A young Singaporean student’s journey in China – Calvin Wee (Part 3)

Calvin is an alumnus of NUS Business School, graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (Honours) with a major in Finance. Calvin was chosen for an exchange program to Peking University in his sophomore year. In his junior year, Calvin represented NUS in the prestigious NUS Overseas College Program where he was based in Shanghai throughout 2019, studying at Fudan University.


Calvin is currently the co-founder of The Young SEAkers, the first and only Southeast-Asia based non-profit focusing on youths with a China and ASEAN angle.


Hi all, Calvin here! Back with another article, I will share some of the amazing food I have tried in the different parts of China 😊 I will focus on food from 5 different provinces that I really like, let's go!


Shanghai Food


Shanghai cuisine,also known as Hu cuisine is a popular style of Chinese food. In a narrow sense, Shanghai cuisine refers only to what is traditionally called Benbang cuisine which originated in Shanghai; in a broad sense, it refers to complex and developed styles of cooking under profound influence of those of the surrounding provinces, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.


Since I stayed for a year in Shanghai, I probably tried most of the popular dishes in Shanghai but I have 2 comfort foods that I eat almost on a weekly basis. They are the salty soybean milk (咸豆浆) and Pan-Fried Buns (生煎)




What is 生煎包 you may ask? Imagine taking your favourite bun and pan grill it until the top of the buns becomes golden brown and crunchy, that’s 生煎包. This amazing food can be a snack on its own or a full meal if you accompany it with rice vermicelli and duck blood soup! (鸭血粉丝汤)The skin for 生煎包 is usually thinner than the normal buns and hence one can easily eat 4 at one go!



For those from Singapore, this might look very strange for you as we are used to drinking the sweet version of soybean milk. I initially couldn’t get used to drink soybean milk that has salt, seaweed, dried shrimps and spring onion inside as well, rather acquired taste it’s a soothing breakfast item to go for many of the Shanghainese!


Hunan Food


With its liberal use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic, Hunan cuisine is known for being dry and spicy or purely hot, as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, to which it is often compared. Hunan cuisine is often spicier by pure chili content and contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients. Another characteristic distinguishing Hunan cuisine from Sichuan cuisine is that Hunan cuisine uses smoked and cured goods in its dishes much more frequently.


For anyone who have been to Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan Province, you will see pictures of this dish everywhere! It’s a dish that made it to the United Nations as the representative dish of Hunan Province. This is the famous Fish head with diced chili (剁椒鱼头).This dish is not for the faint hearted, I think I ate 3 bowls of rice with this! The fish head comes in different sizes and leave a lasting memory for you


Beijing Food


As Beijing has been the capital of China for centuries, its cuisine is influenced by culinary traditions from all over China, but the style that has the greatest influence on Beijing cuisine is that of the eastern coastal province of Shandong.


Foods that originated in Beijing are often snacks rather than main courses, and they are typically sold by small shops or street vendors. There is emphasis on dark soy paste, sesame paste, sesame oil and scallions, and fermented tofu is often served as a condiment. There is less emphasis on rice as an accompaniment as compared to many other regions in China, as local rice production in Beijing is limited by the relatively dry climate.

I stayed in Beijing for half a year before, and of all the food I have tried there, my favourite will still have to be the famous Peking Roasted Duck. I have tried quite a few roasted ducks back in Singapore but nothing comes close to one I had in Beijing. I especially like the version from 四季民福 and they have a branch in a hutong near the Forbidden City where one can see the walls while eating the roasted duck! PS: For an additional cost, you can request to use the duck bones to make a delicious and rich duck soup!


Guangdong

Cantonese or Yue cuisine is the cuisine of the Guangdong province of China, particularly the provincial capital, Guangzhou and the surrounding regions in the Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong and Macau.[ Strictly speaking, Cantonese cuisine is the cuisine of Guangzhou or of Cantonese speakers, but it often includes the cooking styles of all the speakers of Yue Chinese languages in Guangdong. On the other hand, the Teochew cuisine and Hakka cuisine of Guangdong are considered their own styles.

Many of us have probably tried dim sum in Singapore before, so I want to share one particular type of dim sum which I have never seen in Singapore before!


This is a pretty ingenious dish, basically, it’s a combination of 3 separate ingredients steamed rice roll (red because of the colour pigment of lees), fried dough stick and prawns. The prawns goes into the dough stick which then gets wrapped with a thin layer of rice roll! Dip it with the accompanying peanut sauce and you will be transported to food nirvana!


Anhui


Anhui cuisine consists of three styles: the Yangtze River region, Huai River region, and southern Anhui region. Anhui has ample uncultivated fields and forests, so the wild herbs used in the region's cuisine are readily available. Anhui cuisine is heavily associated with tofu, with Chinese folklore crediting the creation of tofu to the Han dynasty prince Liu An who hailed from Shou County (dubbed the "hometown of tofu").

I spent a couple of days in 2 cities in Anhui before, and for both of these cities have this very unique dish: hairy tofu! It doesn’t smell as obnoxious as the stinky tofu but because of the fermentation process, the tofu grows ‘hairs’ that wraps around the tofu, which then gives the tofu a very unique and creamy texture! It is definitely an acquired taste, try it with the chilli, it helps to mellow the taste!


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