Traditional Chinese dishes often have the same care and thought in their meals. These thoughts are around medical properties, balance, distinct flavors, and seasonal creations.
Take Honest Food Talks pepper steak as an example. In this meal, the sweetness of the pepper and the earthiness of the steak create a balance of light and crunchy textures with smooth and melt-away meats.
But instead of talking about basic stir fry, we want to showcase five traditional foods you may not have heard about.
Starting with Peking duck; you may have heard about this dish from your local takeaway or restaurant.
The name Peking refers to the old capital city of China. It was originally called Peking, not Beijing.
The preparation of Peking duck is remarkable, as it creates a dry and spicy flavor. First, air is pumped under the skin, and then the whole duck is cooked in boiling water for just 2 minutes. This allows the skin to separate from the duck’s main body, and it’s then tightened to create a crisp texture.
As the duck hangs to dry, it is rubbed with soy sauce and 5-spice. The last step is roasting the duck.
This long-winded process creates rich and spicy skin with juicy and tender meat. The balance is in the textures.
The next dish we want to share is also a common sight in authentic Chinese restaurants. Dim sum is traditionally a brunch or breakfast meal.
Because of the hot climate in China, many people prefer to eat small portions often instead of following the western diet of 3 large meals.
Dim sum is little parcels of rice pastry that wrap around small portions of vegetables and meat. Typical fillings include prawns, pork, mushrooms, cucumber, and bean sports.
The flavors are often mild and delicate – inviting you to enjoy the subtleties of a small meal.
Biang Biang Noodles
Now onto lesser-known meals. You are probably familiar with noodles, but biang biang noodles more closely resemble lasagna sheets than ramen. They are shaped like a thick belt, which would be easy to visualize if you cut up a long lasagna sheet, into two or thin long pieces.
They are normally created by hand, usually when the chiefs of the home didn’t have enough time to create thin noodles. They were considered sloppy but delicious home comfort foods.
However, in recent years, biang biang has become a social media favorite. Because you don’t need to be as meticulous when creating these noodles, people with less experience in pasta-making can give it a try with greater ease.
Sichuan Hot Pot
A Sichuan hot pot is a soup so spicy that it is expected to numb your mouth. Included in the ingredients are meats, seafood, noodles, and vegetables. However, the most important ingredient is the Sichuan peppercorns.
Hotpots are normally created by guests offering an item into the pot as part of a social event. However, this version is created for heat seekers.
Sichuan is a province in China, and the hot pepper got its name from the anglers that lived there in the early 20th century.
These workers were often too poor to eat good cuts of meat and so normally bought offal or offcuts. To make the meat taste good, they would cook them in a spicy broth. Using the peppers in the local area, the heat from the spicy food was enough to warm the body, disguise the real flavors and create a social experience.
Often called “steamed buns”, xiaolongbao is a type of dumpling made from underdeveloped dough stuffed with pork, seafood, and vegetables.
After being twisted and pulled at the tips, the buns are added to a bamboo steamer for delicate cooking.
Similar to dim sum, xiaolongbao is expected to be eaten in small amounts throughout the day. However, it’s not surprising to see them used as sides in western Chinese restaurants.
You would normally have xiaolongbao for breakfast, served hot and dipped in chili vinegar.
The subtle flavors paired with the small portion sizes are the typical style of a Chinese meal.
Final Thoughts on Traditional Chinese Dishes
Each of these traditional Chinese dishes portrays a different side to Chinese cuisine. They show resilience against poverty-enforced bland meals, a delicacy in a country too hot for large dishes, and an allowance for comfort food, despite meticulous expectations.
We suggest you try every one of these dishes in your lifetime and experience the history and culture that food can bring.