Anhui cuisine is one of the eight cuisines of China. It follows a regulated cooking technique and preparation method.
It’s further not as popular as the other seven cuisines yet it’s a representation of the flavors from South Anhui, Yanjiang and Huaibei areas.
Notice that, unlike the Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese and other cuisines which are consumed across the globe, this cuisine is mostly consumed within the country.
The only reason it’s in the list of the 8 best cuisines is that it has a major impact on Chinese history.
What Is Anhui Cuisine?
This cuisine is also called Anhui favors and it features the food from Heifei, Wanjiang, Huainan, Northern Anhui and Southern Anhui.
It’s prepared with the aim of maintaining its original flavors although the food is often characterized by a salty and spicy nature.
This cuisine adopts the cooking style of the yellow mountain’s region. It’s also closely related to the Jiangsu cuisine. You will find that the cuisine features the use of wild game and herbs.
Where Is Anhui Located?
Anhui is an eastern region province in China. It’s one of the smallest provinces of the country that is also landlocked. Generally speaking, the province is said to be poor in agriculture.
For this reason, historically, the natives ventured in business and they also vastly migrated to other parts of the country. They still migrate to date. They are also the suppliers of labor force to various provinces today.
The province is crossed by Yangtze River and Huaihe River. The region is divided into 3 parts the South, Middle and North Anhui. Heifei capital is found at the central part of Anhui. The name Anhui literary means peaceful beauty.
Although it was considered the poorest province in the country, today, irrigations schemes and other measures have been put to place to improve its economy. The region’s cuisine features hearty mountain food. The mountain food is from the yellow mountain.
The History of Anhui Cuisine
Huizhou which was the administrative region of China had six counties called Jing, Gan, Xiuning, Qimen, Jixi and Wuyuan counties. The Anhui cuisine is originally from the ancient Huizhou city. It has taken it more than 800 years to develop.
Notice that the eight cuisines were all developed at different historical and geographical times. The Huizhou cuisine began to grow with the rise of Huizhou merchants and it then spread across the country.
On the contrary, when the Huizhou merchants declined the cuisine also declined. Mind you, everywhere they visited, they left the traces of the cuisine.
The cuisine was formed from the traditional cooking practice of the Anhui people as they also borrowed the cooking skills from other regions.
But what led to its development?
The Huizhou merchants were known to like talking of business entertaining and going for social gatherings. At such times they served Huizhou dinner as a way of respect for their guests. This they would do in all parts of the country as they were spread across the country.
Another unique thing about them is that even though they were spread across various parts of the country they always ate the Huizhou cuisine wherever they went which led to the cuisine’s popularity. Additionally, they made Anhui restaurants across all parts of the country.
These restaurants would serve not only them but also the locals. This further helped in the popularisation of the cuisine.
Note that this was easy because between Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty the Huizhou merchants remained the powerful group in business. In fact, they had established restaurants that dominantly prepared the Anhui cuisine across the country.
In Shanghai alone, they had over 100 restaurants which are to say that they had dominated business in the area. The cuisine further spread to regions like Jiangsu province, Zhejiang and Jiangxi province.
Features of Anhui Cuisine
Use of wild herbs
Anhui cuisine uses more herbs to spice up the food. This may be attributed to the fact that it’s a mountainous region province.
The use of chilis
Unlike most other neighboring cuisines, the Anhui cuisine isn’t really focused on the cooking technique as its focused on the amount of heat they use on the meals. Notice that the Huizhou merchants were travelers.
When traveling to different regions they had no access to their hometown ingredients thus to balance and acquire the authentic Anhui flavors, they used just enough chili.
Different fire control method
The controlling of the fire to cook the food is essential for the people of Anhui. Different foods are cooked under different fire control methods. This determines whether you will have fresh, crisp, tender and delicious flavors of the region.
It’s the one region that’s mostly concerned about the food cooking temperature. It follows a traditional set principle of the cooking your food. When required to use high, medium or low heat the chefs simply follow guidelines.
The use of fresh ingredients
The province is set on a mountainous area with rivers passing across it. You will, therefore, find fresh fish and fowls. Moreover, the climate is ideal for the growth of fresh veggies and fruits today. This means that the food cooked contain crisp and tender veggies.
