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Festival family fare

By Xu Junqian | Shanghai Star | Updated: 2015-02-19 07:01

Festival family fare

Appetizer: lobster chips [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]

The dishes enjoyed at Spring Festival can vary greatly depending on family traditions, but there are some constants on almost every table in Shanghai. Xu Junqian takes a look.

Ask 100 Shanghainese for a list of the dishes they traditionally eat at Spring Festival and you are likely to be presented with 101 different answers, with one of the interviewees, if not more, sharing two versions, according to the food produced by the kitchens of their paternal and maternal grandmothers. In an immigrant city like Shanghai, the dining table on the most important night of a year evolves as fast as the city skyline. But there are always a few dishes that survive the tide of change and are savored by every household.

Appetizer: lobster chips

A deceptively simple snack, the pink chip is hardly related to lobsters. The older generation says the finger-linkin’ good taste comes from fresh fish or shrimp mixed in the starch (but never lobsters), but local connoisseurs label it simply flavored fried starch. Once a luxury available only during festivals or to treat important guests in difficult times, lobster chips, which have a thicker texture than potato chips and a fishier taste, are now more commonly enjoyed as a token of the good old days, when food was scarce but the mood of Spring Festival was upbeat.

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