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A taste of China

Award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop takes a fascinating culinary journey through China’s Lower Yangtze region

A taste of China
Steamed pork xiaolongbao, Din Tai Fung restaurant

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Eat shoots & leaves
Shanghainese cuisine is a cocktail of influences from the Jiangnan region, pepped up with a shot of European flavours. The city is best known for its dumplings and red-braised dishes; less widely recognised are its refreshing soups and healthy vegetable dishes. Local chefs draw on seasonal ingredients — including bamboo, leafy greens and shrimps — and add flavour with cured Jinhua ham, dried seafood and other preserves.

Shanghai souvenirs
Bring back a bottle of aged Shaoxing wine (for both drinking and cooking) and look out for jars of pickled vegetables such as xue cai, a salted mustard green that’s one of the staple ingredients of local fare. Browse the food shops on Nanjing Lu or Huaihai Lu for all manner of ingredients and, if you’re interested in knives, check out the cleavers at Zhang Xiao Quan in Nanjing Lu.

Dumplings & delicacies
Don’t miss steamed soup dumplings with their tidy pleats and juicy stuffings: head to the tiny Jia Jia Tang Bao for an authentic local experience or bag a table at Din Tai Fung if you’d rather take your time. Alternatively, book a private room at Fu 1088 and order steamed river shad or braised Shanghai cabbage with tofu and salted pork (recipe below).

Shanghai red-braised pork

Shanghai red-braised pork

Make it at home: Shanghai red-braised pork

Ingredients
1kg pork belly
1tbsp cooking oil
20g fresh ginger
1 white spring onion
1 star anise
1 piece cassia bark
3tbsp Shaoxing wine
1.5tbsp light soy sauce
1.5tbsp dark soy sauce
2.5tbsp white sugar
500ml pork or
chicken stock

Method
Cover the pork belly (plus skin) with water and boil for five minutes. Drain, cool and cut the meat into 3cm cubes. Heat the oil over a high flame, add the ginger, spring onion, star anise and cassia bark and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the pork and continue frying until the meat is tinged gold. Add the wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, white sugar and the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Discard the whole spices and turn up the heat to reduce the sauce to a rich, dark gravy. Serve with plain white rice.  

Fuchsia Dunlop is a writer who trained as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. She has authored five books, including Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China (Bloomsbury, 2016). fuchsiadunlop.com

Published in the November 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)