A Bite of YouDunZi: A Netnography Analysis of Shanghai Street Food
Street food is a symbol of local culture but it is often neglected by gastronomy studies. This research examines the street food culture in Shanghai, to analyse why YouDunZi (a deep-fried turnip cake), a local street food, is declining along with Shanghai’s street food culture. Studying Shanghai traditional street food from the perspectives of culture, heritage and place, this dissertation aims to analyse the complex relationship between Shanghainese, tourists and the street food culture. This research drew on a qualitative methodology, using netnography and content analysis, to examine the value of street food to the Shanghainese and the reason why Shanghai street food is declining, and aims to address the sustainability of Shanghai’s street food scene. Netnography tends to dig deeper into the content behind the individual, conversation, posting and experiences. It focuses more on meaning than on precision. China’s social media, such as WeChat, DaZhongDianPing, and Weibo, were the primary source of secondary data used to further analyse people’s thoughts and emotions on street food. This research has found that most Shanghainese and tourists who come to Shanghai are unwilling to let go of local street food in Shanghai. It is also argued that the local specialty street food belongs to the local intangible cultural heritage. The issues related to food safety and sanitation when resolved, would translate into a more sustainable future for Shanghai’s street food culture. The relocation of some street food business to ancient towns around Shanghai also creates new lease of life for the street food vendors who have been displaced. Street food in Shanghai has gone from maintaining the livelihood of the operators to giving local residents a story to remember from their childhood. While the disappearance of a generation of traditional snacks means sacrificing part of their stories, it also represents the transformation of a developed city.