Sal­ads and su­per­foods are now sur­pris­ingly trendy in Shang­hai

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Annabel Ea­ton

Has any­one else no­ticed the rapidly ris­ing num­ber of salad bars and plant-based restau­rants that have been open­ing around Shang­hai in re­cent years? Even older shops are get­ting into the salad game by of­fer­ing more raw veg­gies with their sta­ple dishes.

Via Stelle, a food plat­form that de­liv­ers meals cre­ated by star chefs across the globe, re­cently launched a pop-up at Jing An Kerry Cen­tre to sell sal­ads stuffed in ma­son jars (which cus­tomers get to keep). I tried to buy one for lunch the other day, but there was a long line of Chi­nese of­fice work­ers cu­ri­ous to try this “ex­otic” for­eign food.

Chi­nese are tra­di­tion­ally not keen on eating un­cooked veg­eta­bles; their cui­sine em­pha­sizes the ex­treme boil­ing or saute­ing in hot oil any­thing green in or­der to make it ed­i­ble. Thus, sal­ads (which were born from the be­lief that raw greens con­tain the most vi­ta­mins) have long been viewed by the Chi­nese as a sort of Western aber­ra­tion.

One of my Chi­nese co-work­ers or­ders daily take­out box lunches from on­line food de­liv­ery apps. As I men­tioned, a grow­ing num­ber of these lo­cal kitchens have been in­clud­ing com­pli­men­tary sal­ads in what oth­er­wise would be a tra­di­tional Chi­nese meal of rice, meats and over-cooked veg­gies.

Yet this young lady lit­er­ally gags at the sight of her free salad; she picks at the let­tuce with a look on her face as if she was hold­ing a cock­roach and tosses it into the trash. I’ve seen sim­i­lar re­sponses in the past. Once, I in­vited my Chi­nese friend and her par­ents over for a home-cooked Western style din­ner, which in­cluded a starter salad. They poked at it like it would sud­denly spring to life, but de­clined to eat more than a sin­gle courtesy nib­ble.

Aside from the oc­ca­sional com­i­cal re­ac­tion, it does seem that more and more Chi­nese are get­ting hip to sal­ads and su­per­foods. I wrote in a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle that lo­cal Shang­hainese ven­dors such as the Av­o­cado Lady on Wu­lu­muqi Road can barely keep their av­o­ca­dos and kale in stock, with a large per­cent­age of their cus­tomer base now be­ing mid­dle-class Chi­nese young adults.

Or swing by Shang­hai-based health­food chain Sprout­works dur­ing lunch hour and you’ll be lucky to find a ta­ble amid all the Chi­nese yup­pies din­ing on ex­pen­sive al­beit de­li­cious bowls of kale-quinoa-cab­bage salad. MOKA Bros also spe­cial­izes in su­per­foods, with most of their lunch menu be­ing or­ganic, un­cooked and green.

There are so many new salad bars open­ing around Shang­hai that, back in May, an ex­pat blog wrote an en­tire ar­ti­cle about it. Among these sump­tu­ous se­lec­tions are Taste & See’s all-you-can-eat salad buf­fet and Saucepan’s “power bowls” (couscous, fresh veg­eta­bles, cheese and dress­ing). That’s Shang­hai mag­a­zine re­ported that Bund-side restau­rant M Glam is now of­fer­ing fully ve­gan brunches due to ris­ing de­mand from lo­cal pa­trons.

But red might be­come the new green as beets also find their way into kitchens. Ac­cord­ing to Shang­hai-based agri­cul­tural in­dus­try news plat­form Pro­duc­ere­port.com, beets are ex­tremely rare in Chi­nese restau­rants, how­ever “su­per­foods are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly well-known here in China and we think beet­root will be a welcome ad­di­tion to sal­ads and fresh juices. Sports and be­ing con­scious about food has made peo­ple more in­ter­ested in beet­root and its rich health ben­e­fits.”

China is a fast-ris­ing mar­ket in the sports nu­tri­tion cat­e­gory, grow­ing 40 per­cent over the last few years, ac­cord­ing to an Au­gust ar­ti­cle in Nutri­tion­alout­look.com, “a re­sult of in­vest­ment by in­ter­na­tional brands into the mar­ket, Chi­nese ac­qui­si­tions and a gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive called Healthy China 2030.”

You surely have also no­ticed how many bot­tled 100-per­cent juices and fresh-squeezed orange juice ma­chines are now avail­able at Shang­hai con­ve­nience stores, malls and metro sta­tions; five years ago this was un­heard of. I re­mem­ber when the clos­est thing I could find was “orange-fla­vored drink.”

What it comes down to is that ur­ban Chi­nese are be­com­ing more health-con­scious about the foods they are in­gest­ing. Carb-cen­tric Chi­nese sta­ples like rice and noo­dles, gluten-based breads or meals that have been boiled to death or sat­u­rated in oil are quickly fall­ing out of fa­vor (and fla­vor) as Chi­nese mil­len­ni­als be­come more con­cerned about their bod­ies and phys­i­cal well­ness.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Chen Xia/GT

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