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January 11, 2010

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Nixon's fish back on the menu

SONGJIANG perch, a tasty fish that vanished from city restaurants many years ago, made its return to the table yesterday.

An apprentice of the chef who prepared a perch for former United States President Nixon during his visit to Shanghai in 1972 revived the dish for locals in a tasting event yesterday.

"The artificially bred perch is as delicious as before," said the 66-year-old chef Wang Zhongqing.

Wang learned his craft from the late Sun Baoshan, who had cooked the perch for Nixon at the Jin Jiang Hotel.

Overfishing and pollution killed off Songjiang perch two decades ago and forced the central government to list it as a protected species.

After Fudan University researchers managed to breed the fish in Songjiang District again, they launched a search for a chef to cook it in the traditional manner. The result was yesterday's dish - perch soup with eight tasty accompaniments including dried scallops.

"Many masters who cooked the perch before have retired and some young chefs have no idea of the cuisine," said Wang Jinqiu, a professor of Fudan's school of life sciences and the leader of a research team dedicated to the artificial breeding program.

Locals should be able to enjoy the perch during the Spring Festival at restaurants around the city at a cost of about 6 yuan (88 US cents) a gram for the fish itself.

Meanwhile, breeders are talking with Expo suppliers to make it a dish served at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

The perch featured at the World Expo in Philadelphia in 1926 as one of Songjiang District's unique products.


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