Went to this excellent restaurant twice in two months. This is the go-to place for Hui cuisine in Shanghai, bar none.
安徽省驻沪招待所 Anhui Provincial Guest House in Shanghai is the official hotel/restaurant of the Anhui Provincial Government that is opened with one purpose only – to serve the guests of the Anhui Government that are in Shanghai.
Anhui Province is a modest inland province west of Shanghai, so its food is characterised by rustic and hearty food using simple and inexpensive ingredients. And hidden in No.7 is the restaurant that serves traditional and exquisite Hui cuisine.
徽菜 Hui cuisine is a cross between Jiangsu cuisine and Beijing cuisine, which uses seasonal ingredients and prepared with cooking methods of Beijing cuisine, which is usually oily and strong tasting. Hui cuisine can be traced back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) in ancient Huizhou. Not to be confused with Anhui cuisine or better known as 皖菜 Wan cuisine, which has a subset of Hui cuisine and other cuisines served with the province.
I had the privilege to be invited to a dinner at this restaurant by an Anhui native. A table here is really hard to get, especially during the periods where there are many meetings in Shanghai. They have to cater to the officials first before allowing the public to book a table.
醋汁七彩花生 Peanuts in vinegar
So simple, unhusked peanuts soaked in vinegar. They didn’t even cook the peanuts.
高粱黑醋焖小排 Braised pork ribs in Gaoliang wine and vinegar
The pork ribs were cooked to death in Chinese wine and vinegar to produce a surprising nice appetiser.
冷炝黄牛黑毛肚 Beef tripe in spicy sauce
Crunchy beef trip cooked perfectly in spicy sauce. This was the only spicy dish in the meal, and should be from Sichuan instead of Anhui. Nevertheless, good eat is a good eat.
海胆酱白茄 Braised white eggplant with sea urchin sauce
Braised eggplant, skin off and presented in a vinaigrette sauce, delicious. The sea urchin did nothing to enhance the taste, except to improve the presentation. Only fresh sea urchin has umami, these processed ones are simply salted egg yolk.
乳瓜鸡枞菌 Zucchini flowers, dried bean curd with termite mushrooms
Another combination that I found to be delicious and easy to achieve at home, if only the ingredients can be found easily. Only the dried bean curd can be found in my supermarket. Everything else has to be specially ordered from a gourmet supermarket. Lightly blanched and dressed with a truffle oil dressing. Yummy.
无为熏板鸭 Wuwei-style Smoked Duck
This is a cold appetiser served as a warm dish. The duck was smoked before braising like the Teochew way of making braise duck. It originated from Wuwei, a city in Anhui Province. It used to use goose, but was changed to duck in the Nationalist era (1910s).
木坑竹笙炖土鸡汤 Double-boiled bamboo fungus in free-range chicken soup
If you have watched the Oscar-winner “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, you would remember the scene when Chow Yunfatt’s character was being chased by the female lead on top of the Bamboo Forest. That bamboo forest is located at 木坑 Mukeng in Anhui.
竹笙 Bamboo fungus, a kind of parasite living in synergy at the bottom of a bamboo, is delicious and nutritious. Dubbed “queen of fungus,” it used to be a tribute prepared for emperors. They are spongy and will soak up all the flavours of the soup. And the soup was a double-boiled free-range chicken stock with Chinese ham. Clean tasting with a nostalgic chicken flavour not found in farmed chicken these days.
徽州臭鳜鱼 Huizhou stinky mandarin fish
In the olden days, 桂鱼、鳜鱼 Mandarin fish were sought after for their succulent flesh and clean taste. And during springtime peach blossoms, they fed on petals dropped from the trees lined along the river. Gourmets then believed that gave them the “peach blossom” taste.
The mandarin fish used was about 1.2-1.5 kg, perfect size for sharing among 8-10 persons. It was pickled with salt for about 15 days in the local climate of Huangshan. A heavy slate was used to press the fish during the pickling process to make the meat firmer. The fat and meat in the fish were relatively balanced, and the strong tasting sauce may be off-putting for some at first, but the fish is delicious. An acquired taste for sure.
