Shanghai style cuisine

Shanghai is one of the most prosperous, active and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

At any given time there are over a thousand major construction projects taking place in this city of over 20 million. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the cuisine of this region should be equally cosmopolitan.

Filled with diverse sauces, wines and regional dishes the Shanghai style is a delight to locals and visitors alike.

Whether the choice on the menu is drunken shrimp or stewed lion's head meatballs (not what they sound like!), a Shanghai dish is a pinnacle of Chinese cuisine. By the way, Lion's Head Meatballs are 6in pork balls stewed with cabbage.

Shanghai is by the sea so seafood features heavily in Shanghai cuisine.

Many Shanghai dishes are refined and cosmopolitan, but there are plenty of simple tasty food.

A native red wine, called Shaoxing, is exported widely and used locally as an ingredient in many dishes. But that's far from the only alcohol to be found in Shanghai cuisine. Shrimp or chicken cooked in Scotch and ginger wine mixed with shallots and garlic will make a meal in which the dish is not the only drunken participant.

But the natives like their dishes sweet, too. Sugar is a common ingredient and, along with heavy doses of soy, make for a delicious dish. It's even added to meat dishes such as beggar's chicken. Wrapped in lotus leaves, then oven baked, it provides a meal fit for pauper or king alike.

Even though Shanghai is a very modern city, its roots go back centuries. So, it's expected that there might be a dish called '1,000 Year Old Eggs'. Flavored with lime and ginger, these duck eggs (called Pi Dan and preserved for three months) are the very opposite of moldy tasting.

Of course, having a coast along the East China Sea gives Shanghai access to some of the world's finest seafood. Hairy crabs and oysters are enormously popular here. Cooked or eaten raw with the local seaweed, they are almost Japanese in delicacy and flavor. Stewed eel with shiitake mushrooms soaked in rice wine and garlic is another local favorite.

The city has its own local version of dim sum, too. Xiao Long Bao, a type of bun made in a bamboo steamer, is often consumed as a snack or appetizer. Dip them in black vinegar and you've got a native dish that would be appreciated by diners anywhere.

A small breakfast is the tradition in this city of busy workers. You tiao, a type of bread fried in oil and wrapped in a thick pancake, may be washed down with soy milk. Then it's off to work.

This is just another example of the exciting Chinese cuisine. After all, in a city of 20 million with 1,000 construction projects, who has time to eat? Ah, well, the Shanghai citizens, that's who. Try some Shanghai style cuisine and you'll see that they do that very well indeed.