Pairing Shanghese Food with Fine Wines

How to Match Shanghainese Food with Fine Wine

Shanghai is China’s largest city. At the mouth of the Yangtze River, it is also the country’s most important port. During the 1920s and 30s, it was one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, referred to as the Paris of the East.

Interestingly, Shanghai does not really have a distinct cuisine of its own. Most of the dishes usually associated with the town are actually imports from nearby Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The cooking style of these two provinces is often collectively referred to as Jiangnan cuisine. Because this style of cooking is very popular in Shanghai, many restaurants serving it – especially those outside the mainland – often position themselves as Shanghainese.

Shanghainese cuisine tends to be heavier and oilier than Cantonese cuisine. Sugar and soy sauce are favoured condiments. Chicken, crab, eel, and fish are often soaked in alcoholic beverages and then quickly cooked or steamed – and sometimes even served raw! Such dishes are somewhat poetically referred to as “drunken chicken” or “drunken crabs” in English. Preserved vegetables and salted meats are other favoured ingredients.

Dim sum and noodles are popular. Indigenous varieties include thick noodles and that perennial favourite: xiao long bao, or steamed buns with savory stuffing. If Shanghai has a signature dish, it would have to be steamed hairy crab. It is usually served with a dipping sauce of vinegar, crushed garlic, and brown sugar.

“Shanghai has been China’s most important port city, and this has allowed it to incorporate many regional and international ideas into its cuisine,” says Cheng Chi-keung, Chinese executive chef at the Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai. “In Shanghai , there is more dependence on soy sauce and a great deal more sugar is used. Stewing, braising, and frying are the most common forms of Shanghainese cooking. The slow ‘red cooking’ technique is unique to Shanghainese cuisine and has now spread to other parts of China. Rice is the staple here, and seafood is also very popular in this port city.”

What to Drink with What

These food and wine combinations were suggested by Cheng Chi-keung, Chinese executive chef at he Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai:

Braised Pork Ribs with Pine Seeds in Sweet and Sour Sauce – Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Mas Las Plana from Spain (red)

Braised Prawns Head, Sweet and Sour Sauce Deep Fried Prawns and Tail – Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from New Zealand (white)

Deep Fried Mandarin Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce – Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from New Zealand (white)

These food and wine combinations were suggested by the Hong Kong Tourism Board:

Duck Stuff with Eight Treasures – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot (red)Fresh Crab Claw Braised with Saffron Soup and Shark’s Fin – Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (white)

Roasted Fish with Pine Nuts – Late Harvest (a Dessert Wine), Botrytis Sweet Wine, or Muscat

Shrimp Satuteed with Longjing Tad – Sauvignon Blanc (white)

Steamed Hairy Crab – a Vintage Brut

Copyright: Michael Taylor

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