Bite of China II - Realm of Secrets
In the capital of China one can find Turkey Kebap, Spanish Paella or French Foie Gras with original taste and flavor. People in New York(纽约Niǔyuē) City are able to buy Rouga Mo (or literally Marinated Meat in Baked Bun, a Chinese hamburger popular in north Shaanxi Province) at streets of Manhattan, and in Melbourne can have a try of Peking Roast Duck. The travel of human and foods bring those delicacies of each country even more famous. However, less popular foods unavoidably exist. Some of them hidden in China’s rivers, deserts, mountains or other places are also delicious, that’s the realm of secrets we are looking for.
The temperature of Dalinuoer Lake in Inner Mongolia falls to thirty degrees below zero, to fish in early winter holes must be cut in the center of the frozen lake. Net about 800 meters long casted from the holes move under water for 6 hours, and then fresh fishes about tens of thousands of kilograms are dragged out. Amur ide, commonly known as Huazi Fish, is in the good haul. Steaming is the best way to keep the fresh taste of the fish just caught, while adding hot and sour ingredients can whet appetite, and frying the fish is also not complicated, only three to five minutes with low fire is needed. The slow-growing fish which has extremely high requirement on environment reaches merely 200grams after four years’ growth—it’s a tasty food more difficult to obtain from lake.
Beihai, a city located in the southernmost of Chinese coastline, is one of the starting points of Chinese Maritime Silk Road. On the beach less than 100km from the city a small creature contemporary with dinosaur are enjoying their dinner—seawater and algae in sands after tide. Called Ghost Crab but in fact it is a beautiful animal, especially under the light. Though the length is only 2cm its creeping speed can reach 1.6m per second, nevertheless, human is more agile and eventually it becomes the raw material for a condiment Ghost Crab Extract. Gut the crabs and wash clear, grind them with pestle and add some salt and white spirit. After about one month’s fermentation the unpleasant smell disappears and a magical condiment(a preparation (a sauce or relish or spice) to enhance flavor or enjoyment) is formed.
The tradition of eating mutton has a long history in north of the Great Wall and the western region of China. Human’s wisdom endows the meat various flavors in different areas. Herdsmen in north China’s Hulunbuir prefer Boiled Mutton Eaten with Hands, during the forty minutes’ boiling no seasoning is added in, and the large pieces of mutton are served together with spicy Leek Flower Sauce. Almost all Chinese gourmets consider the best mutton coming from Ningxia Plain, an area in the northwest of China derived from alluvium of the Yellow River. Salt will destroy the cell membrane of mutton and make it tough, thus this most common seasoning is only put before dishing up by people in the plain. People in Hotan, a city near Taklimakan Desert in northwest China’s Xinjiang, use sheep tripe as the natural “cooking vessel”. Mutton steeped in condiments is packed to the sheep tripe and roasted in hot sands which with a temperature of 180 degrees centigrade after being heated by charcoal fire. Four hours later, mouth-watering aromas waft through the sands. Remove the tripe coating, the fat has been grilled crispy and the lean part is al dente.
Reputed as “Kingdom of Plants”, Yunnan(云南Yúnnán) in southwestern China is the hometown of many mushrooms, among these kinds Termite Mushroom can be called the top grade. This unique delicacy is cultivated owing to hard work of termite, a creature appeared on earth over 200 million years ago. Worker ants excrete half-digested forages from their bodies and implant a fungal spore in the excrements. The spores gradually grow up to hyphae and then to sporocarps under proper temperature and humidity. Fried Termite Mushroom is an extremely delicious food simply cooked with salt, and it is cherished by people in the area of Awa Mountain crossing the border of China and Myanmar. Bracken, another material for delicacy, can be found on China and Korea’s border Changbai Mountain. After finding this plant which was ever the principal food of dinosaurs, locals in Yanbian of northeast China’s Jilin Province choose the tender parts and blanch them to reduce the bitter and astringent tastes. Although simple cooking way is applied as well, there’s no doubt that it’s an excellent cuisine but merely less touched.
These are the “hidden” delicacies in comparatively remote places of China(中国Zhōngguó). With the development of tourism and increasingly formation of global village, more and more realms of secrets will be discovered, and hopefully you can have a try of these fine foods on your China tour one day.