Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Dairy of Singapore active senior. Best years of food, travel, lifestyle

My Introduction to Jiangsu Cuisine. One of the Eight Great Cuisines of China

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During my week long visit to Jiangsu, my eyes were opened to the breathtaking beauty, rich history and fascinating cuisine of the Chinese province. Jiangsu cuisine is one of the Eight Great Culinary Traditions of China.

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The other seven Greats of Chinese cuisine are Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Shandong, Szechuan and Zhejiang. (Teochew cuisine, arguably the most influential in Singapore is not among the Eight 
๐Ÿค” )

Out of the Eight greats - Shandong, Sichuan, Cantonese and Jiangsu Cuisine are considered the greatest Four.


Jiangsu is one of China's 23 provinces.


Jiangsu is a coastal province with 13 prefecture-level divisions each with a prefecture-level city. Nanjing is the provincial capital. China's largest city, Shanghai was once part of Jiangsu province but was elevated to a self-governing municipality in 1927.

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The Yangtze River runs through Jiangsu province from Shanghai through Nantong, Zhenjiang and Nanjing onwards west to its source 6,300km away in the Tibetan Plateau. (The mighty Yangtze is China's longest river and one of the cradles of human civilisation.)

The Huai River is a 1,000km long tributary that joins the Yangtze near Nanjing. The Huai River runs west-east with its source at Tongbai Mountain of Henan province.

The area between Huai River and Yangtze River is considered the heart of Jiangsu cuisine. From here, cuisine from the cities of Huai'an, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang is referred to as Huaiyang cuisine, which is considered the core of Jiangsu cuisine.

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Jiangsu is also blessed with many lakes such as Yangcheng Lake, Taihu Lake and a long coastline from the East China Sea to the Yellow Sea. Not surprisingly, Jiangsu cuisine features a lot of fish, seafood and water fowl dishes. Pork is also frequently featured in Jiangsu cuisine.

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Jiangsu cuisine prioritise quality of ingredients - freshness is key. Seasoning and cooking techniques are to bring out and complement the natural flavours of the quality ingredients - never to overpower or displace it. Main cooking methods include steam, stew / braise and boil / simmer with emphasis on temperature control and timing. Jiangsu cuisine stir fry, deep fry and roast less compared to say Cantonese cuisine.

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Cutting skills like slicing and dicing are also crucial in Jiangsu cuisine. 

Jiangsu flavours are sweet-savoury complementing the fresh ingredients' natural taste. Food textures are delicate, smooth, tender-soft but not mushy e.g. meat is tender but not fall-off-the-bone soft.

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Jiangsu cuisine consists of six regional cuisines namely, Huaiyang, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Xuzhou and Haizhou. (
Shanghai cuisine is often considered part of Jiangsu culinary tradition.)

I was blessed to be able to experience all these regional cuisines during my 7-day Jiangsu tour. The following are the most memorable and just whetted my appetite to return to Jiangsu for more, .... much more which I have yet to taste.

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Nanjing Salted Duck ็›ๆฐด้ธญ.

Nanjing Salted Duck is Jiangsu's answer to Beijing's roast duck. Nanjing is China's "Duck Capital ้ธญ้ƒฝ" and there's a saying here "without duck it is not a banquet ๆ— ้ธญไธๆˆๅธญ".

The duck seasoned with salt and boiled / simmered in stock with ginger and spices may look pale and plain but is packed with flavour. The meat is juicy and the skin has a subtle soft crunch to the bite. The tender succulent flesh is savoury-salty and sweet without much, if any gamey duck taste. Salted duck is sold everywhere in Nanjing and you must not leave Nanjing or Jiangsu without tasting it.

In Singapore, some restaurants have it on their menu and you can also get it at Benson Salted Duck stall in Toa Payoh ๐Ÿ‘ˆ click

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Xuzhou Dongpo Rou ๆฑๅก่‚‰.

Dongpo Rou, the tender juicy cube of savoury-sweet pork belly stewed in soy sauce originated from Xuzhou in the north of Jiangsu. Dongpo Rou is almost melt-in-the-mouth tender and juicy. The meat, fat and skin shimmering with a smothering glazy sauce outside is well infused with soy sauce and spice savoury flavours which overlay the natural sweetness of pork. The popular dish is named after Su Dongpo (1037 - 1101), a poet and statesman of the Song dynasty who is credited for creating this current version of the dish.

Dongpo Rou is quite common in Chinese restaurant menus in Singapore and Malaysia ๐Ÿ‘ˆ click

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Suzhou Yangcheng Crab 
้™ฝๆพ„ๆน–ๅคง้–˜่Ÿน.

The famous hairy carbs usually associated with Shanghai come mainly from Taihu lake and Yangcheng lake of Jiangsu. The most sought after hairy crabs are from Yangcheng lake but most of us won't have a chance to taste it as demand far exceeds supply

I am pretty contend with hairy crabs from Taihu lake. The crabs are simply steamed and eaten with soy sauce, vinegar and fine slivers of julienned ginger. The tender juicy white meat is sweet, the orangey colour roe sweeter and the gut is savoury-umami sweet. Personally, I enjoy it neat, without any condiments.

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Xuyi Lobster 
็›ฑ็œ™้พ™่™พ.

These little lobsters or crawfish originated in Louisiana, USA and brought to Jiangsu by the Japanese in the 1930s, so it is a recent addition to Jiangsu cuisine. But, its prominence cannot be denied. Today, crawfish restaurants are everywhere in Shanghai, Jiangsu and beyond in China. The little crustaceans are done in many styles - the most popular include 13-spice and mala spicy flavours. The water critters are 4 - 6 inches long from head to tail. The head make up more than half the crawfish and only the tail is edible. The meat is slightly softer than prawns and tastes sweet but in a different way from prawns.

When in Jiangsu, join the locals in indulging in this crustacean  obsession ๐Ÿ‘ˆ click

The little lobsters are also popular in Wuhan city in Hubei province further west along the Yangtze ๐Ÿ‘ˆ click

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Yangzhou Lion Head 
็…ๅญ้ ญ.

Lion Head dish has nothing to do with roaring lions but is a large pork ball cooked in cabbage, chicken, ham soup. The diced pork used to make the meat ball has a high percentage of fat, so the pork ball is tender-soft and juicy. It tastes sweet-savoury with nice porcine flavour from the fat. There is also a version where the pork ball is first pan seared to lock in the porcine juices and then stewed in a savoury stock.

It is call Lion Head because the coarse surface of the large pork ball resembles the head of stone guardian lions at the doors of Chinese buildings.

Lion Head are often on the menu of Chinese restaurants around the world:



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Wuxi cuisine is known for its "Taihu Lake Three Whites ๅคชๆน–ไธ‰็™ฝ" – white bait ้Š€้ญš, white fish ็™ฝ้ญš and white shrimp ็™ฝ่ฆ. Taihu white fish is simply steamed, dressed with light soy sauce and oil. The white fish meat is chopstick tender, fine and delicate. The white meat is sweet with no fishy taste at all. However, Taihu white fish is very bony with fine bones, so be careful when eating this dish.

Taihu white shrimp is small and simply cooked by blanching. Its meat is sweet and soft but the shell is rather stiff. Taihu white bait is often made into omelette with eggs. It is a sweet eggy homely comfort dish.



Yangzhou Wen Si Tofu ๆ–‡ๆ€่ฑ†่….

Wen Si Tofu is an example of the importance of cutting skills in Jiangsu cuisine. This tofu dish was created for Qing emperor Qianlong (1711 - 1799) by a monk named Wen Si in Yangzhou when the emperor was inspecting his southern realm.


Wen Si Tofu is made by hand slicing cubes of tofu into five thousand soft silky threads and simmering it in chicken soup with shredded fried egg, finely julienned spring union and shelled white prawn. The tofu threads are thin enough to thread through the eye of a needle. Humble ingredients, this dish is all about cutting skills. The sweet savoury dish is delicious and the feel of silky smooth soft threads of tofu in the mouth is unforgettable.

We can get Wen Si Tofu at Grand Shanghai Restaurant ๐Ÿ‘ˆ click

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Yangzhou Fried Rice is probably the best known Jiangsu cuisine dish globally - most Chinese restaurants have a fried rice dish in their menu and it is often the Yangzhou style. The main ingredients are overnight rice (silver) and beaten egg yolk (gold). Other ingredients vary and often include shelled prawns, chopped carrot, peas, scallion etc.

The rice and beaten egg yolk are stir fried together to produce an eggy sweet savoury fried rice dish with a slight toasty taste from caramelisation of the starch. The resulting dish looks richly yellow and white like "gold wrapping silver ้‡‘ๅŒ…้“ถ". The other ingredients added more texture, flavours and colours to the mainly eggy sweet savoury dish.

This dish is called Yangzhou fried rice because it was created by Qing dynasty official, poet and calligrapher Yi Bingshou ไผŠ็ง‰็ปถ (1754–1815) who was from Yangzhou.




Written by Tony Boey on 19 Feb 2021

1 comment:

  1. Teochew cuisine is part of Cantonese cuisine as Teochew cities are in ๅนฟไธœ็œ。

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