Home / Environment / Opinions Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
A taste of northern exposure
Adjust font size:

Given the country's enormity, it is hardly surprising that distinct differences exist between the cuisine of the northern and southern regions of China. Different crops flourish in their respective climates and soil; there is varying seasonality and composite ethnic groups along with assorted bordering countries.

Dongbei - the Northeast China - includes the provinces Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning. Those who have spent time in this area can testify to the harshness of the winters which result in much shorter crop growing seasons. Root vegetables and tubers are common, as are hardy greens, such as the ubiquitous Chinese cabbage (da bai cai) and mustard greens.

Vegetables are habitually preserved to extend their shelf life - suan cai (preserved cabbage - much like Sauerkraut) is made in large clay pots by most families for use throughout the year.

Colleagues hailing from Northeast China unanimously cite their favorite dish as suan cai dun fen tiao - preserved cabbage cooked slowly with fatty pork, onions, garlic, ginger and potato starch noodles.

Crops of wheat as opposed to rice thrive and this is echoed by the many types of wheat noodle, dumplings and mantou (steamed bread) that are served. Those visiting Harbin in Heilongjiang for the ice festival should definitely have a meal in the original branch of Dongfang Jiaozi Wang on Zhongyang Dajie - a region-wide restaurant specializing in jiaozi (dumpling) with a medley of fillings.

Other starchy provisions are ground into flour and made into noodle-like staples such as mung bean flour (la pi) and potato starch (fen si). Da la pi is a dish of undressed mung bean "noodles" with slivers of cucumber, coriander and garlic, and a little stir-fried pork. At the table, this is then combined with a punchy sauce of sesame paste, chili and vinegar, ready to be slurped up.

Honey fungus (zhen mo), from the genus Armillaria, grows well in this region and is identified by its golden honey cap and pale brown gills - a parasitic foe of the gardener but friend to the local chef who includes it in dishes such as xiao ji dun mo gu - small pieces of chicken stewed with potato starch noodles and dried honey fungus.

"Hearty" is most definitely an appropriate term to describe food in Northeast China, which includes significant amounts of fatty meat, lard and oil in its cooking. Traditionally, the cold weather and the energy expended in everyday work justified this fare, but nowadays those less inclined towards manual labor should be wary.

One such dish to go steady on is guo bao rou - thinly sliced tenderloin of pork, which is deep fried three times before being shallow fried with spring onions, coriander, vinegar and garlic.

For something less meaty, try di san xian - meaning "three fresh ground vegetables", a warming vegetarian dish comprising green bell peppers, potato and aubergine (egg plant) fried with a little garlic, vinegar sugar and salt.

Dongbei Hu (Northeastern Tiger) in Yayun Cun is apparently one of the best places in Beijing to sample Dongbei dishes - their shouzhua yang pai (roasted lamb chops with cumin and chili) comes highly recommended.

Further from the region, Dongbei Ren (Dongbei People) has three branches in Shanghai and serves great food accompanied by a song if you're lucky.

This nutrition-related column is written by Nina Lenton, a qualified dietitian living and working in Beijing. Contact her at nina.lenton@ikang.com.

(China Daily February 27, 2008)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name

China Archives
Related >>
- Everybody can eat
- Chinese cuisine to highlight Olympic menu
- Chinese Lantern Festival coming
- Soy good for elderly women
Most Viewed >>
- Snow disaster kills 5,500 Tibetan gazelles
- Yellow River blasted to clear threatening ice blockage
- China calls for technology sharing mechanism for anti-global warming efforts
- Plans ready for Hubei urban zone
- 13% of forests damaged in blizzard
Air Quality 
Cities Major Pollutant Air Quality Level
Beijing particulate matter III1
Shanghai particulate matter II
Guangzhou nitrogen dioxide III1
Chongqing particulate matter II
Xi'an particulate matter III1
NGO Events Calendar Tips
- Hand in hand to protect endangered animals and plants
- Changchun, Mini-marathon Aimed at Protecting Siberian Tiger
- Water Walk by Nature University
- Green Earth Documentary Salon
- Prof. Maria E. Fernandez to Give a Lecture on Climate Change
UN meets on climate change
The UN Climate Change Conference brought together representatives of over 180 countries and observers from various organizations.
Panda Facts
A record 28 panda cubs born via artificial insemination have survived in 2006.
South China Karst
Rich and unique karst landforms located in south China display exceptional natural beauty.
Saving the Tibetan Antelopes
The rare animals survive in the harsh natural environment of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Laws & Regulations
- Forestry Law of the People's Republic of China
- Meteorology Law of the People's Republic of China
- Fire Control Law of the People's Republic of China
- Law on Protecting Against and Mitigating Earthquake Disasters
- Law of the People's Republic of China on Conserving Energy
State Environmental Protection Administration
Ministry of Water Resources
Ministry of Land and Resources
China Environmental Industry Network
Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base