The Chinese appetite in Beijing: Changzhou Cuisines
Geng Siyuan

Jiangsu cuisine is considered to be one of the four major cuisines in China. Today we will introduce you to a specific branch within the Jiangsu genre, the Changzhou cuisines.

Changzhou city belongs to Jiangsu Province, which is located in eastern China. Bound by the Yangtze River in the north and Tai Lake to its south, it is a place famous for its water, be it the fish, the boats, and a culture of tenderness which feels like the result of the constant drizzle - the weather condition mostly associated with the area - which feels like it is eroding away the roughness from the lives of the locals. 

The signature flavor of Changzhou, or Jiangsu Cuisine in general, is light, with slight sweetness. Fish is one of main ingredients used by local chefs and they are mostly bred in freshwater environments, like lakes or ponds. The three types of fish we will be focusing on today fall into the category of carp. They live at different depths and plants but the same water, thus maximizing the utility and resources of the enclosed space. 

Bao yu

"Bao" means fry and "yu" means fish, but it's also known as fried grass carp. The secret to the freshness of the meat is maintaining an oil temperature of about 180 to 200 celsius. Any lower and the fish would have to stay a few seconds longer in the boiling oil, thus becoming greasy. It is a traditional dish on Chinese New Year dinner tables in thousands of Changzhou households. 

Fried grass carp /VCG Photo

Fried grass carp /VCG Photo

Bean curd sheet and chicken soup

From a nuitritional standpoint, this dish contains a lot of protein, as the soy beans are carefully selected for this dish. The beans go through soaking, grinding, leaching, and stewing to turn them into fine soy bean milk, and finally into bean curd sheets. The flavor of the bean curd is different when made this way compared to that made by machines. It is a craft started and preserved by the Changzhou people, therefore, the bean curd sheet is now considered a local special and visitors to Changzhou are proud to purchase it as a fine present and bring back home to friends and family. 

Been curd sheet and chicken soup /VCG Photo

Been curd sheet and chicken soup /VCG Photo

Tianmuhu fish soup

The flavor of the silver carp or bighead carp used in this casserole is maintained as chef try their best to keep the dish as naturally flavored as possible. "Hu", the last syllable of the word, means lake, and "tianmu" is its name. The lake is located in Liyang County, which is south of Changzhou City. The fish is simmered and cooked for three hours with basic ingredients. What's unique is that it's the "lightest" possible meal in the whole cuisine. 

Tianmuhu Fish Soup /VCG Photo

Tianmuhu Fish Soup /VCG Photo

Like last time, we recommend a restaurant with a completely authentic chef in the kitchen in Beijing. Located in No. 113 of Jixiangli, Chaoyangmen Outer Street, the "Beijing Changzhou Restaurant" preserves all the original flavors almost a thousand kilometers away from home.