New Shanghai Cuisine by Jereme Leung: Cookbook Review Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

New Shanghai Cuisine by Jereme Leung

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

This visually stunning book is an important contribution to an understanding of the complex cuisine of Shanghai. Jereme Leung has established the Whampoa Club, just off the Bund as a showcase for his reinterpretation of traditional Shanghai dishes.
Sometimes he changes, contorts or extracts the essence of the dish and other times he faithfully reproduces the traditional dish but perhaps with a twist in presentation.
The book is divided into nine traditional chapters that starts with Appetisers, moves on to Soups and works through until Desserts, covering sixty delightful recipes on the way.
The first recipe picks up threads from traditional Chinese cuisine often found, say, in the pairing of something like walnuts with sugar that is served as a start to a meal. Leung has sugar-cured sun-dried red dates teamed with apple and goose liver. He then reinterprets drunken chicken by freezing some of the marinade used to flavour the chicken and serving the iced mixture on top of the drunken chicken. He then describes the traditional tea-smoked eggs. These are usually served with salt, however he uses caviar to provide the salt hit.
The use of French ingredients such as foie gras and caviar should not come as any surprise considering the strong influence the French have had on this beautiful city.
Tradition returns with the Shanghainese red braised pork knuckles - this is classic Shanghai with no embellishments. Neither does it need any as the long-simmered dish we sampled at the Whampoa Club was perfection on a plate. This is a great recipe to try as it is very forgiving and tastes great even if you don't have some of the more esoteric ingredients such as the red yeast powder. Just using the shaoxing wine, oyster sauce and the light and dark soy sauces will ensure a good flavour and colour for the pork.
The classically simple recipe for the lion's head meat ball makes it easy to prepare, but make sure you take Leung's advice and ensure that the pork belly you use has sufficient fat to ensure the balls will be light as a feather when cooked. The recipes call for hairy crab, but we have found that other forms of crab will work.
The apex of Shanghai cuisine is reached with xiao long bao - those beautiful dumplings with impossibly thin skins that are filled with pork meat stuffing and soup made from pork skin jelly. The recipe sets out how to make them, but be aware that these dumplings require considerable skill and technique so don't be depressed if, like us, your attempts are less than satisfactory.
This book will not only provide you with lots of recipes to enjoy, it will also provide a fascinating window onto Shanghai cuisine.
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