Hubei Cuisine
Hubei used to be the state of Chu in ancient times. Hubei food began to develop its own unique style during the Warring State Period. Through development and change over the last 2,000 years, it has become today’s Hubei cuisine. Hubei food is famous for its freshwater fish dishes since almost every fish available in Hubei can be prepared into different dishes. There are all-fish, bream, Mandarin fish, eel, turtle, giant salamander, crab, shrimp, clam, water chestnut, lotus root, wild duck, and preserved – duck – egg dinners. Among the dishes, steamed bream without soy sauce, turtle with wax gourd, instant – boiled fish with tangerine pulp, and braised chicken with chestnuts are all well – known.

An important feature of Hubei food is its blending of fish with other ingredients. The reason why a single variety of fish can be prepared into so many different dishes is that the cooks are very skilled at blending fish with other ingredients. Many of the famous dishes are prepared from two or more raw materials, giving prominence to the major ingredient while attaching importance to the auxiliary materials. For example, stewed turtle is a dish of turtle and pig’s spine, sauted three slivers consists of shredded pork tenderloin, shredded chicken and shredded pig’s stomach, and dragon and phoenix marriage is a mixture of eel and chicken. The names of the dishes indicate that Hubei dishes are prepared from more than one ingredient.

The main cooking methods are steaming and simmering. Steaming has been well discussed earlier in this book. Simmering is used to cook dishes with soup. It is done this way: First, fry the major ingredients in oil with seasoning, then put them in an earthen pot and heat them over a low fire for a long time. The special features of Hubei dishes are crisp bones, tender meat, and thick, genuine soup that go well with rice.

Hubei food is divided into four schools: Jingnan, Xiangyang, E’zhou and Han – Mian. The Jingnan school is known for its braised and stewed game, Xiangyang is famous for meat dishes, E’zhou is well known for its vegetarian food, and Han – Mian is famous for its seafood, poultry, and meat dishes. The three steamed dishes in Mian-yang (steamed with rice flour, steamed with soy sauce and pickles, and steamed without soy sauce) are typical dishes of the Han – Mian school.

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