The story appears on

Page A5

April 28, 2014

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Society

TV slot cooks up storm of publicity

A SMALL family restaurant serving authentic Shanghai dishes is set to expand after an appearance on a hit TV show saw it inundated with customers.

The Sanlin Benbang Dish Restaurant appeared on Friday’s episode of “A Bite of China II,” about the country’s food culture.

In 2012, “A Bite of China” was a massive hit and the second series of the China Central Television production is also proving hugely popular.

Viewers saw family patriarch Li Borong, who is in his 80s, play the pipa — a four-stringed Chinese instrument — while his twin grandsons, Li Wei and Li Yue, demonstrated their cooking skills.

Despite being off the beaten track, foodies have rushed to Sanlin Town in the Pudong New Area for a taste of benbang — which means native and original.

But this new-found fame has brought its headaches for the family too.

Although praising delicious dishes, some diners have complained of cramped space and poor service at Sanlin Benbang Dish Restaurant.

Li Mingfu, Li Borong’s son, who founded the business in 2011, admitted that the restaurant, which covers just 140 square meters and has only 12 tables, can’t cope with the influx of benbang fans.

“Our restaurant is small. We have only four chefs during the day, with one more in the evenings, and just four waiting staff,” he said.

The eatery will now only accept reservations, in order to ensure the quality of meals, Wenhui Daily reported.

However, Li Mingfu admitted to breaking this rule sometimes, rather than disappoint customers who have traveled some distance.

But in the longer term, he plans to expand the restaurant.

“There’s an abandoned warehouse behind the restaurant which is about 100 square meters. I will talk to the township officials to see whether I can rent it,” he said.

He is also considering opening a branch in downtown, the paper reported.

‘Shovel gangs’

Around 100 years ago, traveling cooks called “shovel gangs” went from village to village in downtown Shanghai cooking hearty, flavorful fare with plenty of fat, sugar and soy sauce.

They got their name from using flat shovels to move pans around on the coals.

The first shovel gang cooks came from Sanlin Town and in 2008, Sanlin benbang cuisine was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by the Pudong New Area District government.

Benbang culinary skills are deep-rooted in the Li family, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the father of Li Borong, Li Lin’gen, was a pioneer of benbang cuisine downtown, opening a famous restaurant called Dexingguan.

Li Borong himself is a state-level cooking master, and now the family tradition has passed to Li Wei and Li Yue.

Li Minghfu said he won’t pressurize his grandchildren into continuing the tradition, but would be delighted if they did, the paper reported.

The eight episodes of “A Bite of China II” cover the stories of more than 150 people and some 300 types of food.

Although only two episodes have been shown, it has already created an online frenzy, and not only at restaurants.

After the first episode was aired, Tmall, the business to consumer unit under China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group, stocked 100 foods and ingredients featured.

By April 21, Tmall stores had sold 10,000 orders of cured meats from southwest China’s Sichuan Province and 3,400 bottles of honey from Tibet.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend