Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flavours of North West China

I went to an interesting restaurant near my home a few days ago. It is called Xibei restaurant and those of you who know some Chinese will understand that they serve North West Chinese style food. The food is very fresh, healthy countryside food. The cuisine has more grain-based foods since they grow more grains in the north, so many different types of noodles, pancakes, dumplings and buns are found. There is also the Muslim influence from the sizeable Muslim population in the NW, especially around Xian, Lanzhou and Ningxia.

As soon as you enter you get a warm feeling from the red lanterns and folk papercuts.
And look at the colourful rural patterns of jackets worn by the staff welcoming us at the door.
As they lead us to our table we walk by traditional containers of different kinds of grain.....not just plain old rice but various beans, millet, maize and barley.
It feels as if we have entered a traditional Shaanxi village where the villagers live in caves dug out of the hillside. Here the "cave dwelings" serve as private dining rooms.
Note the "fish" hanging from the window, they symbolise a wish for a plentiful harvest.
Some more harvest produce
We start our meal with some cold starters...cucumber dipped in sauce...
....followed by cold noodles and wheat gluten in hot sauce.

 Bean curd is eaten everywhere, and this type has a special texture and has a soy sauce based dipping sauce.

Lamb is a popular meat in NW China and prepared in various ways, roasted, fried, sizzling plate, and stewed.
Even though there is no town by the sea in NW China, they do have freshwater fish. Here is a slow-baked fish dish which is so soft that even the bones can be eaten.
And finally I think you can't guess what this honeycomb like dish is! It comes in its wooden steamer, and is like macaroni...little circles of pasta, made from buckwheat...very good for eating with the spicy food.
That is the end of our NW China meal. You really feel like you are in a rural village but actually you are near the city centre of Beijing. If you want to try the food in its original surroundings, you could take a side tour to Xian (see Jun 2010 blog) and see the terracotta warriors at the same time. Feel free to ask me for more details.