红烧散养土公鸡煲 Free range chicken stew in red sauce
With excessive industrialisation in the poultry business, there’s a backlash to go back to simply methods of raising chicken. Free-range chicken is in the rage right now, and it is available .
There is a visible and taste difference between free-range full-grown chickens and industrial raised chicken. Firstly, free-range chicken looked darker and the texture tasted firmer. And then the taste wise, free-range that was fully grown to adulthood had a much better “chicken” taste. Stewing is the best method to extract the best flavours from them.
黄焖水库五年大甲鱼 Stewed reservoir raised freshwater turtle in yellow sauce
中华鳖 Chinese softshell turtles are raised in the reservoirs of Huoshan these days for their meat. A five year old turtle weighs around 3-3.5kg each, a relatively large size creature for cooking.
The turtle was simmered for three hours, extracting all the collagens into the stew. Seasoned with Sichuan peppercorn for that slight numbness in the thick sauce, the meat of the turtle actually tasted like chicken. Except that it came with thick layers of soft tissues around the back of the shell and the legs. The skirtings were bouncy and jelly like, sticky and smooth texture which like slipped down the throat. I asked for a bowl of steamed white rice just to drown it in the sauce.
徽州刀板香荷叶夹馍 Hui salted pork belly with lotus buns
徽州刀板香 Huizhou salted pork belly is one of the masterpieces of Huizhou cuisine and a main dish for Huizhou people to treat guests. Its main ingredient is salted pork belly. After salting the bacon, it is sliced and placed on a chopping board made from the local camphor wood. The excess oil is absorbed by the board, and only the salty freshness of the meat is retained. It tastes fatty but not greasy, and the smokiness and salty fragrance remain in the mouth.
According to legend, when the famous Ming dynasty general Hu Zongxian 胡宗宪 returned after a successful campaign, he passed through the county and asked for a visit to his teacher. The wife of the teacher used salted pork belly, sliced them and steamed the salted belly on the chopping board. The whole board was presented to Hu and he was amazed how fragrant it was. Since then, 徽州刀板香 Huizhou salted pork belly has been prepared the same way and called “fragrant chopping board”.
I loved their version – not too salty, the pork belly remained soft and fragrant, and the lotus bun kept the balance.
清蒸黄山双石 Steamed Chinese spiny frog and rock tripe
At first, I thought it was black wood fungus with chicken. Then when it was introduced, this classic Hui dish is made up of 双石 two unique ingredients of Mt Huangshan in Anhui. 石鸡 (literally translated as “stone chicken”), also known as 石蛙 Chinese spiny frog, is an edible frog found in the crevices of stones on the wet and humid mid mountain levels of Mt Huangshan. 石耳 rock tripe is a fungus growing on the surface of these wet stones. It has medicinal value and is used as a TCM ingredient to stop bleeding.
Like what I thought it was, the frog tasted like chicken and rock trip tasted like wood fungus.
胡适一品锅 Hu Shi’s casserole
Originally known as 绩溪一品锅 Jixi’s casserole, it is a local specialty of Jixi County in Anhui. Anhui merchants used to travel across the country and only came home during the important Chinese New Year’s eve dinner. As such, family members would take many ingredients and placed them in circles in a casserole signifying reunion 团圆, and cooked them together for a really complex taste profile.
Anhui local boy Hu Shi 胡适 brought this simple dish to US when he was appointed China Ambassador to US and served it for the New Year dinner in the embassy. It was well received and to commemorate this occasion, they renamed it Hu Shi’s special casserole, because 一品 also means “highest rank” in China imperial bureaucracy.
It was a whole dinner course in one pot. In the casserole were quail eggs, egg dumpling, braised pork, meat balls, tofu, Chinese sausage, chicken cooked with a bed of broccoli and mustard greens. Lots of rice was needed as all the goodness of these ingredients went into the sauce.
徽州臭豆腐烧肥肠 Stinky tofu with pig’s intestines
This is not ordinary stinky tofu, but stinky tofu made from melted water from the first snow in Anhui, mixed with turtle egg whites and zongye ash.
