Hefei’s most famous son was Justice Bao, the Sung dynasty official that was famous for being just and fair, and would pretty much put any bad guy under the guillotine. So with this guy around, don’t expect a vibrant history of excellent entertainment,.
Justice Bao has been represented in many Chinese TV serials as the Magistrate of Kaifeng (which is modern day Hefei), but actually he was not a local boy. But because of him, Kaifeng enjoyed many, manu years of stability and low level of crimes, it was described that “nobody needed to lock their doors and everyone charged their wares and services fairly.”
I was told not to expect too much of the cuisine for Anhui called Yu cuisine 豫菜. It is a cross between Jiangsu cuisine, with which it shares the trait of selecting ingredients according to the four seasons, and to a lesser extent, Beijing cuisine, from which it adopted many cooking methods. And it is usually oily and strong tasting.
The famous tidbits of Hefei 合肥四大名点
There are four classic tidbits from Hefei, Anhui. 四大名点，寸金，烘糕，麻饼，白切. We were served three types.
- Sesame biscuits 麻饼 are made from molasses, osmanthus, dried plum or mandarin orange peel, etc and sesame on the outside. Very sweet and fragrant.
- White cuts 白切 are actually found as white or black colours, and is a simple cookie coated with sugar. The dough is cut into the thickness for baking and hence its name.
- Gold nuggets 寸金 are so called because the resembled gold nuggets of old. It is a deep sweet rice cake.
Homemade yoghurt 老酸奶 was served as an appetiser.
Around 火宫殿 Temple of Fire God in Changsha, Hunan were many stores that sold Hunan street food for many generations. Chairman Mao even wrote a prose about one of his favourite, the smelly tofu.
This place served the same smelly tofu – 正宗火宫殿臭豆腐 Authentic Fire Temple Smelly Tofu – and it was presented on a brown paper, just like how it was sold, except that it was printed with Mao’s handwritten prose. Of course, I do not know how did this restaurant get the IP rights to recreate this dish as the original is now owned by the Fire Temple Dining Group, but it was rather delicious. The chili-bean paste sauce that accompanied the tofu was good, but I think it was not as spicy as the original.
Poached Prawns 白灼斑节虾 was overcooked and dry. And they tried to make it looked good by adding cooking oil. Epic failure!
After a couple of misses, I wasn’t expecting much from this business luncheon. And then they served Stir-fry Pig Liver with Jalapeño 青椒炒猪肝 which was really good. The liver was still soft and creamy, and the heat from the jalapeño lifted the entire dish with multi-dimensional taste – slightly sweet, mainly savoury and mildly spicy.
Stinky mandarin fish 臭鳜鱼 is a classic Yu cuisine. It was created out of necessity because of their distance from fresh fish sources. The fish was stored in a briny broth that slowed down the decomposition of the fish. The result is a smelly fish, but flesh that is still tender and edible.
Vegetarian mushroom soup 浓汤素拼 was just a simple hot pot of enoki and white cabbage in chicken stock.
Pig trotters in white braise 白炖猪手 tasted like the Teochew pig stomach soup, peppery and simple. It could go the other way very easily if the pig trotters were not cleaned properly.
Chives and Cabbage Pork Dumplings 水饺 – there were two types of fillings in these dumplings, chives and cabbage dumplings. Simple fillers for the lunch.
As we called for the bill, we were each presented with a badge of Chairman Mao. The manager explained that because we ate the stinky tofu that was from Mao’s hometown and his childhood favourite, we were presented with a token of remembrance for following Mao’s footsteps. I can imagine Justice Bao turning in his grave.
Bird of Juno 红顶孔雀(万达店)
Date visited : Nov 2018