My Shanghai (Cookbook by Betty Liu)

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My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories From a City on the Water is one of a new breed of cookbooks focusing on China's diverse regional cuisines, in this case the home of xiao long bao soup dumplings, red-braised pork belly, scallion-oil noodles and drunken chicken, to name just a few delectables. 

The publishing industry seems to be waking up to the fact that Chinese is not one cuisine and that a “Chinese Cookbook” rarely makes sense, since no one author can be a master of or personally connected to all of China’s regional cuisines. That's why we search out the best of the cookbooks focusing on specific regional cuisines and why we are thrilled to be able to add a book devoted to the city of Shanghai and its bordering provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu—especially one that is at once both deeply personal and astutely representative of the region.

The author is Betty Liu, whose parents as well as her husband's parents are all from the eastern coastal region. Betty is American-born, and when she isn't perfecting her recipes for Shanghai home cooking, she is in general surgery resident training in a Boston hospital. Like so many other recent cookbooks, this book began as a blog, a place where Liu could learn and share her family's recipes. Though she excels at research, cooking and writing, photography is her first love, and the plentiful photos throughout the book, both in her kitchen and throughout the Shanghai region, are by her. 

But the recipes are not secondary. Along with the favorites listed above, there are enticing but lesser-known dishes from throughout the region, along with ample context about their origins. To be clear, none of this food is spicy. On the contrary, Shanghai cuisine has a reputation for being sweet, but Liu argues that it has instead a "light and refreshing sweetness," with plentiful vegetables and seafood.

Because the dishes rely on seasonally available ingredients, the book is organized by seasons (and their holidays). For example, red-braised fish and double mushroom noodle soup in autumn; Shanghai big wontons and Lion's Head meatballs in winter; oil-braised spring bamboo and Wuxi spareribs in spring; and her father-in-law's Nanjing saltwater duck and sweet-and-sour lotus root in summer. And, most exciting to us, the year-round sheng jian bao: a fluffy yeasted baozi that is filled with pork and soup and steam-fried until it has crispy bottoms. (My all-time favorite.)

You will find just about everything you need to cook from My Shanghai at The Mala Market. The following are ingredients used throughout the book. 

    Publisher: Harper Design, 2020
    Format: Hardback, 287 pages
    Price: $35 MSRP; $30 when purchased with Mala Market ingredients