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Shanghainese food facts for kids

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Shanghainese food is the traditional food of Shanghai, China. It is a kind of Chinese food. Examples are xiaolongbao, spiced broad beans, and hairy crabs.



A xiaolongbao is a small kind of dumpling. It is made of a flour skin wrapped around a ball of pork, crabmeat, shrimp, or bok choy and other vegetables. It is steamed in a small basket called a "xiaolong", which gives the dumpling its name. The steam and meat together create some soup inside the dumpling. It was first made in Nanxiang in northwestern Shanghai, but the man who made it first later moved his shop to Yu Garden to get more business.


Wontons are a kind of dumpling with a meat center inside a thin skin that is made of flour, egg, water, and salt. The Shanghainese kinds come in two sizes, "small" and "big". The small wontons are wrapped loosely by hand and eaten for breakfast. The big wontons are wrapped carefully and eaten for lunch or dinner. Both kinds are often filled with minced pork and bok choy and served in chicken soup, but restaurants sometimes have as many as 50 different fillings. A well-known special kind is "Three-Freshness Soup" (三鮮湯, 三鲜汤, sānxiān tāng), made with pork, shrimp, and fish.


Hongshao pork

Hongshao pork is made of pork and a special sauce made of soy sauce, flour, and sugar.

Hongshao snakefish is cooked the same way, but usually with more spring onions.

"White cut chicken"

"White cut chicken" (白斬雞, 白斩鸡, báizhǎnjī) is chicken that is soaked in salt water, poached for about 30 minutes, chilled, and then cut into strips. People usually think of it as a Cantonese food but Shanghai has its own kind, eaten with a soy ginger sauce. It is usually eaten without the head, neck, or feet and locals prefer the dark meat in the thighs, legs, and back to the white meat in the breast, but all of them can be eaten at home or in restaurants.

The Shanghainese kind of white cut chicken prefers "triple yellow" chickens with yellow beaks, skin, and feet. It is closely tied to the Xiao Shaoxing Restaurant (小紹興, 小绍兴, Xiǎoshàoxīng, "Little Shaoxing") on Yunnan Road near People's Square. Zhang Runniu was a 16-year-old boy who left his home in Shaoxing during the Second World War. He worked hard for a few years and then bought his own small shop in 1943. His kind of poached chicken became famous in the city: his restaurant remains open today and its favorite dish is copied in other restaurants and kitchens around the city. His yellow chickens are grown using a special set of food on farms in Pudong's Nanhui area. The dish can be so rare that blood still comes from the bones in the chicken after cooking and cooling. More people like the cool chicken during the hot summer, but many stayed away from it during the 2013 bird flu scare.


Hairy crab

Shanghainese hairy crab (毛蟹, máoxiè) is a kind of mitten crab. It lives in rivers and lakes near Shanghai. The most famous place to get it is Yangcheng Lake near Suzhou. It is usually steamed and then cooked with huangjiu and soy sauce.

Youbao shrimp

Youbao shrimp (油爆虾, yóubàoxiā) is a kind of fried shrimp. It uses a special sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, scallions, salt, and black and red pepper. Its name comes from the loud popping noises that it makes when you cook it.


Spiced broad beans

Spiced broad beans are made of beans flavored with aniseed and cinnamon. They are sweet. Nearly everyone knows them. It has a long history. A person named Zhang Acheng (張阿成) made this food sixty years ago.

Cold congee

Cold congee (糖粥) is a kind of congee (rice porridge) that is made of glutinous rice, red beans, and sugar. They are boiled together, then chilled to serve as a breakfast food.

Tofu pudding

Although people usually think of Shanghai as part of southern Chinese culture, Shanghainese tofu pudding follows the northern salty "tofu brains" (豆腦, 豆脑, dòunǎo) and not the southern sweet "tofu flower" (豆花, dòuhuā) way of cooking it. It is made from an extra soft kind of tofu. In Shanghai, it is often eaten with soy sauce, shrimp, seaweed, or zhacai.



Doujiang (豆浆) is the older, watery kind of soy milk. It can be sweet, salty, or plain.

Some doujiang is always made when people make tofu, but Chinese people didn't start to like it until the 18th century. Raw doujiang has the same kinds of things in it that make people fart a lot when they eat too many beans. During the Qing, people found out that you could get rid of those things by cooking the doujiang for 90 minutes or so. After that, it became very popular. Some people sold it in the street, and others bought it fresh from tofu shops. By the Republic, Shanghai had 2 doujiang factories producing thousands of bottles a day.


Pear-syrup candy

Pear-syrup candy (梨膏糖, lígāotáng) is a kind of candy made with pear syrup. Wei Zheng (魏征) is said to have first made it as a medicine for his mother's cough in the year 634 during the Tang Dynasty. Shanghainese pear-syrup candy began in three shops in the city's old walled city during the Qing Dynasty: Zhupinzhai (opened 1855), Yongshengtang (opened 1882), and Deshengtang (opened 1904). These shops joined together in 1956 to form the Shanghai Pear-Syrup Candy Food Factory (上海梨膏糖食品), which makes its candy at a factory in Pudong but still sells it from a store in the market around Shanghai's City God Temple. It remains a common souvenir for visitors to the city. Now, it is usually flavored with fruit or pinenuts, but it is also made with mint, ham, or rose. In traditional Chinese medicine, the candy is used for easing coughs and sore throats, reducing mucus, and increasing appetite.

Begonia cake

Begonia cake (海棠糕, hǎitánggāo) is a Chinese pastry. It is made of dough filled with red bean paste and covered with preserved fruit pieces, sunflower and sesame seeds, and barley sugar. Stands in Qibao and at Yu Garden sometimes use lard or peanuts. It is baked in a mold shaped like the flower of the flowering crabapple tree. It is more popular with older Shanghainese than younger ones.

White Rabbit milk candy

White Rabbit is a kind of soft milk candy first made in Shanghai. It is made from milk, sugar, and some chemicals that make it last longer. It was called "Mickey Mouse" candy when people first made it in 1943, but they changed it to "White Rabbit" later. It was cheap and became very popular. After China's melamine scandal, people in other countries stopped buying it until White Rabbit began to use milk from Australia and New Zealand instead of China.

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