Notice that in cooking, they also use a wide range of ingredient to release necessary flavors. Luckily the ingredients are easily accessible.
Focus on natural and healthy food
Anhui cuisine is made with the belief that food can also act as medicine when carefully prepared with rich ingredients. The region is known to produce traditional rich herbal medicines. This means that the food is designed to act as herbal medicine.
In summary, the cuisine focuses more on the tastes to produce as well as the rich color of the food for effective presentation.
The region has different meals
Anhui like most other food regions of China has hundreds of foods you can eat. You only need to have the desire to cook or visit the restaurants and streets whenever you are hungry.
In tasting the food, you will realize that they are good when it comes to cooking mountainous and sea delicacies. They will focus more on retaining the original flavors and tastes.
Anhui province being situated on mountainous regions uses most wild ingredients which include wild veggies, wild caught frogs, turtles and other small shrimps and fish. All these are caught in the wild. They like to add these wild ingredients to their soups and sauces.
For these people, food is also a form of medicine and they, therefore, focus on ingredients that will deliver the medicinal value to their bodies. Depending on the season, Anhui people use yin and yang food that will help you achieve body balance.
They also promote health and comfort. The cuisine is the same one that is popular for the ingredients found in the mountain region. Some of the ingredients include bamboo shoots, bayberry, tea leaves among others.
The people of Anhui love mushroom and therefore, since you have them from the mountain you will always find them featured in their cuisine.
The staples in the cuisine
Notice that this region popularly used rice as a staple food. Today they also use noodles as a staple just like other areas of the country. The people of Anhui have learnt to grow root vegetables like potatoes to act as staples as well.
The pork and ham use
This is the region where you will use the pork to cook various meals.
Methods of Cooking
This is one region where the chefs and people try to use only the simplest methods of cooking. Notice that the most important aspect of this cooking method is to ensure that you control the cooking temperature. They focus on using the simplest method of cooking.
The red-braising method is where you use ingredients that give the red color which is often sugar. This cooking method requires a controlled heating temperature. It’s a common method of cooking where you slowly braise the food to impart the red color.
Notice that, this method of cooking is popular in the northern, eastern and south-eastern China.
This is another method of cooking that is popular across China. This is the process whereby you cut your meats or veggies into small pieces then cook it over a stipulated time in the minimum water or stock.
You will cook your food and liquid together. It’s a good process to make your food flavorful and tender.
The steaming method of cooking is another method common in Anhui cuisine just like all the other parts of China. Steaming appears to be a healthier option compared to various other cooking styles.
You place your food in the cooking basket and into a hot water bath to slowly steam.
Other methods used to cook include the sautéing method, roasting, deep-frying and stir-frying.
The Representative Dishes
- Braised pork ribs
Notice that just as the pork belly is commonly used in Chinese cuisine so is the pork ribs. Anhui region being a region where pork is a regularly used ingredient, the braised pork ribs are perfect for use in this province.
In the Anhui style, the pork ribs are braised in soy sauce but if you like you can also add the dark rice wine. Normally the braised pork develops a rich dark sauce. The pork ribs become sweet which is a result of the fatty parts of the ribs.
Remember the soy sauce has a great influence to the flavour of the pork. You can, therefore, use the red wine to enhance the pork flavors thus making you lick your fingers.
- The smelly mandarin fish
The fish being cooked here is sourced from Xinan river. For the enhanced flavors, salt the fish and let it rest for a couple of days so that it can develop the pungent smell.
When cooking this meal, you start by braising it in soy sauce. Notice that at this point both the fish and your sauce are strong in aroma and flavors. The fish meal is not welcomed by most at the first experience but once you try it you will easily get hooked.
You may think that from the name the meal is disgusting but no. It’s rich in flavors and texture as it is packed with great and unusual tastes and flavors. You can also fry it with ginger, garlic and soy sauce to further enhance the tastes. The staple that accompanies the food is rice.
It was also commonly used by the royalties and it’s Anhui signature meal.
