Shanghai locals are natural-born pragmatists who prioritize taste over factors like whether the food is authentic or not.”
X(soup dumplings), redbraised pork and hairy crab may have topped every food list compiled by every travel guide for the city of Shanghai.
But one particular type of cuisine is uniquely Shanghainese. It is served in some of the city’s most historic and well-preserved buildings and has been eaten by locals on important or romantic occasions for generations.
Known as Shanghai’s own brand of Western cuisine incorporates elements of French, Italian and German cooking into the local culinary repertoire. It could be compared to the kind of Chinese food sold in Chinatowns across the United States — authentic dishes given a tailored twist.
“It’s a kind of Western cuisine that you can use chopsticks to eat, even though most people wouldn’t,” said Kong Mingzhu, a famous Shanghai food writer. She was speaking at Shanghai Colormen, an invitation-only cultural salon held once a month.
In April, it decided to take an epicurean look back in history.
Staple dishes include potato salad, fried pork chop and Russian borscht (a beetroot-based soup that actually originated in the Ukraine). In kitchens across the city, these three dishes serve as a litmus test to decide whether the mistress of the house has mastered the local cooking arts.
Yet all of the dishes are different from how they are classically prepared.
Vegetables are absent from the potato salad, which derives from the Moscow classic. Instead, potatoes and