Although the Northern part of China isn’t as vibrant as the southern side of China when it comes to the food culture, we have the Shandong cuisine which is the mother of all the Northern side cuisines.
The Shandong cuisine is also referred to as the Lu cuisine which is also popular among the Chinese schools. Most of the culinary cooking styles of the Chinese cuisine were developed from this cuisine as well as 7 others.
The Shandong cuisine is basically a wrap up of the three main cities namely: Jiaodong, Jinan and Qufu.
The Historic Development of The Shandong Cuisine
Shandong region is one of the first areas to be civilized in the country. This means that its cooking style would later set the pace for the other surrounding areas. Its history dates to the Qin dynasty and got popular during the song dynasty.
Over 3000years ago the Shandong province belonged to Qi and Lu. They had states that were rich culturally and economically. Shandong borders the sea and most parts of the province are mountainous.
They also have fertile plains which means that most of their foodstuffs included the aquatic life, sea salt and grains. During the spring and autumn period, the Shandong meals entailed pork, beef and mutton. They also used fish as part of the cuisine since it borders the sea.
They further were good at making poultry. Over the following dynasties, the cuisine would rapidly develop. At the time you would find the popular roast duck and the roast suckling pigs as well. It’s an aggressive cuisine that would quickly embrace the strengths of the other cuisines.
The Shandong cuisine chefs began to incorporate the traditional style of cooking to the newly invented dishes. The flexibility of cooking styles makes the cuisine appealing in the world of food.
What is Shandong cuisine?
This is by far one of the most common Chinese cuisines that is a representation of the cooking style from Shandong. The cuisine came up because of the geographical and historical characteristics of Shandong region.
It lies in the coastal province of the eastern part of China. To the North, it lies alongside the Bohai sea and to the south, it lies alongside the yellow sea. Its capital is called Jinan.
Categories of the Shandong cuisine
Shandong province is quite large and for this reason, the customs and beliefs, properties and the environment are different. Its divided into 3 areas of the cuisine.
This is mostly influenced by its geographic region which features the mountainous area. You will find that it uses the wild game foodstuffs and seafood in the cuisine. The region also has a valley which makes it the richest region in the fruits and veggies production.
With this geographical setup, you get raw ingredients for use in the kitchen and restaurants. The area is also famous for livestock production with animals like pigs and lambs thriving here. It further enjoys the presence of wild game which makes the cuisine diverse.
The unique flavor of the region is the signature of the Shandong province. The region is further popular for the greatest soups, broths and sauces. The meals here are made using affordable ingredients, tenderness, fresh flavors and great aroma.
The Jiaodong dishes have gained popularity since the beginning of the Shandong cuisine popularity. This is the region that prides itself for rich seafood resources.
In essence, the meals from this region feature attention to the preparation method where the ingredients are neatly cut. They give the fresh and crisp taste. The cuisine also maintains an original flavor of all the raw materials.
Since the region is popular in eating seafood you should always use the light seasoning to avoid overpowering the taste of the seafood. They are further good at cooking both large and small sized seafood.
For all the vegetarians, this cuisine has you covered. These flavors are from the mountain of Taishan where you will find many temples. Note that the monks in this region only eat vegetarian meals.
Vegetarian meals cooked here are mostly cooked using the spring water. The meals focus on tofu, fungi and local veggies. The vegetarian cuisine here is uniquely flavored to appease your taste buds.
Understand the Confucianism In the Shandong Region
Today if you went to Qufu region you will discover the mansion that was the residence of the Confucian residence. You see, of the famous Shandong cuisine, we had the Confucian style and Tan family style of cooking.
The Confucian style of cooking emphasized the essence of heat in the food. It, like all other flavors of Shandong, has a fresh aroma, salty taste and tender texture.
The Characteristics of The Shandong Cuisine
The region with all the raw materials
Talk of a region that has an array of raw materials. From the different veggies and fruits like potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, garlic, onion and explants to all the unique seafood materials like scallops, prawns and sea cucumbers among others.
You will also have rich and domestic animals as well as birds.
It’s all fresh and salty
The cuisine here features the use of raw materials that are of good quality. They like utilizing only fresh ingredients. The kind of cooking though is said to be rich and bold by the southern people as it doesn’t use complicated ingredients.
They further love soups and broths that are salty. This they use to make the dishes. The use of green onion makes the meals bold in flavors. Other ingredients used are garlic and ginger to increase the flavor. They will also work to get rid of the odor from fish and meat.
The cuisine emphasizes taste preferences
The meal features the distinctive flavors carbonatization. With everything having a unique role in the food. They give you the regional flavors and the onion is the common form of seasoning that you will always have as part of your meals.
Unlike most other cuisines where you will have a blend of spices, the Shandong cuisine features the use of onions, ginger and garlic for the flavoring. They sometimes even use the red peppers for the chili flavors.
