Oh my gosh, you guys.
Can you believe this week is Thanksgiving?? Where does the time go??????
After slacking so much on Eastern China, I promised that I’d deliver Northern China this week, Thanksgiving or no Thanksgiving. I will do my best to live up to this because a promise is a promise, but given that I’m going home for turkey day, it might be hard to cram it all in.
But Thanksgiving is five days away, you say. Surely you can fit in three meals before Thursday? Well, technically that is true, but we all know what happens when life gets in the way of the best laid plans. I’ll be on the road Wednesday night, so really that gives me two nights to be home for dinner. I guess I could make this menu when I go home, but Mama Buddha has already gone CRAZY cooking for the long weekend. And I’m talking crazy cooking for the non-Thanksgiving part of the weekend. SO- while you might not get all of Northern China this week, I’ll be sure to share her recipe for either veal paprikash or lamb curry, both of which are awesome, and both of which are already sitting in the fridge waiting to fill my tummy.
Back to the task: Northern China.
Northern Chinese cuisine is sometimes known as “Imperial cooking” since a lot of the dishes that the north is famous for may not be indigenous to the area at all, but rather are a result of traditions brought north by the Manchu imperial dynasty from other regions of China. This imperialism is thought by some to have eclipsed the more authentic northern Chinese dishes, giving the region culinary reputation that is not true to the culture or the people. This isn’t a theory accepted by all since some dishes popular in the Peking region could only be created in the north given that area’s readily available ingredients and products. This latter contention makes sense- it’s not like one would see semi-trucks driving across China to deliver frozen foodstuffs hundreds of years ago.
The various geographic areas that comprise what I’m bunching into Northern China (Peking, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Hopei, Honan, Shansi and Shensi) are all united by a common climate, which leads to common cooking ingredients and, ultimately, similar dishes. During the summer, there is an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies and peanuts and soybeans explode into everything. The harsh winter months lend themselves to dishes such as hotpots of steaming soup and dumplings with or without meat fillings. As is common, seafood is popular and plentiful near the coast, and pork, mutton, lamb, goat and donkey rule the roost further inland. Don’t’ worry, I won’t be cooking any donkey. Finding any around Chicago would be a pain in the ass.
That was a bad joke.
My apology is this week’s menu: