There’s one thing that will help you understand Chinese cuisine better and that is understanding the regional cuisines where the grand cuisine was derived from.
Being a native of China, I understand and enjoy the Fujian cuisine better.
The Fujian cuisine also known as min/hokkien cuisine is one of the 8 great cuisines of China that originates from Fujian province.
The cuisine came in much later after the others were already into the system.
The Location of Fujian Province
Fujian province is in the southeast coast of China. The region is famous for its coastal and mountainous cuisines. It borders Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Taiwan and Guangdong. It’s a streamlined province.
Fuzhou the capital of Fujian is where the cuisine is derived from. Since the province consists of both the mainland and islands, Fujian is both an attractive destination and rich province with its style of cooking assuming the coastal and mainland style.
Notice that the province has a diversified terrain. On one end is the mountainous region while the other is the coastal region. It further features the plain area where you will find rice plantations.
The History of Fujian Cuisine
Notice that the Fujian cuisine is diverse and it has a similar cuisine to the eastern regions of China. It’s especially closely related to the Taiwanese cuisine since the people kept fleeing from their home town during the historic war period.
The economic growth brings along the flourishing of both the culture and cuisine. It began to flourish during the reign of the southern song dynasty. During the Qing dynasty which occurred around the 18th century, the Fujianese spread the cuisine across other parts of the country.
The development of the cuisine occurred during the Yongjia turmoil. This was the time when other families of the country flocked the province. At this time, they brought in new technology and cultures which saw the growth of the Min cuisine.
Some of the ingredients introduced include the red yeast rice which was natively from central China and became popular at the Tang dynasty. To date, the red rice is still a popular ingredient in Fujian cuisine.
In summary, this cuisine was developed because of the two waves of people who got into the region.
- The first wave was in the 4thcentury during the Western Jin dynasty when there was the retreating of the rich families and their entire families.
- The second one occurred at the Tang dynasty in the 9thcentury when most people moved to the coastal region in search for peace from war.
At the time both people brought with them their cooking styles and they readily embraced the native cuisine.
The Styles of Cooking
Notice that this cuisine is divided into 3 major styles depending on the region where it’s most popular.
This is the capital of the province that is also home to various meals of this cuisine. One characteristic about it is that it’s lighter in comparison to other styles. It has a mix of sweet and sour tastes. They further mostly use the fermented fish sauce and red yeast rice.
The style is famed for its best soups in the country.
- The southern Fujian
I would characterise this one as the kind having the mix of spicy and sweet flavors. Since its closer to Taiwan, you will notice some traces of the Taiwanese meals in the cooking style.
In addition, its influenced by the meals from the Southeast Asian region and Japanese cuisine. The meal often uses a lot of sugar and spice. Even this style features slow-cooked soups.
Like most other cuisines in China, you will always have the dipping sauce to accompany your rice, pork, beef and chicken among other meals.
- Western Fujian
The style often uses mustard and pepper which makes it spicy and tasty. The food from this region tends to be saltier and oilier. The region is further away from the sea, therefore, they focus on meats and not seafood.
This style is the least oily of the 4 styles above. It features the flavorful yet tasty cuisine. The emphasis on the presentation of the cuisine makes it important to choose some select ingredients.
The characteristics of the cuisine
- The use of soups and broths
Being a region known for the best soups in the country, understand that they specialize in making rich soups. Almost every meal is then served with soup or in soups thus cooking methods like stewing, braising and boiling are popular.
- Slicing and cutting is an art and presentation is key
The cuisine emphasizes the cutting and slicing of the ingredients neatly and in a uniform manner. Moreover, the ingredients used in the cooking process are carefully selected.
Since the food was initially meant for the important people in society, the presentation was key. To date, Fujian cuisine emphasizes presentable cuts.
- The three meals system
In a full day, the people of Fujian are served 3 meals that you will easily recognize.
You start your daily meals with rice soup and other small dishes called juk. You will have 2 to 3 different kinds of soups that accompany almost every meal throughout the day. This shows you the essence of the soup in every meal.