What you like about the spices is that they accentuate the flavors instead of overpowering them. The spices are less heavily used not like the Sichuan and Hunan cuisine.
What are the daily foods?
This region has the ideal temperature for the growth of wheat, rice among all the other cereals. There’s no clear-cut staple used because they use both the noodles and rice, porridge and corn. The description of Shandong meal is just a hearty and filling dish.
In fact, some people believe that food is a mix of heavy northern meals and lighter southern meals.
The Seasonings Used
You will find the meal featuring the use of vinegar and salt which makes your food salty. The regions vinegar is the dark connoisseur type. They also use soy sauce.
The Food Culture
Notice that the northern people are generally friendly, generous and hospitable. They also have a straightforward personality. One distinct feature that you will notice is that the people here serve the food in large bowls which means there are several styles of food you can eat at ago.
The quality of the food is high because it was the kind of food presented to the royalties. If you are going to enjoy the cuisine you must be ready to partake in the diet courtesy behavior.
The cuisine has bold characteristic
- It has clear tastes and fragrance
All the meals from this region are tender and crisp. They are made cleanly following the different styles of cooking.
The cuisine is also the most prevalent among the cuisines in China. We may attribute this to the compelling nature of the cuisine.
- It is good at making the soups and broths
Travel across China and you will hear it, soup making is popularly done in the North. The soup making process is specifically popular among the people of Shandong. You can have the cuisine being clear or rich broth.
The rich broth is usually made using the chicken duck pigeon and pig bones. You make it by placing the ingredients in the pot with water. You then let it cook for hours. This will let the broth thicken.
On the other hand, you make the clear soup using egg white to enhance the soup color. The soup has a rich flavour with a great aroma. These soups are used when you are cooking your different dishes to enhance the flavors.
Method of Cooking
There are different methods of cooking involved in the cooking process which include the following:
Stir-frying is a common method of cooking that is used in the country. It involves the use of high heat and wok cooking. You also use oil to keep the food from sticking to the wok’s surface. The stir-frying method of cooking further entails a rapid heat method of cooking.
This method of cooking is popular for retaining the flavors and nutrients of the food. You will also receive nothing less than colorful meals. While the Shandong chefs love cooking the food over high temperature, they will drain off the excess oil after cooking.
In some instances, the chefs will add flour, herbs and other seasonings to the excess oil thus making a sauce.
The braising method of cooking is where you have the food boiling at high heat rapidly then you let it simmer after some time. The simmering happens for hours and in this way, the sauce remains thicker in consistency.
The food is then cooked to a tender level so that it remains soft and tender when you put it in your mouth. The people of Shandong usually braise both the meats and veggies.
- Deep frying
In some instances, you will have the food deep fried to attain the crispy exterior texture which makes it crunchy to eat. The interior of the food is then made tender and soft to eat.
Nevertheless, while the method of cooking enhances the flavors, the people of Shandong don’t use the method frequently.
- The pa cooking method
Another common method of cooking used by the Shandong people is the pa cooking method. When you have the onions, ginger and garlic into a hot oil pot, you must cook the raw materials by stir-frying and other methods of cooking.
Next, add the dilute starch as this will make a coating then fry it.
The chef’s unique skills techniques
- Stretching the cucumber by hand
Shandong cuisine calls for creativity. The chefs from this region are known to deliver more than quality when it comes to the cooking process. Notice that the people of Shandong eat fresh sea cucumber.
Since it tastes like rubber when not well prepared the chefs have invented a method that will make it edible. You simply stretch the cucumber into a large piece that is also thin by hand. After this, the cucumber will appear like a thin onion skin.
After the stretching of the cucumber, you will find that it becomes tender with a unique taste.
- The stir-frying flipping
You have probably seen the Chinese chefs stir-frying their different meals using a wok but you haven’t seen the Shandong chefs do it. They apply the method called the dafanshao where you completely flip your veggies over.
When you can do the 180 degrees turn to your food, that means that all your ingredients are nicely mixed which retains the cuisine flavors.
The Representative Dishes
- The braised sea cucumbers with onions
This is one of the unique Shandong dishes. It features the use of sea cucumbers and a lot of onions. The meal features the onion flavor and aroma. For best results, make use of the deeply green onions.
Make sure you fry the onions until they are golden brown in color. Next, spread it over the braised cucumber. The meals will deliver all the perfect flavors and nutrients. You can keep the freshness of the cucumber thus blending the color and flavors.
In various restaurants around the country, the meal remains expensive but nutritious.
- Dezhou stewed chicken
This is one other famous kind of chicken that is found in the city of dezhou in Shandong province. When cooking it, your aim is to have its skin bright and colorful. The meat on the inside remains juicy and tender.
