Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
With clusters of tanks splashing with more fish types than a Blue Planet special, Chinese seafood restaurants feel like aquariums where you get to eat the attractions. This diversity means picking the right fish can be a challenge. Groupers are ideally-sized and bulging with sweet meat but run you upwards of 400RMB per jin while Chinese perch cost half that but are comparatively scrawny and bristling with bones. Catfish are cheaper but usually too hulking for fewer than four people to tackle.
For us, flounder presents the ideal compromise. Its flattened appearance evokes a normal fish that lost a fight with a rolling pin but its only around 100RMB per jin, is available at most seafood spots, and boasts a perfect meat-to-bone ratio.
We always hit up Qianlong Food for our flounder fix. You choose your fish live from the tank, making sure it is in fact live as vendors have a penchant for selling foreigners dead fish – though with flounder it’s hard to tell. If it jerks upward like a possessed pancake when netted, you’re good to go. And as it is Chinese New Year you’ll want it steamed whole (symbolizing abundance) with scallions, ginger and soy.
The meat scrapes off the bone easily, and when swished about in the sweet soy, takes on the taste of melted butter with sugar. Our favorite bits are the pin-like morsels lining the fins and spine. Just when you think you’re done dissecting, flip it over to reveal a whole other side of goodness.
Qianlong food – 72 Huanghe Lu, Fengyang Lu (黄河路72号, 近凤阳路). Tel: (0)21-6327-6733.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Roast pigeon @ Tang Gong
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!