Shanghai, China -- Prior to living and traveling in China, I’d never cooked a whole fish. My mother always bought whole fish then fried, baked, broiled, or boiled it for our family. But much to her dismay, I turned out to be the daughter who buys fish fillets. Frankly, I find the thought of cleaning a fish a little overwhelming. Thanks to fishmongers in the market, we don't have to clean the fish ourselves. Have it cleaned by your provider, bring it home, rinse it and cook it up!
I met my host Fifi through a friend who worked at Converse in Shanghai. They were working together and Fifi wanted to share her aunt's cooking with ShowShanti's food explorers. I took a train to Shanghai where I met Han Fifi’s family for a day of home-cooking lessons. I’d lived and traveled in Shanghai but had only eaten in restaurants. To visit Fifi’s family was a treat for me as I’d never eaten a Shanghainese meal in a Shanghainese-family home.
The flavors Fifi's aunt cooked are considered ‘light,' which is characteristic of Shanghai cuisine. Garlic is used sparingly and sugar more liberally. Fifi’s mother taught me a fish recipe that alleviated my petty fear of cooking an entire fish: dry-braised fish with spring onion (葱烤鲫鱼, cōng kǎo jìyú) uses carp (a fresh water fish). But I use salt-water fish and it is just as delicious!