Chinese people do know the keys to eat as the nation has been dealing with it for 5,000+ years. Food has been evolving and developing into a sophisticated network of cuisines across the nation, while each cuisine still tries so hard to claim the best by inheriting and creating recipes and cooking techniques. Thanks to China’s mass territory, diversified geography and produce, food in this country ranges from abundant varieties of mouth-watering daily-life yummies to high-profile banquets with all the tasty beauty, aroma and etiquettes.
For those foreign beginners, dumplings are the very start. While a bit of expert exploration would lead to the eight cuisines that are respectively of Shandong, Sichuan, Canton, Jiangsu, Fujian, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui, each with a signature dish that has survived challenges from even the fussiest gourmet.
Here we offer a selection of some most popular Chinese food among international visitors. You’ll get to know how they’re made from field/paddock to table by master chefs and have a virtual tour of the fun places around after getting your tummies full.
Beijing Duck (aka Peking Duck) is a mouth-watering dish highly popular in China and beyond. Once exclusive to the imperials and then released outside the palace by a royal chef, today Beijing Duck appears on the dining table of ordinary Chinese families, as well as the national banquet held in honor of high-profile foreign visitors.
The most recognized way to cook a Beijing Duck is to hang it up in an open-fire oven. To prepare a duck, chef would open a small hole on its body to clean the inside and then fill it up with boiled water. When it comes to heating, jujube wood is a good pick. The essential is that the heat doesn’t go directly upwards to the duck, but to the oven wall, which then heat the duck. In this way, the duck’s skin would be crispy, meat juicy but not at all greasy, with a pleasant touch of fruit aroma.
Rolling Donkey, a popular dessert from Northern China, is favored by sweet fans. With a cake roll look, a Rolling Donkey is actually made of glutinous rice with red bean paste filling and soy bean flour topping, pleasant to the eye and yummy to the taste buds. It is said this dessert got its name from the way it looks: a donkey rolling in the dust. Be sure to put it on your bucket list when visit China, as it’s perfect to go on its own, or with a sip of green tea or after a feast of hotpot.
The highlights of Mutton Hotpot are its flavour (of course), the copper hotpot, which is always the catch of the eye, and the whole layout of the meal.
The Chinese believe the best time to eat mutton is in winter, when weather cools down and warm food brings about coziness and energy. ‘Eat warm when cold’ is said to help balance the ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ in the body and thus provide a great boost to general health. The hotpot, made of 100% pure copper, can best preserve the tenderness and freshness of each and every ingredient. The whole meal is set like a wonderful banquet with dozens of dishes circling a copper hotpot on a big round table. Imagine you sit afront a steam hotpot, pick a thin hand-sliced mutton, dip it into the boiled soup and then-quick! Lift it out in just a few seconds! And then dip it into the sesame sauce. A bit of it would feel like paradise.
Beijing is classic and modern. A range of great architects have contributed their masterpieces to this city. Visit the ‘Bird’s Nest’ (National Stadium), the ‘Water Cube’( National Swimming Centre), the ‘Big Pants’ ( China Central Television headquarters), the ‘Giant Egg’ (National Centre for Performing Arts), get blown away by the great views and fascinating activities. For fashion fans and pub-goers, Sanlitun is a paradise. To add more charisma to your journey, try a rickshaw ride through a Hutong (narrow streets lined with Siheyuan-traditional courtyard residence) and sit down for a green tea sip under a begonia flower tree. It’s worth mentioning that a Siheyuan is now worth over 20million AUD. So have a go.
Braised Crab and Pork Meatball
Braised Crab and Pork Meatball, also known as Crab Meat Lion Head, is one of the traditional dishes in Jiangsu, which belongs to the Huaiyang cuisine. Soft, fat but not greasy, rich in nutrition. The main ingredient is the crab roe and pork rib finely chopped into mince, and slow stewed in a clay cooking pot. It is really easy to make but packed with full of flavour.
Huaiyang cuisine is one of the Four Great Traditions in Chinese cuisine. It is derived from the native cooking styles of the region surrounding the lower reaches of the Huai and Yangtze rivers and centered on the cities of Huai’an, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu.
Lifestyle in Yangzhou
Yangzhou is no doubt the hometown of the Lion Head Meatballs. Yangzhou morning tea which has followed the Huaiyang cuisine is also a must-try. There are many morning tea houses around Slender West Lake, which is a scenic lake and 5A tourist attraction and national park in Yangzhou City. Sitting in one of the lake view tea houses, with a cup of tea in hand, and a few friends, that leisure is nostalgic in this ‘busy’ era. Therefore, take your time, and do not rush to have your morning tea so that you could enjoy the delicious. This is the lifestyle of the Yangzhou people.
Being the representative of Chinese Ramen, Lanzhou Beef Ramen has a long history. The first Lanzhou Ramen restaurant was allegedly established in the early years of the Qing Dynasty. A standard Lanzhou Beef Ramen should feature five colors, namely clearness (broth), white (radish), red(chili oil), green(cilantro & garlic leaves), and yellow(noodles).
The key to this dish is the slow-cooked beef leg bone soup and the hand-pulled noodles, which needs time and technique. hand-pulled noodles are formed by pulling wheat flour dough by hand into long, elastic strips. Compared to hand-cut and machine-made noodles, they usually have a more silky, springy, and chewy texture.
Culture along the Yellow River
Situated on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, Lanzhou is the capital and largest city of Gansu in the northwest of China.
Historically a key point on the ancient Silk Road, Lanzhou, at the southern end of the route leading via the Hexi Corridor across Central Asia, has played a crucial role in the trade and cultural exchanges between East and West. It commands the approaches to the ancient capital of Chang’an (now Xi’an) in Shaanxi, as well as Qinghai Lake via the Yellow River and its tributaries. It is China’s only provincial capital where the Yellow River runs through the entire city, from east to west.
Aunty Ma’s Tofu
If you’re in for the spicy, Aunty Ma’s Tofu (aka Mapo Tofu) is a must-try. Before this dish came into being, nobody would have imagined tofu could have such intriguingly strong and yummy flavour that would make the eaters’ mouth water just by thinking of it.
Named after its creator, Mapo Tofu has many followers with its ‘granny’s cooking’ style. Authentic Mapo tofu applies spicy and sweet broad bean sauce, black beans, minced beef, hand-grounded pepper, garlic and the soul ingredient-tofu. A signature dish of the Chinese Sichuan cuisine, Mapo Tofu amazes the world’s gourmets with its fascinating mixture of tender texture and spicy pleasure.
Sichuan - More than Pandas
Interestingly, there’s more to Mapo Tofu than that meets the taste buds. Mapo Tofu’s birthplace, Sichuan, is full of great places to visit and leisure to enjoy. Besides Mapo Tofu, giant pandas also call Sichuan their hometown. So imagine an authentic Sichuan lifestyle would be somewhat like a panda’s life in certain ways: relaxed and worry-free. Typical Sichuan life would be seeked at the Wide and Narrow Alley.
The ancient Alley is among Sichuan’s most distinctive historical and cultural reserves. Moreover, it is also a hub of functions and events, and a hotspot of entertainment and nightlife, plus numerous restaurants, pubs, cafes, tea houses, antiques and lovely souvenir shops.