Since the chicken is cooked to a tender level, when you want to eat it you can simply hold its feet then shake it to release the bones. The chicken has been in use for the past 100 years. This is the kind of chicken you won’t find in every other place you go to.
It simply features the red glossy skin, great texture and juicy taste. Some of the ingredients used to cook the chicken include the premium soy sauce, malt sugar, cloves and cardamom among others.
- Yellow river fish
This is not your regular fish as it’s cooked with utmost keenness. The aim of the cooking process is to deliver a crispy exterior and tender interior. To achieve this excellent texture, you need to coat the fish with flour then you go ahead and deep fry the fish to make it crisp.
Once it’s cooked, you can then coat it with your sweet and a sour sauce. The skin of the fish is savory and sweet. It’s a little salty and tasty.
- Four happy meatballs
Here is yet another representative dish for the Shandong cuisine that is also loved within China. This is not your regular European style meatballs as it’s made using pork, mushrooms and other spicy ingredients.
If you are familiar with the red lion head meatballs from the South, note that this is closely related to that type. The meals are quite delicious but it is also popular and traditional that is often eaten during the Chinese New Year.
Here are the 4 happy things
- The first happy thing is that the rain comes in after a long time
- Second is that you get to meet your old friend in the town or city
- The third is that it might be your first night of marriage
- Fourth happy thing is that you have passed your palace exams.
- The eight-treasure chicken
In the ancient days, this meal was served when we had the 8 full course Chinese meal. In recent times, the meal has lost its touch with the favor and flavor since the young generation is focused on the new trends.
It’s important to note that not even many restaurants across the country will make the meal as it used to be done. Nevertheless, the meal is still a signature of Shandong cuisine.
It uses various ingredients and among them are the chicken, mushroom, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger among others.
- Braised prawns
This features another one of the famous meals across the Shandong province. Remember the province has a long coastline which means that the seafood is best preferred. If you enjoy the colorful nature of the prawn meals then you will love this type of prawns.
The prawns deliver a delicious taste, rich color and nutritious dish. It features the rich protein and minerals. The best part is that the prawn meat is cooked to a delicious level. It’s soft and tasty yet easily digestible.
- Shandong chicken twice cooked with black vinegar
In simple terms, this kind of chicken is the crispy skin type of chicken that has been cooked twice. By cooking twice, we literary mean boiled first then deep fried. After the chicken appears crispy you then serve it with black vinegar, chilli, soy sauce and coriander.
Notice that what gives it the perfect taste is the shallots and garlic as well as the use of other fresh ingredients. It has a great aroma and crispy texture.
- Stewed pork hock
This is another one of the Shandong signatures. The meal delivers a great flavor, color and tastes. To cook the pork, you just need to stew it slowly for hours in select ingredients. This way it tenderizes and becomes fully flavored.
You begin by scrapping the pork clean then cutting it into square shapes. You then put it in boiling water for a few minutes then remove it. Some people may rinse them. On another pot, sauté the scallions, ginger, green onions and chilis.
Add your pork and stir a few times. Add the remaining seasonings and water then bring it to boil. Bring the mixture to a simmering point. Let it stew slowly.
Some people may eat it alongside the garlic paste condiment but either way, your food is ready and delicious.
Serve it with noodles or rice.
- Quick fry squid
Squid is a staple in Shandong. The ingredient is often readily available and when properly cooked will be succulent yet delicious. Making it shouldn’t take you more than 40 minutes. Once you prepare it, cut the squid tentacles, remove all the unwanted part and wash it clean.
For quick frying, it should take you not more than 45 seconds. Heat your tablespoon of oil in medium heat. Let it be nicely hot before you add any ingredients.
Cook your flavorings that may include ginger garlic scallions, green onions among others. Next, add the squid pieces and stir them. Finally, add your seasoning and spices then serve hot.
The Best Restaurant for Shandong Cuisine
Yiqinglou seafood restaurant
This will offer you the best Qingdao seafood. It’s a first-class restaurant that has up to 100 rooms and 1200 seating. The restaurant has been in the best restaurants list for a little more than a decade now.
It appears in the list of the very best guides across the board. All the restaurant seafood are sourced from Qingdao China and the rest of the world
Address 1 Shantou Rd, Shinan Qu, Shandong
Jin san bei restaurant
For all those days when you are looking for a great dining experience and high-quality service, you should visit this restaurant. They will serve you almost every kind of Shandong dish.
Address: floor11, San Lian Appliance, Lixia District.
Shandong restaurant, Portland
Even when you are in countries like America you can enjoy your favorite Shandong cuisine. It will look at the new classic dishes in a simple dining room. You will enjoy the hand-pulled noodles with deep fried pork that is cooked in ginger and cherry sauce.
Address: 3724 N.E Broadway Portland.