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                         China Eight: Anhui Cuisine

An inland province in southeastern China, Anhui includes parts of both the Yangzi and Huai river systems. The capital of the 130,600 square kilometre province is in Hefei, and it is noted for its mountainous terrain, including the magical Huangshan peak.

Definition

With the areas surrounding Anhui noted for their salty (Shandong), hot and spicy (Sichuan), and oily and sweet (Jiangsu) dishes, fans of Anhui cuisine claim it blends all these tastes perfectly.

History

Anhui can also be called Huizhou food - and was spread through China by successful Huizhou merchants during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Beginning in the Southern Song Dynasty, Huizhou was centrally located on the North-South trading axis, and during the Ming and Qing dynasties the power of the "Huizhou Merchant" was legendary. Perhaps this mercantile spirit is why Anhui food "trades" flavours from the surrounding regions?

Recipe Book

In the kitchen: in the Anhui kitchen you will find sugared candy that is often added to give a little zip to a dish.  Selections of salted smallgoods (salted sliced meats, common to mercantile cultures around the world) lie ready to be added to many different dishes. All the famed medicinal ingredients from Huangshan mountain are here, including the mountain's stark white bamboo shoots and fragrant mushrooms (xianggu). Looking a little more carefully, you might see Anhui's famous stone frogs and soft-shelled turtles awaiting the pot.

At the cooker: exact temperature control is vital to ensure that the dishes retain all of their flavour and goodness, and also to preserve the wonderful colours of the ingredients, which are an important part of the cuisine.

On the table: spectacularly presented colourful food, rich and pungent scents from the preserves and the famous Huangshan fragrant fish.

Local Flavour

Focus: If you have eaten the light yet distinctively gamey meat that is frog, you'll know that one of the difficulties with the average frog dish is the lack of meat on the bone. The Huangshan stone frog (sometimes listed on menus as "chukka") is an impressively sized black-skinned amphibian at 250 grams on average that provides plenty of healthy meat. Health is a key word -- the frog is said to have all sorts of medicinal properties - and eating this dish is supposed to assist in strengthening bones (essential as we all get older), help remediate eyesight effects, and even reduce fever! Better yet, the preparation of this dish calls for the frog to be steamed -- locking in the flavour -- and then lightly flavoured, to really enjoy the light, sweet and intriguing taste.

Words

Lightly salty tastes, strong pungent fragrances, legendary medicinal properties.

Dishes

Huangshan fragrant fish, smallgoods selections (varies in different restaurants), Bagong Mountain tofu rolls, three rivers gumbo, stewed soft-shell turtle with sweet ham, Li Hongzhang hotchpotch (stew).

Hui cuisine with more than a hundred year's history is one of the Eight Major Cuisines of China. Hui, unlike other cuisines, features wild game. Cooking methods feature braising in soy sauce, stewing and steaming. Originating in Shexian County, Huangshan City, Hui Cuisine is strict about choosing materials, and making sure of freshness and tenderness.

 

Soft Shell Turtle Stewed with Ham
A soft shell turtle, pork, ham, bamboo shoots, a clove of garlic, shallot, ginger, soy sauce, salt, rice wine, black pepper, lard are all stewed together in a pot on charcoal fire. The dish is not greasy and gives diners endless aftertastes. 

Bamboo Shoots from Mt. Wenzheng Cooked with Sausage and Dried Mushroom
This dish is a traditional flavor in Huizhou mountainous area. Cooked with sausage and dried mushrooms, the bamboo shoots are more fragrant. It is delicious, and noted for its good color, juicy meat and thick soup.

 

 

 

Li Hongzhang Hotchpotch
This dish is a popular dish named after one of Anhui's famous personages. Li Hongzhang was a top official of the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). When he was in office, he paid a visit to the US and hosted a banquet for all his American friends. As the specially prepared dishes continued to flow, the chefs, with limited resources, began to fret. Upon Li Hongzhang's order, the remaining kitchen ingredients were thrown together into an impromptu stew, containing sea cucumber, squid, tofu, ham, mushroom, chicken meat and other less identifiable food materials! Thus appetites were quenched and a dish was created.

