Chaozhou is my ancestral hometown. I am aligned with being a Teochew Nang (the people from Chaoshan region). Every year, there’s a Teochew Food Festival in Singapore. Now, I went for the real thing for a comparison.
Beef, lots of it
I am quite surprised on how Teochew cuisine is so tightly coupled with beef. My dad was a Buddhist and would eat none of it. So do my extended family members who have not adopted the “foreign religion”. So I grew up “beefless” and only discovered bovine deliciousness in high school when I decided to follow the one true God.
Beef balls 手打牛肉丸
There are hundreds of stalls and shops that sell beef noodles. I always thought of beef noodle as a Hainanese delicacy as it was usually sold by the Hainan dialect group. But here, Chaozhou hand-beaten beef balls are a nationally recognised delicacy that even appeared on CCTV now immortalised 舌尖上的中国 “Tastes of China”, a marquee TV series that featured all the famous delicacies from all over China.
The balls are crunchy and full of flavours.
Beef hotpot 潮汕牛肉火锅
One of the most famous is Baheli Beef hotpot. I have written numerous posts about them, so I will skip describing the experience here.
Chaoshan Beef hotpot can be considered as a beef feast – beef sliced from 16 parts of bull are cooked. You can taste both lean meat and marble meat like part below the cow’s neck, Wuhuazhi, Sanhuzhi, Cipi meat, snowflakes meat, Diaolong, Feipian, chest meat. The Diaolong, a long cut of meat along the back of a cow, with the rib eye in the first half and sirloin in the second, is most delicious. The boil time of the meat is different while the longest is 15 seconds. The experienced chef selects and cuts beef skillful, and the fresh beef has been quickly prepared for the guests to taste!
The slightly greased Diaolong meat tastes fragrant and tender, after being boiled for just a few seconds. Snowflake beef is imited supplied. Each table can order only one dish.
Teochew kwayteow 潮汕粿条
Often mixed up with our Cantonese cousin’s horfun 河粉 (rice noodles), Teochew kwayteow 粿条 has a higher mix of rice flour to water, resulting in a thicker, more chewy version. It is more noodles than horfun.
While the ones in Singapore are machine-cut, in Chaozhou, they are still made into big sheets and then cut to dimensions before cooking. In popular shops, this is where customer participation comes in. Because of the long queue, some regulars will go and cut the kway (uncut kwayteow) according to their preference and pass them to the chef.
This is usually served as a soup-based noodle dish. You can almost add anything you want, the most popular are beef balls, blood pudding, pig offals, sliced beef – but the soup is always a clear anchovies and pork bones stock. Served throughout the day and night, breakfast for champions and hangover cure for the night owls.
Teochew kueh 潮汕粿
Sweet and savory, available it all shapes and sizes and can be vegetarian or not – Teochew kuehs are not like the Perenakan cousins, most are called exactly what they are and taste to match what the ingredients are. In short, it is an unpretentious experiment of using ingredients that are usually bland and boring like mung bean, bamboo shoots, etc and turn them into tasty and pretty kuehs. While Perenakan kuehs are works of art, Teochew kuehs are labour of love.
Soon kueh 笋粿
Soon Kueh was a Teochew perennial favorite snack food as the region was blessed with plentiful stock of bamboo shoots. You can rarely get real Soon Kueh in Singapore as most have replaced the fillings with the less expensive turnips in place of bamboo shoots.
The filling was full of bamboo shoots. This wasn’t the best time for bamboo shoots so they were a bit fibrous.
Poon kueh 饭粿
This is the kueh for the gods. It is always made for ancestor worship and other religious ceremonies.
Teochew Porridge 潮州糜
Teochew porridge 潮州糜, my comfort food, has been referred to as 打冷 “Da Lang” in Cantonese. It all originated from Shantou 汕头 where a lot of our forefathers came from. Fuyuan has been regarded the best of the heated competition there.
Teochew Haute Cuisine
If you think Teochew is only capable of simple street food like kway teow, beef ball and kueh, think again. Teochew cuisine is considered one of the healthiest and most exquisite of the different genres of Chinese cuisines. Though not part of the Top 4 (Sichuan, Cantonese, Lu and Huaiyang), its renaissance in the 90s demonstrated the depth and tastiness of Teochew cuisine.
We have only spent 4 days in Chaozhou, so we could not have chomped through everything. We have not tried the local braised goose, oyster omelettes, rice dumplings, carrot (radish) cakes, etc. The list is endless. We can only hope to return soon to continue eating.
Here’s a listing of posts regarding Teochew cuisine.