On Chinese New Year’s Eve a great spectacle takes place across the far corners of China. Millions of people migrate across the world for an eagerly anticipated reunion, travelling thousands of miles to land at the doorstep of their kitchen tables. Owing to the incredible geographic and cultural diversity that exists in China, Chinese food is incredibly multi-faceted, to the extent that discussions of Chinese cuisine are a huge oversimplification. So for the time being, forget that sweet and sour chicken you’ve just ordered (you know who you are) and journey with us across China, on an epic discovery (four dishes) of authentic and regional Chinese cuisine!
Xian: Biang Biang Noodles
Biang biang noodles
In Xian noodles of every size, shape and flavour are proudly exhibited across every street corner. Biang biang noodles (I haven’t just made that up) are special handmade noodles hailing from China’s Shaanxi province. The noodles are deliciously chewy and wide with a special texture imparted from the hand-preparation. A dish so special that the character ‘biang’ doesn’t even appear in a Chinese dictionary. Legend has it that the character biang is derived from the noise the noodles make when the dough is pulled and slapped against the table during preparation.
Sichuan: Dry Spicy Pot
Dry spicy pot
Sichuan province in Southwestern China is the most widely served cuisine inside China, famous for its spicy flavours and the unique taste of the Sichuan peppercorn. Dry spicy pot (sounds much better in Chinese) is a rich dish that contains a mouth-numbing combination of Sichuan peppercorns, chilli and various additions of vegetables and meat. The ingredients are dry-fried which conjures up an intense spice, making it one of the most popular restaurant dishes.
Shanghai: Red-Braised Pork
Shanghai cuisine is characterised by a slightly sweeter taste (like me), often incorporating sugar and braising methods to achieve the characteristic red glaze that accompanies many dishes. Red braised pork is a testament to Shanghai cuisine—pork belly is braised with a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, dark soy sauce and sugar until the meat and fat melt effortlessly together in a rich silky-sauce. This dish a masterful symphony of sweet and salty tones that dance on the palate of your tongue.
Guangdong: Pork Tripe Chicken Soup
Pork tripe chicken soup
Cantonese cuisine, in this case, referring to the food found in China’s Guangdong province, occupies a prime position in the famous Eight Culinary Traditions of China (what a mouthful). Of all the regional Chinese cuisine, Cantonese cuisine is the most widely recognised across the world. Guangdong is a coastal province and has a plethora of fresh seafood and ingredients, where dishes are expertly cooked with delicacy to retain their original flavour and texture. Pig tripe chicken soup is a beautiful marriage between the pleasant chewy textures of stomach and silky-chicken, bound together in a rich soup by the fragrant embrace of white-peppercorns.
A little less conversation a little more cooking please #cmdishes
By Gurdhit Panesar
Gurdhit Panesar is an ex-chef, PhD student and currently writing for China Minutes, Nouvelles d’Europe, UK Edition. He previously studied Chinese in Shanghai and Sichuan, which is where he developed his passion for Chinese cuisine.