There are eight major cuisines of China, and Shanghai food constitutes one of them. Dishes in Shanghai restaurants are typically blends of the other styles of cooking, with special sauces and cooking methods making the Shanghai dishes a bit different. The chefs in Shanghai also borrow the best aspects of foreign cuisines. Most expats will agree that Shanghai food is not too spicy, not too oily, and not too exotic.
Most expats love Chinese food and probably ate it frequently in their native countries. However, be advised that the Chinese food you grew accustomed to back home is not the same that you will eat in Shanghai. All is different, but delectable: the ingredients, the colors, the sauces, and the total ambiance of eating a large Chinese meal.
Shanghai cuisine is light, healthy, and comes in smaller portions than the cuisine in Beijing, Hubei, Hunan, or Guangdong provinces. It is the result of borrowing cooking styles and ingredients from neighboring provinces, and then refining or changing them slightly into something distinctively Shanghainese. Sometimes this is achieved by adding alcohol to fish, eel, crab, or chicken, which are then cooked or steamed. You will also see preserved vegetables and meat and fish that have been salted in order to add flavor to the dishes.
Sugar is also added to many Shanghai dishes, which are then complemented with soy or other sauces that make it difficult to detect the sugar. A favorite Shanghai food cooked in this style is sweet and sour spare ribs.
Shanghai dishes are often pickled in wine and their cooking methods include baking, stewing, steaming, deep-frying, etc. Condiments are an integral aspect of the meal and an emphasis is placed on accentuating the original flavors of the ingredients. The objective of Shanghai cooking is to offer lightness in flavor and attractive presentation.
Another characteristic is the use of a great variety of seafood. Given its location at the mouth of the Yangtze River and bordering the East China Sea, it is no surprise that both river fish and ocean are used. The famous Shanghai hairy crab is one of the many delicious dishes, when it is in season every October and November. Rice is dominantly served over noodles or other wheat products.
When you go to any restaurant advertised as “Shanghai cuisine”, you will probably find the following dishes: