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When Truffle Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Updated: 2024-02-09 08:45 ( China Daily Global )
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Stir-fried Chinese kale with black garlic. CHINA DAILY

For this year's New Year's Eve dinner, Li is preparing dishes with auspicious names such as the "Prosperity and Wealth" dish, made from abalone and goose feet. There are also radish and taro cakes. "The radish cake my mom makes has a unique taste with plenty of radish, preserved meats and less flour. It may not always have a perfect shape, but the flavor is exceptional. At restaurants, chefs usually focus on getting the presentation right," Li said.

At his restaurant, Li strives to replicate his mother's recipe, to give guests a taste of home. "Even my wife follows my mother's recipe for making radish cake at home."

Nostalgia seems to be in the air this year. Television drama Blossoms Shanghai, directed by Hong Kong-based Wong Karwai, is set in 1990s Shanghai and its phenomenal success is drawing people to Huanghe Road and the Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund for a taste of nostalgia.

Zhao Renliang, a chef from Shanghai with 60 years of experience, started his career at the Peace Hotel. In recent years, he has spent Spring Festival working at the restaurant serves Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisines in Legendale Hotel, Beijing.

Noticing a growing interest in Shanghai's cuisine because of the TV drama, Zhao is planning a special Chinese New Year fare, keeping flavors from Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang provinces in mind.

One dish that stands out is the yifanfengshun (plain sailing). Zhao chose to use large shrimps for this traditional Shanghai dish made of rice cakes and hairy crab, in order to do away with the messy crab shells.

"Eating rice cakes is a must during Spring Festival, as it symbolizes joy," Zhao said.

A common feature of the New Year's Eve dinner in Shanghai is a hot pot with diverse ingredients such as egg dumplings shaped like gold ingots in both color and form. Zhao has included a similar hot pot — with rich ingredients like sea cucumber, abalone, pork tendons, shiitake mushrooms, and handmade fish balls — in this year's New Year Eve dinner menu.

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