- Anhui style hotpot
Hotpot is regularly enjoyed in China during the winter season. Made using the pork and other fresh ingredients, the hotpot is light and sweet to eat. It was invented by the wife to one of the ministers in the Ming dynasty.
It was often enjoyed during important feasts in the empire. The hot pot meal is delicate in nature. It features the use of bamboo shoots at the bottom of the pot, on the second layer, you have the meat pieces, the third one has the fried bean curd.
Other ingredients placed include the meatballs, bean threads and dotted spinach. You then season the food and add water to make the soup or stock. Make sure you let it simmer for hours long. This will retain authentic flavors and tastes.
- Li Hongzhang Hotchpotch
This is another traditional Anhui dish that was invented by the dignitary of the Qing dynasty. He prepared the banquet meal for his royal friends in the US.
The meal was so good that the people ate it almost all so the chefs out of confusion of what to add for their guests’ meals decided to improvise the meal. They used sea cucumbers, squid, tofu, ham mushroom and chicken meat among other meals.
It was then left to simmer and the result was a great meal. It then became an appetite quencher and from then on it was adopted as one of the major cuisines in the region. The meal is colorful with a great texture and richly flavored soups.
- Stewed turtle with ham
Nothing beats the best turtle with ham when you have the money to buy it. The meal is quite delicious and you will notice that it has a great reputation when it comes to great flavors and tastes.
Notice that, this meal is a combination of five flavors in one meal. The flavors include chicken, deer, beef, pork and fish. Other necessary ingredients include the ham and thigh from the pork. The best ham to use is the one that has already been cured
The characteristic of this meal includes tenderness, deliciousness and aromatic meal that will leave you a great after taste.
- Bamboo shoots cooked with dried mushroom
Naturally, the bamboo shoots are the traditional delicacies of Anhui. It suits all those looking to take the vegetarian meal. It’s crispy, tender and jade white. Also, it’s delicious and juicy yet nutritious. The bamboo shoots are often cooked with sausages and mushroom.
The cooking process produces a strong flavor and luckily the bamboo shoots also produce a strong fragrant. The best method of cooking is the stir-frying process because it will deliver the nutrients and flavors. Nevertheless, you can also cook it using other methods.
- Fuliji roast chicken
This cuisine is originally from Fuli town and the meal has been used for over 80 years. The whole process of cooking the chicken is artistic. You should choose your healthy chicken then let it drink water before killing it.
After this, hang the chicken to dry before you spread malt sugar on them. You then fry it on sesame oil. To cook it best, stew the chicken in stock for over four hours. The best part of this meat is that it develops a beautiful color and rich flavor.
The meat tenderises to the extent that when it’s fully cooked it quickly separates from the bones. For all the state banquets this meat is presented.
- Fat king fish milk soup
Are you a woman who is on those days of the month?
Fat king fish milk soup is made to suit a new mon or one who is on monthly periods. You can make these soups yourself at home by frying your raw and nicely cut ginger then add the chicken broth. Salt and white snow mushroom.
Let it cook for about 12 minutes then add in the diced tomatoes. Let it boil for about 3 minutes then add your sliced fish and leave it boiling for another 3 minutes. To flavour it, you may add unflavoured milk and wine.
Garnish it with nice cuts of green onions then top this up with the sesame oil and serve. This meal is rich in iron and will help the women bring back the blood loss at childbirth and during menses.
Best Restaurants for The Anhui Cuisine
Tongqing tower restaurant
This is a restaurant established in 1925 and it’s designed to only serve Anhui cuisine in Beijing. However, it also has a branch in WUHU and Wuhan. If you are going to eat here, consider eating the smelly mandarin fish, braised pork in brown sauce.
Address: 7F, Jinbaohui Shopping Center, No 88 Jinbao street.
Wan Nan Shui Xiang restaurant
Here you will enjoy various Anhui delectable. Most people recommend that you eat braised fish in soy sauce, chicken soup, fried eggs with chives among other best meals.
Address: south of No 7 building, Huixin Nanli, Chaoyang district
There’s one characteristic that stands out on the cuisine, it’s that the cuisine presents the fresh and tender meals. I have tried most of these meals and I can assure you that they are heavenly.