IN Chinese culture, autumn is believed to be the season when we need to eat food that helps store energy and maintain the qi (energy flow) to prepare for the cold winter.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, all creatures born in spring, grow in summer, harvest in autumn and stock in winter. Human beings should also live like this. Ancients think autumn and winter are the seasons to “stock the energy,” so people should pay more attention to the principle of “rising and storing.”
With the arrival of the harvest comes the best of the season’s bounty — nourishing, healthy ingredients, including a local specialty, hairy crabs.
Here Shanghai Daily recommends some autumn dishes served up at local hotel restaurants and have the chefs reveal new trends for this fall season.
The Westin Bund Center Shanghai
The Crystal Garden at Westin is well-known for its fine Chinese cuisine, and its nutritious autumn menu features several nourishing soups including double-boiled duck soup with tricholoma matsutake and angelica.
Chinese angelica and codonopsis pilosula boast the function of invigorating vital energy and enriching the blood. Stewing together with matsutake mushroom and teal will nourish the liver and kidney, benefiting the stomach.
“Each dish in my menu has a special function for different health needs. We hope that all diners can find one healthy dish suitable for their physical function,” says Wilson Zhang, the Crystal Garden chef.
In autumn, as the humidity drops, it’s easy to catch a disease or experience uncomfortable symptoms such as dryness.
“I hope this nourishing menu can be a health guide for those people who are busy with their daily work and have no time to think about their health,” Zhang adds.
The appetizers are quite surprising — marinated black fungus with Cordyceps flower, duck’s tongue with Shaoxing wine, and crystal lamb jelly with Chinese angelica and red date. Last but not least, braised superior birds nest with red date and lily in papaya as a healthy dessert is hard to miss.
Address: 5/F, 88 Henan Rd
Andaz Xintiandi, Shanghai
HaiPai restaurant at the Andaz has created a delicious and healthy autumn menu featuring dishes that include braised pork shank, butter crab and stir-fried dried yellow fish.
“In the traditional Chinese calendar, there are 24 divisions of the solar year, known as the solar terms. I have selected my ingredients based on the solar terms to increase the healthy value of the dishes,” says Executive Chef Jacqueline Qiu.
A hairy crab meat soup may seem simple, but Qiu has added tomato to add flavor to both the visual presentation and the taste.
“The rich vitamins from the tomato during the dry autumn season are the perfect nourishment for the body,” she says.
The signature dishes on the HaiPai autumn menu include braised pork shank with fern root noodles in sweet-sour sauce and slow-cooked butter crab with salted duck and flower mushroom.
With the braised pork shank, only the finest ingredients are used. The pork comes from meat that is naturally raised, firm yet smooth, and extremely nutritious. The pork shank is a dish that requires a mixture of the finest ingredients and utmost culinary skills.
The pork shank has to be marinated for 12 hours, flavored under small fire for three hours, and finally cooled off for eight hours before being sliced. Each thin slice is lean and rich, an extremely unusual texture. Along with homemade sweet and sour sauce, the dish is rich yet not greasy.
The butter crab earned its name with its yellow buttery oil and juicy meat, hence the nickname “king of crabs.” The selected ducks are grass ducks that require 36 hours of traditional Chinese marination, exposure under the sun for seven days, and fanning for 15 days. As a result, the duck obtains a crisp, thin golden layer of skin. A mixture of the crab and duck, along with fresh mushrooms, gives the perfect balance of crisp and soft texture.
“I wanted to bring out something new in these dishes. My creations had to bring new inspirations to the traditional Chinese dishes, especially enhancing the healthy benefits. I sincerely hope my customers can taste authentic Shanghainese food while still being able to experience the creativity and heart that I have put into these dishes,” the chef says.
Address: 1/F, 88 Songshan Rd
Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Chef Jian Wei’e is the new chef de cuisine of Canton at Grand Hyatt Shanghai, who has over 30 years of culinary experience. His latest autumn menu uses seasonal ingredients paired with Chinese dietary therapy.
One of the many specialties is the braised cod with winter bamboo shoots and garlic in a stone pot. Cod has a high healthy fat content to prepare for colder temperatures, and bamboo shoots are a good vegetarian source of protein.
Stone pot is used because it has a much higher density than clay pot, and is able to extract the original flavor of cod better and faster. This allows most of the nutrition to be maintained as the cooking time is brief.
“This menu aims to reveal the extensive work behind which lays a focus on retaining the original flavors of the ingredients,” the chef says.
In the poached rice with shrimp and scallop in premium lobster soup, rice is cooked in a special way to introduce a different texture with a bit of crunchiness. Shrimps and scallops are prepared in a way that freshness is highly preserved. The premium lobster soup, which is the main focus of this dish, is slowly cooked for hours to retain and enhance the rich lobster flavor.
Apart from the autumn menu, Canton also offers a series of nourishing soups to respond to the 24 segments of the Chinese calendar, a true demonstration of the essence of Cantonese cuisine.
Address: 55/F, Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Ave, Pudong
Tel: 5047-1234 ext 8778, 8779
Fairmont Peace Hotel
Crab becomes the highlight of this fall’s signature dishes at Dragon Phoenix in the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Tiny, luscious hairy crabs are a Shanghai specialty. A range of top-quality hairy crab dishes will be featured on the menu at Dragon Phoenix throughout autumn, including steamed okra stuffed with crab meat, braised avocado with crab meat, and braised water caltrop with crab roe. All these dishes bring out the exquisite taste of the crab meat with rich nutrition for the fall season.
The delicious crab meats are carefully selected from Yangcheng Lake crabs in neighboring Jiangsu Province. Water caltrop is a local ingredient with light sweet flavor that usually is used to match with the rich taste of crab meat. Avocado is another delicious ingredient to cook together with crab meat. Its rich and smooth taste is very popular in the dry weather.