Food like grandma used to make
Updated: 2011-01-17 13:28
By Shi Yingying (China Daily)
Granny's flavors of home attract the homesick and the sons and daughters away in the big cities. Shi Yingying joins the queue at the door.
With lines of local customers waiting out of The Grandma's at 3 pm on a Monday afternoon for dinner, you can't dispute the fact that family-style dining is the latest trend in Shanghai.
"I come here because it's cost-effective and really gives you value," says a middle-aged housewife knitting a sweater while waiting for a seat to enjoy a bite of grandma's cuisine. "It's good for either a gathering for friends or family reunion and it's worth the wait."
For the record, "her wait" may last up to three to four hours on a regular day. The queue numbers are given out as early as 10 in the morning for lunch and starts again at 3:50 pm for dinner. This newly opened Chinese restaurant that's less than a month old feeds more than 1,200 customers one day.
The aromas hit you as soon as you enter the restaurant decorated in a pleasing light-green theme. No speakeasy can produce the heady combination of roast chicken, marine treasures and lamb chops. These are the scents that come out from grandma's kitchen - at least, if your grandma is Chinese and a gourmet cook. She may trot out all the recipes she learned as a girl, then add a dish of this and dish of that to show she's been to places and seen things. And when the microwave beeps for lunch the next day, you have a second treat.
Coming from Hangzhou, The Grandma's has a hefty dose of nostalgia incorporated in its up-to-the-minute look.
"As far as I know, many Shanghainese especially travel to Hangzhou for our cuisine," says head chef Wu Shenghong.
Family-style Chicken in Longjing Tea and The Grandma's Red-cooked Pork are the hot tickets, according to the chef.
Served in the clay-pot and topped with longjing (dragon well) tea, Hangzhou's best-known beverage, the tender chicken almost melts in the mouth. The trick is to souse the chicken in a tea bath before roasting it - a step that cannot be skipped.
The tea, explains chef Wu, must be from the tenderest green leaves of longjing, picked in spring from the youngest bushes at Dragon Well. Such attention to details is what makes Hangzhou cuisine as legendary as the view from the West Lake. You have to be quick on your toes too, as there are only 200 orders of the chicken every day.
Slighter saltier than Shanghai cooking, the Red-cooked Pork is braised with dried black carp and bamboo shoots.
"Dried bamboo shoots absorb the fat so that the meat on top is sweet, salty, silky, yet firm," says chef Wu.
Price is another positive factor at Grandma's, in keeping with casual menu. The chicken costs 45 yuan ($7) and the pork 35 yuan.
Expect to spend an average of 50 yuan to 60 yuan per diner. Reservations are only accepted for private rooms for 10 or more. Go early to secure seats.
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