FEASTCON Showcased the Best of Shanghai’s Food and Beverage Scene

We sampled snacks, wine, and baijiu cocktails while listening to thought-provoking talks on Chinese cuisine at home and abroad

1 0
Simon Frank
6:04 PM HKT, Wed March 20, 2024 2 mins read

This past weekend, RADII hit up FEASTCON, an annual gathering for Shanghai’s food and beverage scene organized by SOCIAL SUPPLY x Feast in China at Station 1907. Bringing together stalls from restaurants and food businesses along with an impressive line-up of guest speakers and workshops, it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of Shanghai’s culinary community. Overall, the event gave a sense of the excitement and passion that’s driving food and drink businesses in the city — and Chinese food globally — as well as some of the challenges ahead.

On FEASTCON’s second and final day, Sunday, March 17, we sampled some perfectly al dente pasta from JE&JO, a glass of vividly orange Ningxia natural wine via China Wine Club, and a slightly intense baijiu-based cocktail before grabbing a seat to listen in on some guest lectures.

First up was Xiaopu winemaker Ian Dai, who RADII joined on visits to China’s wine regions late last year. His talk highlighted the enormous progress that Chinese winemaking has made over the past two decades, while also revealing some surprising facts about its history — who knew that wine grapes were grown outside of Beijing in the 1920s for the city’s foreign population? Dai emphasized that the growth of vineyards was a gradual process, with years of experimentation sometimes necessary before a glass of drinkable wine can be produced. As he explained, the rapid expansion of infrastructure has made winemaking more feasible in remote areas, but taking the next step forward may require greater understanding and exchange between urban and rural China.

Ian Dai points out China's wine regions

Ian Dai points out China’s wine regions. Image courtesy Social Supply / FEASTCON.

Back in the big city, long term Shanghai resident Rachel Gouk, founder of the food blog and WeChat account Nomfluence, broke down her observations on how the metropolis’ food scene has evolved since the turn of the millennium. She took us from a time when Western food was almost nonexistent, and Chinese food often just meant Shanghainese and Cantonese, to today’s diversified, micro-trend driven “Wanghong” (网红, influencer) economy. While concerned about the knock-on effects of an online culture which leads diners to visit an establishment once, photograph its signature dish, and never return, she closed on a positive note by praising the discerning palates of Shanghai foodies.

Chef and food media personality Lucas Sin then took to the stage for his talk “Chinese Food, Outside of China.” Taking Thai food as a case study, he explored how so-called ethnic cuisines are branded in America, and underscored the influence of Chaoshan (Teochew) cooking on many dishes considered to be quintessentially Thai. Cheerfully admitting that he may have been betraying his profession, he challenged a “chef-centric” model of culinary innovation. Sin instead put forward a “people-centric” model of humble cooks simply making delicious — and profitable — food in the conditions they found themselves in. He gave the example of yaka mein, a New Orleans noodle dish that has Chinese roots but is today primarily associated with the city’s Black community. The noodle soup’s vague definition and obscure history just go to show the degree to which Chinese diaspora cooking is still understudied.

Lucas Sin in action in Bangkok.

Indeed, it felt like what made FEASTCON special was the chance for food and beverage professionals to exchange information — whether business tips or the story of a Louisiana hangover cure. Speaking to RADII after his lecture, Dai noted “We didn’t use to have an event in which we could combine all our knowledge together. I think at FEASTCON we can group F&B people together, share a little bit, and gradually accumulate knowledge. It’s very important.”

Banner image courtesy Social Supply / FEASTCON.

Join the Conversation
Write comment

Pour yourself a stiff one, we'll be with you in a minut