In other instances, you have the dipping sauces to accompany all the different kinds of meals. This dipping sauce may be anything from crushed garlic in vinegar which is served with poultry while maltose will work with fish.
You will have your regular dinner and lunch meals. However, you can also take different snacks between meals.
- Artistic cuisine
The other unique characteristics of this cuisine are that their meals are delicate yet tasty. They feature the selection of ingredients, using the set time to cook following the set temperature and mix of flavors.
Unlike other regional cuisines, the Fujian cuisine features the less salty meal for those who are concerned about salt in their meals. For a dish to be declared delicious, it must balance the flavors. In fact, the lesser the salt the better the meal.
- The use of fresh ingredients
Notice that this cuisine is based in mountainous and sea region which means that all ingredients used in the preparation of the food are from the mountain. You will have wild herbs, different fungi, other wild food and seafood.
Generally, the region uses natural resources thus reducing the need to consume more calories. this means that your meals become highly nutritious. If you are watching your weight, this may be the place to go to for your food.
The Ingredients Used in Cooking
Notice that there are thousands of ingredients used in the cooking of the Fujian cuisine. Since it’s a mountainous region, some of the must-have ingredients include mushrooms and bamboo shoots and tremella are common here.
You will further find edible bird nests, sturgeon and cuttlefish. The use of garlic and green onion in various meals act as the spicing agents. The meals use the pepper, mustard, spice powder, aniseed and cassia bark.
They sometimes use the peanuts for garnishing. Other ingredients you will use include the seafood. The people will not only eat fish and oysters but also the sea cucumbers, sea worms and snails and slugs as well as sea veggies.
The people of Fujian know the importance of rich flavors for their food. They will use the wild herbs and other seasonings as you will see below to season the food.
The seasonings you expect for your food include soy sauce, sea salt, shrimp sauce, white vinegar, anise, cassia cinnamon, pepper, mustard, brown sugar, shrimp oil and shacha sauce.
Sometimes they may use apricot for the preservation process. They also commonly use wine lees.
They use the red rice wine which is made using glutinous rice that is fermented with red yeast. The production of the rice wine takes over a year. Its essence is to add the sharp, sweet and sour flavor. This is the signature ingredient for the cuisine.
You may use it to cook your light meats, stir-fried veggies and seafood. It helps to produce a light and pungent sauce. It has a deep rose red color which enhances the presentation of the food.
The Cooking Methods Employed
Like other regional cuisines, they employ vast methods of cooking. Some of the common ones include braising, stir-frying, stewing, boiling, sautéing, boiling deep frying among others. You may also use the pan-frying method.
We must have the soups as part of their meals. For the people of Fujian, a meal prepared without soup is no meal.
The Staple Food in Fujian
The province has plain areas where we grow rice. It’s a major cereal used in the cuisine. However, they also use the red yeast rice which is coated with red mold.
This rice mold has the medicinal effect yet it’s slightly sweeter.
The Respective Dishes
- Buddha jumping over the wall
This dish has a history of over 200 years and was invented at the time of Qing dynasty. The dish will give you over 18 ingredients and 10 minor integration meals. It has shark fin, duck’s gizzard, sea cucumber, abalone and bamboo shoots among others.
You then add the other 10 ingredients and the Shaoxing wine before you cover it with lotus leaves. You then heat the mixture and Shaoxing wine will help in making the soup. Notice that the meal formation has great stories.
The most common one is that when the meal was cooked and the jar opened the Buddhist in the temple couldn’t resist the temptation to go eat the meal. They set aside the rules and commandments then rushed over the wall to go seat at the feast and enjoy the meal.
- Spring rolls
This is a popular meal that is widespread across China. Though you will find it amongst many other cuisines the people of Fujian believe that it’s authentically of the min cuisine. The Chinese spring rolls are brittle on the outside but tender on the inside.
The Fujian people normally wrap in various veggies which means you will find it crispy on your first bite then aromatic on the second bite. They were the best snack presented to people at the beginning of the spring season.
They are also used to entertain distinguished guests. If you may have noticed, even non-Chinese enjoy eating spring rolls. The rolls have freshly fried veggies and you can make them fried or non-fried.
