I was walking in Shanghai and a restaurant that I went quite frequently in the past because it was near my office was no longer operating. In it’s place the same cuisine, the same menu, just a totally different operations. This was my last time I was there in 2016.
The decor of the place was really simple, just round tables with cheap plastic disposable table clothes which were replaced after every round of diners. This was a typical meal place for the salarymen of Shanghai. And the food was simple, rustic Shanghainese staples.
素鲍鱼 Vegetarian abalone
A very simple appetiser, just take processed vegetarian abalone and drizzle with sesame oil and a handful of chopped parsley. The vegetarian abalone is a fake meat that is common in Chinese vegetarianism, where the real meat was mimicked using gluten. At a fraction of the price of the real abalone, one can enjoy a moment of luxe with this imitated flavours.
凉拌木耳 Cold dressed wood fungus
Blanched black wood fungus dressed with salt, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and vinegar. Everything that can be found in a Chinese kitchen. But we do not have time to prepare this simple salad.
韭黄炒蛋 Yellow chives omelette
Anyone can do this at home. It was simple omelette with sautéed yellow chives. But because so many of us were far away from home, this place had become our canteen, our go-to place for a quick meal.
响油鳝丝 Sautéed river eel in heavy sauce
This was my favourite Shanghainese dish. So much work needed to be put into processing each one of these small river eels. When you cook it, the smell will permeates throughout the house. It was not popular these days as families find it difficult to make at home with tiny kitchens that are exposed to the living quarters.
黄焖甲鱼 Turtle in yellow sauce
This is a Shandong rendition of the braised turtle, not in red sauce that is common in Shanghai, but in the yellow sauce that is popular in Shandong. But this style has been accepted in Shanghai, as much as other cuisines from other regions. Has this Shanghai restaurant lost its identity, or has the identity evolved to accept more innovation and creativity.
This is Shanghai, the every changing city where everyone comes to have a go at success, but never ever been able to replace the local identity.