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Nanxiang Steamed Bun Applies for Intangible Cultural Heritage
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Celebrated Shanghai snack Nanxiang steamed bun is ready to apply for national intangible cultural heritage status. If approved, it will become the first snack to win this designation in China.

The celebrated Shanghai snack Nanxiang steamed bun.

Shanghai Youth Daily reported on Friday that the application will be submitted to the municipal government at the end of this month.

"Nanxiang steamed buns are famous for their nice shape and juicy taste with their fine skin and adequate meat fillings. Its fine reputation could serve as another name for Shanghai," remarked local Shanghai resident Zhan Zili about Nanxiang steamed buns.

Thirty-five-year-old Zhan Zili added: "Nanxiang steamed buns enjoyed a high reputation back in the early of 1970s. I can still remember when my father took me to eat them when I was a child. The bun tops must-have lists for tourists in Shanghai."

However, Zhan Zili worried about the reputation of the Nanxiang steamed buns these days.

He paid a business trip to Beijing recently and found a Shanghai Nanxiang steamed bun restaurant on Xiushui Street. He ordered some, but the taste and quality were disappointing, even though the owner insisted the cook was Shanghainese.

When he returned to Shanghai, he tried local Nanxiang steamed buns at the Temple of the City God. Unexpectedly, he found the taste was much worse than what it used to be.

Zhan Zili is not alone in expressing his dismay. Many Shanghai residents have had the same complaints.

Nowadays, more than 10 restaurants claim to serve authentic Nanxiang steamed buns in Nanxiang.

A veteran cook from Guyiyuan Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant told Shanghai Youth Daily that Nanxiang steamed buns require delicate and high standards for preparations.

Vice-general manager of Guyiyuan Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant Wang Xiaodi told Shanghai Youth Daily many customers complained there are too many restaurants who claim to serve authentic Nanxiang steamed buns.

Even though there are nearly 100 restaurants in Shanghai who claim to serve them, only six of them are actually authentic.

Guyiyuan Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is currently applying for a registered trademark to protect the intellectual property rights for its production process.

An official from the cultural service center of Nanxiang said according to historical documents, Nanxiang steamed buns originated in Rihuaxuan Desert Restaurant located in the town of Nanxiang during the Qing Dynasty.

Sadly, there is no trace of the descendants of the restaurant's owner, Huang Mingxian, and whether the family inherited the recipes and preparation methods of the buns.

Shanghai Youth Daily learned from the local government of Nanxiang that Guyiyuan Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is designated the most authentic one. Its preparation methods are also expected to apply for state-level intangible cultural heritage status.

"It is quite urgent to save its taste and preparation methods," said Professor Gu Xiaoming from Fudan University regarding Nanxiang steamed buns.

Professor Gu added, "Italian pizza has already registered patent rights and Japan is applying for patent rights for local cuisines such as sushi. Shanghai has to take action as quickly as possible."

He stressed that in addition to Nanxiang steamed buns, Shanghai has other renowned cuisines, such as handmade tangyuan, or glutinous rice balls with sweet filling, and fried buns. He stressed it is important to inherit the preparation methods and techniques of the cuisine.

The official list of last year's items that will receive national intangible cultural heritage status will be announced on June 9, the second Cultural Heritage Day in China. The list members will also receive subsidies from the government.

The law of protection for intangible cultural heritages is included on the legislation plan at this year's ongoing National People's Congress.
(CRI.cn March 10, 2007)

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