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Shanghai cuisine (Chinese: 上海菜; pinyin: Shànghǎi cài; Shanghainese: zaon⁶ he⁵ tshe¹; IPA: [zɑ̃¹¹ he⁴⁴ tsʰᴇ¹¹]), also known as Hu cuisine (simplified Chinese: 沪菜; traditional Chinese: 滬菜; pinyin: Hù cài; Shanghainese: wu⁶ tshe¹; IPA: [ɦu¹¹ tsʰᴇ⁴⁴]), is a popular style of Chinese food. In a narrow sense, Shanghai cuisine refers only to what is traditionally called Benbang cuisine (本帮菜; 本幫菜; Běnbāng cài; pen⁵ paon¹ tshe⁵; 'local cuisine') which originated in Shanghai. In a broader sense, it refers to complex styles of cooking developed under the influence of neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. It takes "color, aroma and taste" as its elements,[clarification needed] like other Chinese regional cuisines, and emphasises in particular the use of seasonings, the quality of raw ingredients and original flavors. Shanghai was formerly a part of Jiangsu province; as such Shanghai cuisine is most similar to Jiangsu cuisine and may still be classified as a part of Jiangsu cuisine, although, as an international city, it has come into more contact with Zhejiang cuisine and foreign influences. The adoption of Western influence in Shanghai cuisine resulted in a unique cooking style known as Haipai cuisine (海派菜).
Shanghai dishes often appear red and shiny because they use soy sauce for seasoning. Four classic words are used to describe Shanghai food: "浓油赤酱". This means that Shanghai food uses considerable quantities of oil and soy sauce. Food is cooked using a variety of methods including baking, stewing, braising, steaming and deep-frying. Fish, crab and chicken are made "drunken" using spirits and brisk cooking techniques, and may be steamed or served raw. Salted meats and preserved vegetables are commonly used to enhance various dishes. Sugar is an important ingredient in Shanghai cuisine, especially when used in combination with soy sauce. Another characteristic is the use of a great variety of seafood. Rice is more commonly served than noodles or other wheat products.
Shanghai cuisine emphasizes the use of condiments while retaining the original flavors of raw ingredients. It aims at lightness in flavor and is mellower and slightly sweet in taste compared to some other Chinese cuisines. Sweet and sour is a typical Shanghai taste. An attractive presentation is also important in Shanghai cooking, with ingredients carefully cut and presented with a view to harmonizing colors.
Although Shanghai is a seaport, most families did not incorporate fish in their daily meals in the early 20th century. Eating meat with meals was considered a luxury, with typical meals consisting of vegetables, beans, and rice. In a month, most families typically ate meat or fish for about four meals: on the second, eighth, sixteenth, and twenty-third day of each month. These days became known as dang hun. In recent times, special attention has been paid to low-sugar and low-fat food, with a good quantity of vegetables and improved nutritional value.
Shanghai cuisine is the youngest of the ten major cuisines of China, although it still has a more than 400 years of history. Traditionally called Benbang cuisine, it originated in the Ming and Qing dynasties (c. 1368-1840). During the Reign of Emperor Jiaqing and Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty, a food stall was set up in the old city of Shanghai called "Shovel Bang"(铲刀帮). After 1930, with the rapid development of industry and commerce in Shanghai, the customers of BenBang cuisine became an emerging class mainly composed of employees, and the proportion of cheap dishes in BenBang cuisine began to decline. In the later part of the 19th century, after Shanghai became a major domestic and international trading port, Benbang dishes underwent some substantial changes. After the opening of Shanghai port in 1843, sixteen different catering schools gathered in Shanghai. Anhui cuisine first became popular in Shanghai, and then Suxi cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, Huaiyang cuisine and Beijing cuisine gradually flourished. In the 1930s, Suxi cuisine accounted for almost half of Shanghai's restaurants, while Guangdong cuisine became the synonym of Shanghai's passion cuisine, which was deeply loved by Shanghai residents and foreigners. After adopting influences from other cuisines, the complexity of Shanghai cuisine's flavor has increased.
Also, the adoption of Western influence in Shanghai cuisine developed a unique cooking style known as Haipai cuisine (海派菜). Although eating Western food was a very fashionable way of life at that time, Chinese people had difficulty in adapting to western cuisine at the beginning, such as the rare steak. Shanghai western food then draws on the essence of western food from various countries and gradually forms its own characteristics. Russian Shanghai Western food with one dish and one soup (borscht, bread and butter) is instantly popular in Shanghai due to its economic benefits. Before 1937, there were more than 200 western restaurants in Shanghai, especially Xiafei Road and Fuzhou Road.
Nowadays, Shanghai's traditional cuisine is usually found only in home-cooked meals and some old Benbang restaurants. Shanghai is now more famous in the eyes of most young people for the numerous exotic restaurants it has introduced, especially Japanese and French food.
Breakfast in Shanghai is very famous. It contains many categories. They are mainly made from wheat, rice and flour. Many of them are influenced by Cantonese cuisine, Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisine, and through historical precipitation[clarification needed], these breakfasts have slowly evolved into the favorite flavors of Shanghai people today. The most classic Shanghai Breakfast is called "The Four Warriors" (四大金刚; 四大金剛; Sìdà Jīngāng; sy⁵ du⁶ cin¹ kaon¹). These are the four most popular breakfast choices for local Shanghainese.