The pig’s intestines were soft and waxy. When you scooped them together, the pungent smell and weird aroma came and went, and for the uninitiated this was quite disgusting. Afterwards, the pungent smell gave way to an elegant and dense wonderful contrast. Another acquired taste for sure.
祁门红茶煨小牛肉 Stewed beef ribs in Keemen black tea sauce
祁门红茶 Keemen black tea is another famous tea from Anhui. First produced in the late 19th century, it quickly became popular in the West and is still used for a number of classic blends.
A beautifully slow-cooked piece of beef rib that was smothered in a rich sauce made from this famous black tea. The sauce was nutty with a bit of bitterness from the tea, but that did not affect the flavour. The beef rib was cooked to fork tender, the knife was totally useless in this instance. But many would find this beef too cooked, but in Chinese cooking it was perfectly alright.
桐城水芹炒五城干 Sautéed Tongcheng watercress with Wucheng bean curd
Anhui Huangshan is famous for bean curd and everyone knows that, but there’s a small town in the vicinity famous for a variant – dried bean curd. 五城茶干 Wucheng dried bean curd is a local specialty. It is made from compressed tofu that has been cured with five spices.
This famous bean curd was used to sautéed in water cress that were delivered daily from Tongcheng, Anhui.
石斛花炒土鸡蛋 Dendrobium flowers scrambled free-range eggs
石斛花 Dendrobium flower is a type of orchid that has been used as a TCM ingredient for centuries.
This was the first time I ate dendrobium flowers and also dendrodium juice. They tasted like wheatgrass. And the scrambled egg, well, tasted like scrambled egg.
蒙城烧饼 Mengcheng County sesame biscuit
蒙城烧饼 Mengcheng County sesame biscuit gained its fame when a prominent member of the CCP came to visit Mengcheng County and ate the crispy, fragrant biscuit. He loved it so much that he became the best promoter of it in Beijing. And subsequently, everyone that went to Mengcheng asked to try this biscuit.
These sesame biscuits are baked by sticking them on the wall in a tandoori oven. They are crispy when hot, and should be served while they are hot and crispy. It softens when cold, but strangely it can be reheated and the crispiness will return. Eaten as a main course, it can be used to pocket shredded bamboo shoots or other meats.
塔菜冬笋 Sautéed Tatsoi with winter bamboo shoot
Wenzheng mountain bamboo shoots is another famous dish in Huizhou. Bamboo shoots grown on Mount Wenzheng are fresh and tender. After peeling the bamboo shoots that are just dug out, squeeze them with two fingers, and the juice will keep coming out. It is usually cooked as a stew with sausage, salted meat and mushrooms.
塔菜 Tatsoi is an Asian variety of Brassica rapa grown for greens. Also called tat choy, it is closely related to the more familiar Bok Choy. Paired with the fresh bamboo shoots, this makes a really good eat in winter.
皖西特色手工挂面 West Anhui Handmade Noodles
And finally, a bowl of ramen noodles from West Anhui. Nothing glamorous, no backstory, just a simple bowl of noodles, a couple strands of pakchoy and egg skin dumpling 蛋饺 with a rich free-range chicken stock. Heart-warming goodness.
The location is in a heritage building, and the area is absolutely beautiful in winter. Service was really attentive and prompt, even though we were in a private dining room. The service staff are used to having VIP in closed door dinners, but still need that level of service. Food is a solid factor, but according to my host the price has gone up since they decided to pass the management to a third-party. The hardware has improved tremendously though, but we need to go back to the food.
There’s no better place in Shanghai to have good solid Anhui cuisine with ingredients sent from Anhui daily. The chefs are the best of the bests to work in this guest house because of the VIP guests. But these official guesthouses had a bad reputation of serving subpar food for the public. This has been rectified since a professional F&B took over. The overall standard improved while the food has been consistently churned out at high quality.
No walk-in, must call and reserved. Subjected to last minute cancellations if there’s official functions.
Anhui Provincial Guest House in Shanghai
上海市长宁区新华路新华路185弄5 邮政编码: 200052
Tel : +86 13370293001
Date visited： Dec 2021
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