Chinese Dining with the Minorities(2)

  • Date Posted: 2011-11-07 15:20
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A banquet scene during a funerary  ceremony of the Baiku Yao minority

A banquet scene during a funerary  ceremony of the Baiku Yao minority

The Miao minority, which populates much of the border regions of Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guangxi and other provinces, commonly prefer sour-tasting dish, with Sour Soup in every family. The making of Sour Soup is by mixing rice soup and bean curd into an earthenware pot for three to five days until it ferments. It is used to cook meats, fish, and other vegetables. Preservation of food is commonly done by way of curing, for making sour vegetables, chicken, duck, fish and other meats. Almost every family has a “sour pot” for storage of cured foods. The Miao minority has a long history of winemaking. There is a very comprehensive set of procedures from making wine yeast, to fermentation, distillation, and storage in a cellar.

The Dong minority of Guizhou also loves sour foods. There are pickled Chinese cabbage, pickled bamboo shoots, cured pork and fish in every family. There’s a Dong folk song that goes like this, “The man shall not be lazy; the lady shall not be over-indulged in having fun. Grow and cook good sticky rice and make excellent marinade Chinese Foodsfish. The mountains are full of treasures for diligent people, and every family has a full pot of sour foods.” Furthermore, the Dong people’s preserved duck and meat paste, fish and pickled ginger are all very well known. Interestingly for preserved fish, it must be sealed for storage underground for three years, sometimes even up to seven or eight years, before unsealed for use.

Women of the Va minority pounding  rice

Women of the Va minority pounding  rice

The Bai minority is the most focused on foods for festivities among all the minority nationality groups. Almost every holiday has several holiday foods to go with. Ding-ding Candy is for Spring Festival. Steamed Cakes and Bean-starch Noodles are for the Third Month Holiday. Pure and Bright Festival (tomb-sweeping day) has cold jambalaya with dressing and fried crispy pork. Zongzi (sticky rice cake wrapped in reed leaf) and realgar wine are for the Dragon Boat Festival. Various types of sweets and candy are available for the Torch Festival. For Mid-autumn Festival, it is the “White Cakes” and “Drunken Cakes.” Lamb is special food for the Double Ninth Festival. There still much more holiday food traditions of the Bai people. It is truly a bright and colorful life.

The Zhuang minority has the largest population among the minorities. They mostly inhabit the province of Guangxi, with also small populations in Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Hunan. The Zhuang-inhabited regions are teeming with rice and corn, which is naturally their principal food. The Zhuang people are not forbidden to eat any poultry or livestock meats; some areas even prefer dog meat. They often cook chicken, duck, fish and vegetables to about a medium degree, then just quickly stir-fried it before use to seal in the fresh taste. Rice wine is the main hospitality drink of the Zhuang people. Mixing the wine with animal innards, and we have Chicken Gallbladder Wine, Chicken Innards Wine, Pork Liver Wine and so on. When having Chicken Innards Wine and Pork Liver Wine, the drink is to be swallowed at once first, with the chicken innards or pork liver left in the mouth to be chewed slowly. These wines can be both a drink and a food dish.

The upper floors of houses of the Qiang minority are used as storage space for foodstuff and other sundries.

The upper floors of houses of the Qiang minority are used as storage space for foodstuff and other sundries.

The three provinces of China’s northeast region are also inhabited by a few minority nationalities. The Korean minority is a representative here; their food pays attention to freshness, fragrance, crispiness and tenderness. Most Korean foods have a piquant flavor. The ingredients in Korean dishes are usually the most tender of fresh meats cuts. It is usually raw with marinade, preserved, or boiled in soups. Raw and marinade beef threads, raw tripe, and raw fish slices are all traditional fare of the Korean minority. Preserved vegetables of the Koreans are famed in history. Its ingredients are common vegetables, including Chinese cabbage, turnip, hot pepper, ginger and so on; salt is added before curing. The taste is refreshing with a stinging pungency, but with all five flavors present, being fragrant, sweet, sour, hot and salty at the same time. Korean pickled foods make fine complements to Chinese folk foods.

Men of the Va minority having lunch on the grain field.

Men of the Va minority having lunch on the grain field.

The Hezhen minority nationality that lives in the Sanjiang Plains area of Heilongjiang Province is the only group in northern China to rely mostly on hunting and the use of dogsleds for living. Their diet is rather old-fashioned, keeping tradition of eating raw foods until this day. Its most distinguished dish is the “Kill Raw Fish,” where raw fish is mixed with vegetables rinsed with boiled water, including potato threads, mung bean sprouts and leek, added with chili oil, vinegar, salt and soy sauce. It gives off a fragrant, fresh taste and tender texture. In the Daxing’an Mountains live the Elunchun and Ewenke minority nationalities. Being amidst their “natural zoo” environment, they have kept the primal dietary tradition Chinese Foodsof “eating meat and drinking milk.” They can often have deer milk and meat, roe deer feast, snow hare meat, pheasants and other wild animals. But these wild foods are already extremely rare delicacies in the inland part of China.

A Uygur young man is grilling mutton kabobs.

A Uygur young man is grilling mutton kabobs.

The Hui people who believe in Islam can be found throughout the country. They mix in with the Han Chinese, but adamantly keep to their unique dietary habits no matter where they go. Rice and pasta are their principal foods, with a preference for dough cakes, flapjacks, stuffed buns, dumplings, soup noodles, and noodles mixed with sauce and toppings. Compared with the Hans, the Hui nationality’s biggest tabooed food is the pork, with dog, horse, donkey and scale-less fish also among the list of forbidden foods. They will not eat any meat of animals that were not slaughtered but died due to some other cause. Alcohol is also strictly forbidden. Since the taboos are strictly enforced, in towns and cities, the Hui people have their own qingzhen restaurants, so they would not have to dine with other non-Muslim people. Therefore, Hui qingzhen food stands unique among the numerous minority nationality food styles, and has produced many qingzhen dishes such as Triple Quick-fry, Steamed Lamb, Lamb Simmered in Yellow Sauce, and Lamb Tendons, which are all famous fares. Names such as Donglaishun, Hongbinlou and Kaorouji are all very famous qingzhen restaurants in China and even on the international scene. It is safe to say that the development of Hui qingzhen food has made great contributions to Chinese diet and culinary arts as a whole.

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