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Chaoshan Cuisine

 2014-03-28    Yan    Food    Chaozhou    2288  

Teochew cuisine, also known as Chiuchow cuisine, Chaozhou cuisine or Chaoshan cuisine, originated from the Chaoshan region in the east of Guangdong province, which includes the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang.

Although Chinese chefs can debate ad nauseam about what "true" Shanghainese or Sichuan cuisine is, there's one regional cuisine, Chaoshan -- an area I recently traveled through -- whose food has stayed true to its roots over time.

Teochew cuisine bears more similarities to that of Fujian cuisine, to which it shares some dishes, which may be due to Chaoshan and Fujian's cultural and language similarities and geographic proximity. However, Teochew cuisine is also influenced by Cantonese cuisine in its style and technique. So here is the list of things you must try if you get to Shantou.

Firstly, go to the local market in the mornings, when local farmers bring in their freshly picked vegetables and other products for sale.

Crystal balls are served in every Chaoshan restaurant or stand on the streets. It is a steamed dessert with a variety of fillings such as yellow milk, yam paste or bean paste made from mung beans or azuki beans. They are similar to mochi.

For breakfast, Chaoshan rice porridge is accompanied by a myriad of condiments ranging from pickled cabbage and radish, to cold steamed fish, dried shrimp, marinated baby squid and fried tofu. Even a locally produced, bit size, fresh cheese that resembles feta can be added. Far more interesting than some of Shanghai’s often bland congee. Teochew-style congee is widely favored, thus when you come to Shantou, you must try ethnic Teochew-style congee. It is a rice soup that has a more watery texture as compared to the Cantonese congee. It is commonly served with various salty accompaniments such as salted vegetables (kiam chai), preserved radish (chai por), boiled salted duck eggs, fried salted fish and fried peanuts.

Unlike Cantonese food where barbecued meat is arguably one of the more representative dishes, the most famous culinary method in this region is marinated broth stew, where poultry (especially local geese) and other meat are slow cooked in a highly flavored broth.

Char Kway Teow, rice porridge, fish ball soup noodles and oyster omelets are some of the must-try dishes in the area. They're best served not in restaurants though, but sampled at street-side hawker stands and at small family-style restaurants. Grab some chopsticks and dig in. Lying on Guangdong’s coast, there's no shortage of seafood in Chaoshan, and the abundance of fish is often used to create fish balls -- fillets of fish are crushed into balls or fishcakes, which are then lightly fried.

Tieguanyin is one of the most popular Teochew teas. However, the Teochew people prefer their own brand of Oolong tea, which is the hong wang dan cong teh. To aid digestion, gong fu tea is a staple of Chaoshan meals -- the daily beverage of choice throughout Chaoshan region.

Mostly brewed in an iron goddess, pu’er or the locally grown fried tea leaves are essentially Chinese espresso: half a cup of loose tea leaves are brewed with equal amount of water in a teapot. By adding more boiling water to the teapot, different flavors will develop as the tea leaves gradually open up with each re-brew, just like a bottle of good wine that develops as it breathes. 

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