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Food to eat in China when it's freezing outside
By Megan Zhang
CFP

CFP

The winter months can be brutally cold in some regions of China, and people who live in these frigid environments often turn to warming dishes to heat themselves up. The Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse, but the most popular foods are those that can strengthen the immune system and warm the belly, while replenishing the yang energy in our bodies.

Yang is part of the dualism concept in Chinese philosophy, according to which opposing but complementary forces come together to create balance and wholeness. The other half of the duo is ying. Yang is masculine energy and is associated with brightness, heat, dryness, the sun and daylight. Chinese people believe that the yang energy starts to run low during the cold months of winter, and eating certain foods can counter that.

If you find yourself in China during winter, here are some foods to try that are sure to help keep you warm.

Mutton Hot Pot

Mutton hot pot is an ideal way to warm up in the cold weather. /CFP

Mutton hot pot is an ideal way to warm up in the cold weather. /CFP

No winter trip to Beijing is truly complete without a meal of shuan yang rou, or mutton hot pot. Thin slices of mutton are boiled in a communal hot pot along with a variety of vegetables, before being dipped in sesame sauce and eaten. The act of congregating around a steaming pot with family and friends is warming not only for the stomach but also for the soul, and it's a favorite winter activity in northern parts of China. The company and the cozy atmosphere are as much a part of the experience as the food itself.

Glutinous Rice Balls

These sticky balls of dough, often stuffed with delicious fillings like black sesame paste or peanut paste, are staples during traditional holiday celebrations such as the Winter Solstice and Lantern Festival. The food symbolizes family togetherness and happiness, and is a sweet treat for rounding off a reunion meal. Many people believe that glutinous rice balls are also effective in dispelling cold, so different varieties are often regularly rotated on the dinner table during the winter. Some families like to boil the rice balls in rice wine, which makes the treats even more warming.

Beef Stew with Potatoes

A winter favorite among families across China is tu dou shao niu rou, or beef stewed with potatoes (carrots often make an appearance as well). It sounds simple, but the braising method produces tender meat and soft vegetables that make for a comforting and nutritious dish that is believed to boost strength and immunity in the cold season. The earthy flavors and warming spices are also particularly satisfying when the weather outside is miserable.

Candied Hawthorns

Many parts of China experience frigid, snowy winters. /CFP

Many parts of China experience frigid, snowy winters. /CFP

It's virtually impossible to step outdoors during the winter in Beijing and not see pedestrians gripping skewers of bright-red, sugar-glazed fruit. A local favorite among children and adults alike, tang hu lu (or bing tang hu lu) are candied hawthorn fruits on a long bamboo skewer. The fruits are covered in a delicious coating of hardened sugar syrup. Each bite leads to a satisfying crunch from the sugar glaze, which gives way to the tangy hawthorn fruit encased inside – a perfect blend of sour and sweet. Hawthorn fruits, which resemble crab apples, are usually no more than a few centimeters in diameter.

Red Jujube and Lotus Seed Porridge

A bowl of comforting porridge is the perfect meal in the cold winter months. /CFP

A bowl of comforting porridge is the perfect meal in the cold winter months. /CFP

Porridges of all different types, combined with various rice and bean varieties, are a staple food in China during the winter. Because the blood circulation can slow a little in the cold weather, Chinese people like to give it a boost with foods that are believed, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, to benefit the heart, spleen, and nerves. Red jujubes and lotus seeds are among the ingredients that commonly appear in winter porridges. To prepare this dish, pitted red jujubes and lotus seeds are boiled together with rice to produce a thick and comforting porridge that can warm diners up during the seemingly endless winter.

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