanghai food is the youngest among the ten major Chinese cuisines. Benbang food was approximately born among the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1840). In last part of the 19th century, when Shanghai became the major trading port in China, Benbang dishes were influenced by different cultures that arrived in Shanghai.
THE BUDDHA’S HEAD
Some recipes of traditional Shanghai food are so sophisticated that they need three days of preparation.
The famous “Buddha’s Head”, in the Qiu Xiaolong’s bestseller stories, is a big white pumpkin with three birds, a sparrow within a quail within a pigeon, cooked inside.
But most of these dishes are only legendary and very difficult to find for someone who is not really involved in so-called “deep-Shanghai”.
Luwan District in Shanghai, the area between People’s Square and the HuangPu River, is the oldest traditional Chinese district in Shanghai. Once upon a time there were only old warehouses close to the Shanghai Port where the workers, sailors and criminals found their meals. In this area, actually mainly frequented by locals, you can find some original restaurants where a Shanghainese soup costs twenty-five to thirty Rmb. And it is just hundreds of meters from the most glamorous international restaurant of the Bund, where a meal can cost 1000 Rmb per person.
Shanghai represents a place where food is a topic and a meal is an event to socialize at.
Shanghainese and tourists meet at restaurants and spend hours discussing and creating the base of business, alliances, family matters and affairs.
XIAO LONG BAO
The Xiao Long Bao, or dumplings as we call them in western world, is a typical Shanghainese food.
These are small raviolis of rice noodles containing different kinds of fillings, like pork meat, shrimp, vegetables and fish. They are cooked in bamboo baskets over a steam source.
Dangerous to eat in a hurry, the Xialongbao are food to be eaten while drinking green tea.
The Dim Tai Fung restaurant in Shanghai, a sort of temple to Xiao Long Bao, got one Michelin star for their such delicious recipe.
An American Chef, Christopher St. Cavish, spent more than a year studying the Xiao Long Bao and wrote The Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index that is available in printed form for fifty rmb, including delivery within Shanghai, or as a two-part PDF download, from theshanghaisoupdumplingindex.com.
Chicken feet are considered one of the craziest foods by Western people and one of the most delicious snacks for Chinese people
Cooked in thousands of different ways--braised, boiled, fried, sweet and sour garnished-- chicken feet represent the barrier between the Laowai people and major integration of foreigners in the Zhog Guo as the real name of the PROC.
In reality, chicken feet are a delicious food in many parts of the world, including Italy. This dish is similar to the famous German pork stink or the famous French Choucroute where pork feet are eaten with extreme satisfaction.
THE LAZY SUZY -餐桌转盘 (p cānzhuō zhuànpán)
Few people know this funny story.
Who is Lazy Suzy?
It (not she) is the rotating table in the middle of the Chinese round table. Its purpose is to be helpful to serve the people around the table by bringing the main dishes close to them.
Notwithstanding numerous legends about the birth (possibly a German invention or French or American), in reality, the Lazy Suzy is something that substitutes for the waitress in offering food to the people. It rotates slowly, and for this reason it got the appellative of “Lazy”.
But actually the only place where you can easily find the Lazy Suzy is in China, where people delight in taking food from the rotating and faithful Lazy Suzy.
Chinese food, especially Shanghai food, is one of the most amazing experiences for human taste.
Just try it.