Organic food movement arrived in Shanghai! These days, everyone is concerned about the source of the ingredients that they are eating. And Four Seasons Farm is one of these farm-to-table restaurants that have sprung up in recent years.
Four Seasons Farm 四季农圃 is a local Shanghainese restaurant that uses the freshest organic ingredients sourced from nearby Chongming 崇明 and JIangzhe area. It is located in a retrofitted Shanghai colonial bungalow. Do not thing of it as a black-and-white, they are more like country mansions in Europe.
The ingredients were displayed on the ground floor right after the reception. There were many seasonal ingredients that were presented in the chiller, and live tanks featuring river fishes, like those carps. These were what we had for lunch.
- 马兰头 Indian aster
- 宁式墨鱼蛋 Ningbo-style squid egg
- 江南和味茄子 Eggplant appetiser in Japanese style
- 桃园三黄鸡 Salted chicken
- 白切羊肉 Boiled lamb shank
- 芥味芝麻虾球 Wasabi sesame prawn
- 家乡腌笃鲜 Hometown Yanduxian (salted meat boiled soup)
- 五粮液高山豆苗 Sautéed pea shoots with Wuliangye
- 家烧甲鱼 Braised turtle
- 白烧现划鳝丝 Sautéed river eel
马兰头 Indian aster
The Indian aster 馬蘭頭 originally grew as a wild flower plant by the waysides of the old Chinese roads, the fields and hillsides. It is slightly bitter, slightly grassy, kinda herby, a very unique taste comparable to rocket lettuce.
This is one of their signature dish playing on the classic cold dish 凉拌马兰头 and is made same the ingredients as the classic – bean curd and chopped fresh Indian aster mixed in sesame oil. Here, the mashed the tofu and wrapped it around the Indian aster salad. Very innovative and refreshing take on the classic.
宁式墨鱼蛋 Ningbo-style squid egg
These squid eggs are sourced from Zhoushan 舟山, an archipelago of islands at the southern mouth of Hangzhou Bay, off Ningbo. Squid eggs are the egg glands of female squid. The function of egg glands is to secrete gland fluid while laying eggs to wrap the eggs together and bind them into a string, so that the eggs stick to the seaweed or other objects on the seabed. So, these are harvested when they are full of eggs before they are laid. Ningbo people would simply salt them and steamed as a wonderful salty dish to be had with rice.
江南和味茄子 Eggplant appetiser in Japanese style
Called 茄子の揚げ浸し or nasu no agebitashi, the eggplant is first flash fried then soaked in flavourful dashi and soy sauce-based broth. The sauce used here is slightly sour (vinegar) and refreshing, unlike the usual Chinese way of overpowering the eggplant with garlic.
桃园三黄鸡 Salted chicken
Cold steamed chicken is always my favourite appetiser. When my mom steamed chicken and left it in the fridge for another day, it would mysteriously disappeared overnight; we would snack on them by directly pinching it off the fridge. This is a similar dish, cold chicken that has been salted and served as an appetiser.
白切羊肉 Boiled lamb shank
Sounded like a boring dish, but the piece of lamb shank was boiled in spices to remove any muskiness. The finished product was like salted pork belly and cut sideways for better texture. Two dips accompanied the lamb – dark soy sauce with chilli oil and ferment soy bean sauce. It was actually quite good eats as the skin was slightly chewy but went well with the tender and moist meat.
芥味芝麻虾球 Wasabi sesame prawn
Boring, and the wasabi was not pronounced.
家乡腌笃鲜 Hometown Yanduxian (salted meat boiled soup)
This was my favourite soup from Shanghai. 腌笃鲜 Yanduxian is a Jiangnan cuisine made from a duo of cured pork like Jinhua ham 金华火腿 and fresh pork belly 腩肉 with fresh winter bamboo shoots 冬笋. Usually the soup also has Shanghai green 上海青 and a special tofu sheet called “hundred leaves” 百頁.
The soup had plenty of pork, but very little tofu sheet and Shanghai green. And even more pitiful amount of bamboo shoot. The taste was singularly salty and nothing else.
五粮液高山豆苗 Sautéed pea shoots with Wuliangye
Interesting combination of pea shoots and a heavy grain liquour called Wuliangye 五粮液. The liquor had a very unique fragrance that was horrible to drink (smell like video head cleaner if you want I am referring to) but was actually quite nice when used a condiment to sauté vegetables with.
家烧甲鱼 Braised turtle
I grew up drinking herbal turtle soup, and I love eating turtle. The meat is a cross between chicken and fish, and if done properly, braised turtle in red sauce is a wonderful dish. This one was quite good, the red sauce was delicious and went well with rice. Yes, we could not resist and ordered some.
白烧现划鳝丝 Sautéed river eel
Finally, a plate of sautéed river eel with parsley. These eels are very small species that when processed, they curl up like a woman’s undergarment 肚兜. So these eels were nicknamed ruandou eels 软兜. Very delicious when sautéed with garlic and rice wine.
I wasn’t sure if these ingredients were organic as the certification and verification process for organic foodstuff is still not mature in China. A lot of the restaurants claimed to serve organic food, it turned out to be just the normal stuff.
The food here was competent, service was ok, but what was outstanding was the patience that these folks have. We stayed back and chatted business in our private room until 3pm, an hour after their afternoon closing time. They actually remained open for us. Kudos.
Four Seasons Farm 四季农圃
Tel : +86 (021) 6660 8772
Visited Feb 2023
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