The Chinese appetite in Beijing: Anhui Cuisine
Geng Siyuan

Many people think that Anhui Cuisine refers to cuisine in the Chinese province of Anhui, but in fact, it refers to Huizhou cuisine. Located in southern Anhui, Huizhou was consisted of Anhui's Huangshan City and the counties of Jixi, Xiuning, and Wuyuan, the latter of which now belongs to Jiangxi Province. Signature cooking techniques of the cuisine include stewing, steaming, but not much frying. It relies on oil, sauce that adds heavy color to the food, and a big fire.

Fermented Tofu

Fermented Tofu with Chilli. /VCG Photo

Fermented Tofu with Chilli. /VCG Photo

Fermented Tofu can be found in fancy restaurants, or on a stand on the street.

It is said that before Zhu Yuanzhang became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and was losing a war near Huizhou City, his troops ran out of food. The soldiers could only find tofu left by citizens who fled to escape battles. The tofu had been fermented for too long. Zhu and his men had no choice but to roast it. Somehow, they found the taste quite delicious.

This is supposed to be the story of fermented tofu. But obviously, people today don't ferment it till it's gone bad anymore. The tofu is usually served with spicy sauce.

Marinated Chinese Perch

Marinated Chinese Perch. /VCG Photo

Marinated Chinese Perch. /VCG Photo

Originally, Chinese Perch was not found in waters near Anhui Province. In ancient times, a local businessman who traveled far came back home with this very expensive Chinese Perch. He marinated it, hoping it could stay edible for as long as possible. But it was summertime, and the fish had gone bad anyway till he got home. The dish was preserved, as he insisted marinated Chinese Perch was super delicious.  

Mei Gan Cai

Moon-cakes stuffed with Mei Gan Cai. /VCG Photo

Moon-cakes stuffed with Mei Gan Cai. /VCG Photo

"Cai" means vegetable in Chinese. Again, this one goes through marination, before and after which the vegetable is dried under the sun, and then preserved. The vegetable could be mustard green or cabbage. Mei Gan Cai is found almost everywhere in Anhui Cuisine, such as stuffing moon-cakes, a dessert. 

Merchants from Huizhou contributed remarkably to the prosperity of the country during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties: They were among the top 10 business groups in China. And they brought Anhui Cuisine to many places they traveled. Today, the people of Huizhou have opened thousands of restaurants catering to Anhui Cuisine. In Beijing, the Chinese capital, for instance, there are at least 200 such restaurants.