Shanghai's time-honored Xing Hua Lou Restaurant adapts to shifting tastes
As the catering industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, city eateries are experimenting with new ways to tempt diners' taste buds and breathe new life into old brands.
Xing Hua Lou Restaurant, Shanghai's oldest Cantonese-style eatery, is making efforts to cater to the changing tastes of Shanghai residents and tourists, particularly the younger generation.
Its Huanghe Road outlet in Huangpu District has introduced nearly 20 Cantonese-style wanghong (online celebrity) drinks, such as milk tea, mango pomelo sago, and lemon tea, along with a new menu.
The restaurant has stands like the ones that sell traditional Cantonese congee, noodles, and rice flour on the streets of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.
Classic Cantonese snacks include barbecued pork buns, steamed turnip cakes, glutinous rice shaomai (steamed dumplings) stuffed with shrimp, changfen (rice rolls), and crispy durian pastry.
"We will stick to the most traditional Cantonese flavour while developing new snack recipes based on diners' changing tastes," said Zhi Jing, Xing Hua Lou's deputy general manager.
One of the floors of the restaurant will mainly serve snacks and drinks, and the menu has been enriched with more choices.
The outlet is on Huanghe Road, a popular food street for Shanghai's gourmets.
"There are many tourists and white-collar workers in the area, and the adjustment is primarily aimed at attracting the young generation, aged 20-35," Zhi explained.
The time-honored brand is collaborating with Ele.me and Meituan and will launch meal delivery services for the first time.
With a "guochao" (Chinese chic) approach, the bags and cups feature images of xingshi, Guangdong-style lion dances.
Since the end of the Chinese New Year, all private dining rooms of both the Huanghe Road and Fuzhou Road outlets of Xing Hua Lou are fully reserved every day, according to Zhi.
According to her, the restaurant's business has recovered by 90 percent since the COVID restrictions were lifted.
Meanwhile, time-honored restaurants in the city have already stocked up on qingtuan, a traditional snack for the Qingming Festival, which falls on April 5.
The green dumplings are made of glutinous rice that has been tinted with the hue of barley grass, which is only available in the spring.
Xing Hua Lou has been serving qingtuan stuffed with salted egg yolk and dried meat floss, shepherd's purse, beef with black pepper, and red bean paste.
The most popular filling is salted egg yolk and dried meat floss.
"Although there are many businesses selling qingtuan with the flavour, I still prefer Xing Hua Lou because it was the first to launch the flavour and the taste is the best," a local surnamed Li said.
It takes only seven seconds for chefs at the restaurant to make a qingtuan with their nimble fingers, while dough kneading must ensure the best proportion of stickiness.
This year, the 97-year-old Sunya Cantonese Restaurant on the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall added Sichuan-flavored beef to the filling.
Its yanduxian-stuffed qingtuan is popular with locals. Yanduxian is a classic Shanghai spring soup made with pork and bamboo shoots.