Tonight I finally had the opportunity to introduce Babu to my new Shanghainese discovery. Well, technically this isn't 本幫菜 but Huaiyang cuisine (淮揚菜), but we'll ignore the technicalities here... I was very happy to get confirmation that one no longer needs to be a member to dine at Jiang Su (江蘇薈), so I booked us a table for dinner tonight.
When it arrived, neither Tigger nor Hello Kitty batted an eyelid. They're not really familiar with Shanghainese cuisine and have no idea what to expect of this fish. But Babu, Mrs. Tigger and I sorta stared at the fish in a mild state of shock. Kinda like this:
Aside from the size of the fish itself - which was probably the smallest Reeve's shad I've ever been served - we were surprised to see the fish soaking in soy sauce. Now, between the three of us, we've eaten our fair share of this fish - in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and elsewhere - and not one of us have had it with soy sauce. Ever. It has always been steamed with Huadiao (花雕) wine and some fermented rice (酒釀). This looked like the Cantonese chefs in the kitchen went a little cuckoo...
Hello Kitty did what she does best - which was to do a search online about this type of steaming for Reeve's shad. Apparently there are people who cook the fish this way, although no restaurant we are familiar does - nor would even contemplate such a thing.
We asked the staff about this preparation, and were informed that unlike other restaurants serving Reeve's shad coming from Vietnam, their Reeve's shad actually come from the Yangtze River. (Although almost all the Reeve's shad these days are farmed and not wild-caught.) We got a song and dance about the scales of their fish being smaller and softer, and that this was the preparation best suited... Yeah... however you wanna spin it. The soy sauce completely overpowered the flavors of the fish itself. This was half of tonight's bill, and I would never order this again.
Incidentally, the alternate preparation was pan-fried. None of us have ever heard of anyone pan-frying Reeve's shad, either.
I brought a nice little bottle for the occasion...