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Fresh, simple dishes pair perfectly with summer
By Fangfang Gong

There are certain smells and certain tastes that I will always associate with summertime. Of all the frozen and chilled deserts in the world, there is one treat that I always crave in the summer heat — a simple Chinese dish known as “sugar macerated tomatoes.”

This juicy, sweet and refreshing dish is somewhat like fruit compote, although no cooking is required. All you need is fresh ripe tomatoes and some plain cane sugar. Simply cut the tomatoes into bit-size pieces then place them in a bowl and mix well with a sprinkling of sugar. Cover the bowl with plastic and place into the refrigerator. Remove after the dish is chilled and enjoy.


Sometimes big flavors come in small packages — tomatoes being a perfect example. Although they are packed with flavor, a sprinkling of sugar can draw the moisture out and create a light flavorful syrup that’s perfect for summer temperatures.

Another great tomato-based dish for summer is the classic tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. One can easily spice up this summer staple with other ingredients, such as fresh arugala leaves for a boost of mild spiciness. This easy dish goes well dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly ground salt and pepper.


For heartier fare, there is a variation on the classic Japanese egg on rice dish that also incorporates tomatoes (see recipe). Instead of cracking a fresh egg over cooked rice — for a simple “peasant” meal in bygone times — one can place a ripe tomato inside a rice cooker. The moisture from the tomato can help cook the rice, so it’s important to add less water than one normally would.

Of course, there is plenty of room to experiment with this dish. Mushrooms make a great substitute for tomato. I personally prefer porcini, maiitake, matsutake (songrong in Chinese) with a little bit of soy sauce for added depth.

While there is plenty of room to experiment with fresh seasonal ingredients, there is one thing to pay attention to — that is, make sure to put the ingredients on top of the rice as it’s cooking in the rice cooker. If the ingredients are mixed, the rice may not cook evenly.

Another recent discovery to share this time is the amazing marriage of avocado and soy sauce. I had heard about this combination long time ago, but it was only recently that I actually tried it out myself, immediately I regretted not making any attempt earlier, since what I had heard was true.

Mixed together, the equally creamy and buttery avocado drizzled with light soy sauce tastes similar to Otoro — that is the under-belly meat of the blue-fin tuna toward the head, the premium quality portion of the fish that has its own quality grading system.

The pink color fine Otoro meat is marbled with exquisite fatty lines, which gives it the amazing rich and creamy taste. It is quite hard to believe, but turned out amazingly true. The combination resembles the unique and sophisticated taste and texture of Otoro sashimi. If you can find Japanese ponzu sauce — light soy sauce infused with yuzu citrus — this would make the experience even more tasty.

Egg on rice with tomato ingredients:

2 cups rice

1 big tomato

¾ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper (freshly ground preferred)

2 tsp olive oil

How to prepare:

• Pour rice into a rice cooker and add water. Use about 6 tablespoons less water than usual to compensate for moisture from the tomato.

• Add salt, pepper, olive oil into the cooker.

• Remove the stem of the tomato, make a cross cut on the top of the tomato to make it easier to cook through.

• Start the rice cooker as usual.

• When it’s done, toss the rice and tomato together with a paddle and consume.

Note: the rice-to-tomato ration can be adjusted based on personal taste, but remember to use less water than normal since the moisture from the tomato will also seep into the cooking rice.

Some must-try summer
foods in Shanghai

Cold noodles

These cooling, silky noodles, topped with dressing made from vinegar and sesame paste, is a seasonal favorite. Before eating, try to mix the dressing evenly with the noodles. Local people usually order shredded cucumber as a topping to make the taste even fresher.

Where to eat:

Meixin Dimsum Shop

Tel: 6247-0030

Address: 105 Shanxi Rd N.

Sweet and sour pork chop

This is a hot dish served cold. The pork chops are braised in sugar and vinegar to create a sweet and sour flavor. This flavor combination can stimulate the appetite, easily lost in hot weather.

Where to eat:

Lulu Restaurant

Tel: 6288-1179

Address: 5/F, 1266 Nanjing Rd W.


This is a summer dish popular in Shanghai and neighboring cities. It is composed of green soybeans, chicken feet, freshwater shrimp and duck tongue; boiled and soaked in cold zaolu, a thick translucent sauce decocted from Chinese yellow wine, various fragrances and spices such as dried orange peels and star anise. It tastes salty and umami, with a sweet and deep bouquet of yellow wine.

Where to eat:

Xindalu China Kitchen

Tel: 6393-1234 ext 6318

Address: 1/F, 199 Huangpu Rd

Sweet mung bean soup


This sweet soup served cold is a popular local summer dessert. The mung beans are stewed with sugar for several hours until they are ready to melt in one’s mouth. Chefs usually add some mint for a more fragrant and cooling taste. According to traditional Chinese medicine beliefs mung bean have a high degree of yin, which can remove heat from the body.

Where to eat:

Yonghe King

Tel: 6279-4348

Address: 123 Nanyang Rd

Ice cake

This summer dessert made from milk and walnuts is a local version of ice-cream. It features a light fresh sweet flavor and silky texture.

Where to eat:

Shanghai Morning

Tel: 6309-1846

Address: 1 Huangpu Rd

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164