Mandarin Fish (Chou Guiyu)
This dish features the Mandarin fish from the Xin'an River. After salting, it is braised in soy sauce.
 
  Fried Odorous Bean Curd (Youjian Mao Doufu)
Odorous bean curd is a kind of sour bean curd with a layer of white 'hair' fried in a pan then sprinkled with seasonings. While the bean curd smells bad, it is delicious. It is common to see in snack stalls. If you can bear the odor, you should try it.

Royal Pot (Yi Pin Guo)
It is said that Royal Pot was created by Mrs. Yu, the wife of Bi Qiang who was Ministry of Justice, Works, Revenue and Personnel of Shitai County in Ming Dynasty. One day, the emperor suddenly came to the ministry’s house for dinner. Mrs. Yu prepared a feast of fat things and especially cooked a Hui style hot pot, and the emperor enjoyed this dish very much and called it Royal Pot after he learned it was cooked by Mrs. Yu herself.
The cooking of this dish is quite demanding. Dried bamboo shoots are put on the bottom of the pot, then flesh lumps are put on the second layer, fried bean curd on the third, pork balls on the fourth and bean threads are covered on the fifth dotted by spinach or dried lily flower. Then all this things are simmered in water with seasonings.
This dish is famous for its county flavor, and tastes thick and fresh.

 

 

 

 

  “Grape” Fish
“Grape” Fish is a creative Hui dish that enjoys high reputation in cooking circle. This dish originates from Xiao County of Anhui, which is famous for producing grapes. Inspired by the famed wine there, local cooks create “Grape” Fish that resembles grapes in color, flavor, taste and appearance.


Fish Cooked with Mutton inside (Yu Yao Yang)

This kind of dish is cooked by stewing fish with mutton inside.
It is said that in Qing Dynasty a peasant from Huizhou took four sheep to go across a river. Because the ship was too small, a ram was squeezed off the ship into the river and attracted a lot of fish. Those fish enjoyed the mutton and ate too much to swim. A lucky fisherman driving a tiny fishing boat came by. Seeing so many fish jumping up the water, he was very happy and threw a net and caught a lot of fish. After the fisherman went home, he cooked those fish with mutton in and found it very delicious and special. This story was spread out and local cooks also tried to cook such kind of dish and found it tasted really good. Since then, the dish has got its name as "Yu Yao Yang"and has become famous.

 

 

 

 

Bean Curd from Mt. Bagong
Bean curd, with more than two thousand years of history, originated from Huainan region of Anhui. Bean curd of the best quality was produced in the region of Mt. Bagong of Huainan, thus, bean curd there was called "Mt. Bagong Bean Curd". The bean curd was made from pure beans and fountain from Mt. Bagong. The skills of producing bean curd are inherited by generations of local residents; therefore, the bean curd there is very fine, white, fresh and soft.
 

 

Shi'er and Shiji Stewed in Bamboo Tubes
Shiji is a kind of batrachia (frog or toad) living in mountain brooks. Shi'er is a kind of fungus. The shiji is cooked with a sauce of ham and shi'er in the bamboo tubes. It is quite refreshing and tastes fresh and tender.
 
  Fuling Rose Pastry
Fuling Rose Pastry, originated from Fuling Village of Jixi County, got its name for the rose flower inside the cake sends out fragrance.
The pastry is made of white sugar, sesame, powder and malt sugar as main ingredients, and rose flower, berries as accessories.

Fuliji Roast Chicken

Fuliji Roast Chicken, renowned both at home and abroad, originates from Fuli town 30 miles north to Suzhou City. It has a history of more than 80 years and is famed for its distinctive flavor.
It's a fine art to cook the roast chicken. First we should choose the healthy and strong chicken and make them drink clean water before killing them. Then hang them up to dry, spread malt sugar on them and fry them in sesame oil. Last, stew them in soup stock for four to six hours with 13 kinds of spices like nutmeg, pepper, angelica, etc.

 

 

 

  Wuwei Smoked Duck
Wuwei smoked duck, originated from Wuwei county of Chaohu city, has more than 200 years of history. It is famed for its fine art, special flavor, select materials, golden and oily color and soft meat.