Good Eats

WanYuan 皖荟 Revisited

It has been 2 years since we came to this Anhui restaurant. Famous for tofu and tofu derivatives, Anhui is also famous for 臭鳜鱼 smelly mandarin fish. 

Anhui Cuisine 徽菜

Quick recap: Anhui cuisine, alternatively referred to as Hui cuisine, is one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of Chinese cuisine. It is derived from the native cooking styles of the Huangshan region in southern Anhui Province, and is similar to Jiangsu cuisine.

Fact: Anhui cuisine is not the most delicious or unique in all the Chinese cuisines. They are not as popular as Huaiyang cuisine 淮扬菜 for their exquisite tastes and presentation, Sichuan cuisine 川菜 for the mala and spiciness, Hunan cuisine 湘菜 because of Mao and because of the heat, or Cantonese cuisine 粤菜 that has already spread all over the world. The reason why Anhui cuisine becomes one of the Chinese famous major cuisines because it played a very important role in the Chinese history.

Huizhou merchants 徽商 are one of the famous merchants’ groups in the history of China. Anhui located in the poor mountainous areas and cannot survive by farming in the old days. Huizhou merchants began to be active in the Song Dynasty, and their heyday was in the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty. Huizhou merchants were almost everywhere and sold almost everything at that time. They were hard-working, diligent, and thrift, gradually grown from small businesses into large capitalists. The Ming and Qing Dynasties was a time when China’s commodity economy was more developed. Capitalism had sprouted in the Ming and Qing dynasties. This was when Huizhou merchants peaked.

While Huizhou merchants were doing their businesses, they also brought their hometown flavor to almost every corner of China. Anhui cuisine became a famous major cuisine since then.

Our Dinner

胡适一品锅 Hu Shi’s special casserole

胡适一品锅 Hu Shi’s special casserole

Originally known as 绩溪一品锅 Jixi’s casserole, it is a local specialty of Jixi County of Anhui Province. Anhui merchants used to travel across the country and only came home during the important Chinese New Year’s eve dinner. As such, family members would take many ingredients and placed them in circles in a casserole signifying reunion 团圆, and cooked them together for a really complex taste profile. After he tasted it, Chinese writer Liang Shiqiu梁实秋 wrote “一只大铁锅,口径差不多二尺,热腾腾地端上来,里面还在滚沸,一层鸡、一层鸭、一层肉、一层油豆腐,点缀着一些蛋饺,紧底下是萝卜、青菜,味道好极”.

Another famous writer, local boy Hu Shi 胡适 brought this simple dish to US when he was appointed the Ambassador to US and served it for the New Year dinner in the embassy.  It was well received and to commemorate this occasion, they renamed it Hu Shi’s special casserole, because 一品 also means highest ranking official  in Chinese and Hu Shi remained their highest ranking official forever.

It is a whole dinner course in one pot. In the casserole was quail eggs, egg dumpling, braised pork, meat balls, tofu, Chinese sausage, chicken cooked with a bed of broccoli and mustard greens. Enough for 4 persons, and lots of rice as the sauce was so delicious after it took up all the goodness of these ingredients.

徽州臭鳜鱼 Hui smelly fish

徽州臭鳜鱼 Hui smelly mandarin fish

My favourite Anhui dish, it is actually not smelly. It was a way of preservation of fresh fish during the old days when there was no refrigeration. Mandarin fish was harvest in autumn when they were fattest and rubbed with lots of salt. The salt preserved the fish and kept the meat tender.

Before cooking, the salt was washed away and cooked in a savoury and spicy sauce.

牛油果甜筒沙拉 avocado salad in a cone

牛油果甜筒沙拉 avocado salad in a cone

Simple tasting appetiser. Fancy but not nice.

干锅有机花菜 spicy cauliflower casserole

干锅有机花菜 spicy cauliflower casserole

Cauliflower with Chinese ham. Salty and delicious. I liked the touch of serving it in a paper pot, soaking up all the grease and preserving the flavours.

Satisfying dinner, not expensive, all washed down with their homemade unsweetened soy milk.

Wan Yuan 皖荟(来福士广场店)
地址: 长宁路1193号来福士广场东区6层

Date visited : Sep 2019

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