Most people love the fried ones as they are sweet and savory. They were originally formed at the beginning of the Tang dynasty. It was used by the rich families in the country. To date, it’s still an adored meal.
- The hot and sour squid soup
This is a delicious Chinese delicacy that features the use of chili, veggies and others. The only other difference to the meal is the use of squid in the recipe. For most people it’s an exotic recipe yet it happens to be easy to make a meal.
This soup should be richly flavored. Sweet, salty and spicy.
This delicious meal features the use of lean pork meat that you take from the shanks and mix with glutinous rice. You then pound this mixture to a paste and finally sprinkle it with starch. The skin used is basically the wonton skin.
Are you familiar with surimi? Yanpi assumes the same flavor and texture. You will develop a thin yanpi skin which is then used to wrap your Rouyan. The Rouyan is commonly used to make Taiping yan.
This is a special soup that you eat on the various special occasions in the north of Fujian. In the 20th century, yanpi was popularized as being one of the best meals in the cuisine set up.
- Stewed Chicken with Three Cups Sauce
Remember we said that the cuisine borrowed some flavors from the people of Taiwan. This is one of those kinds of meals. Notice that the number 3 in Chinese is used to symbolise the high quality of the dish you are eating.
From the color to the aroma and to the taste the meals should depict a balance. Before one begins enjoying the meal, they should have an attractive aroma to entice them. Talking of the aromatic meal, this three-cup sauce gives you the taste of the best in the cuisine.
In this case, the three cups are about the three main condiments used in equal, proportions in the meal. You have the sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. Although the meal is said to use the ingredients in equal proportions it doesn’t.
The name is used to emphasize the essence of the three ingredients. It further uses the rice wine to increase the fragrance as you improve the taste. For better results ensure you use more ginger and garlic.
Notice that this food remains delectable.
- Fish ball soup
Notice that the unique thing about Fujian cuisine is that the meals are mostly from the sea. The meal uses fish as an essential part of the cooking process. You need to crush the fish meat to a muddy flesh.
Go ahead and add ginger, a little salt then makes small balls it will come out being authentic in flavor. It will cook to the al dente level and it can work in the hotpot meals as well. This soup is often used during the winter seasons.
- Oyster omelette
This is another one of the meals that is common in Fujian as well and Taiwan. For the Fujian people, this is a borrowed delicacy. It’s also a favorite nightlife dish for the Taiwanese. It may vary a little in taste and appearance but it remains the same.
It’s basically a kind of omelette that contains the small oyster fillings. You will mix the starch with the egg batter to give it a thicker consistency. For enhanced flavor, they use pork lard to fry it. In addition, you pour a savory sauce on the omelette.
You will find some people adding a spice and chili sauce that is mixed with lime juice. Remember to use the spring onions to enhance the flavors of the meal. For most people in both Taiwan and Fujian, this is a street snack but you may also use it as a main meal.
It packs the umami flavors and savory tastes.
- Fujian lychee pork
The name comes from the fact that the small pieces of fried pork assume the shape of the lychee once they are fried. In simple terms, you have small pieces of fried pork together with the water chestnut cooked in the sweet and sour sauce.
Fujianese even use red wine to further flavor the meal. You will have the pork curling upwards and since they assume a red color staining they resemble the lychee fruit. This is to say the meal contains no lychees. It just assumes the shape of lychees.
Since it has a sweet and sour taste, it resembles the tastes of meals in the southern side of China. You may add yams, green onions and tomatoes if you like.
Places to Eat the Fujian Meals
Huang zehe peanut soup shop
Do you love soups? Would you like to eat the Fujian soup?
In Xiamen, this shop is said to be the best place to enjoy your peanut soup. The restaurant also has various meal styles of the Fujian origin but the soup is the most popular.
Address: No. 22, Zhongshan road, Siming district.
An Tai Lou restaurant
For all your Fujian style meals, visit this restaurant. You will excite your palate and look for more every time.
Address: Ji Bi Road 39, An Tai HuangJin plaza, Fuzhou China.