An inland province in southeastern China, Anhui includes parts of both the Yangzi and Huai river systems. The capital of the 130,600 square kilometre province is in Hefei, and it is noted for its mountainous terrain, including the magical Huangshan peak.
With the areas surrounding Anhui noted for their salty (Shandong), hot and spicy (Sichuan), and oily and sweet (Jiangsu) dishes, fans of Anhui cuisine claim it blends all these tastes perfectly.
Anhui can also be called Huizhou food - and was spread through China by successful Huizhou merchants during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Beginning in the Southern Song Dynasty, Huizhou was centrally located on the North-South trading axis, and during the Ming and Qing dynasties the power of the "Huizhou Merchant" was legendary. Perhaps this mercantile spirit is why Anhui food "trades" flavours from the surrounding regions?
Recipe BookIn the kitchen:
in the Anhui kitchen you will find sugared candy that is often added to give a little zip to a dish. Selections of salted smallgoods (salted sliced meats, common to mercantile cultures around the world) lie ready to be added to many different dishes. All the famed medicinal ingredients from Huangshan mountain are here, including the mountain's stark white bamboo shoots and fragrant mushrooms (xianggu). Looking a little more carefully, you might see Anhui's famous stone frogs and soft-shelled turtles awaiting the pot.
At the cooker:
exact temperature control is vital to ensure that the dishes retain all of their flavour and goodness, and also to preserve the wonderful colours of the ingredients, which are an important part of the cuisine.
On the table:
spectacularly presented colourful food, rich and pungent scents from the preserves and the famous Huangshan fragrant fish.
If you have eaten the light yet distinctively gamey meat that is frog, you'll know that one of the difficulties with the average frog dish is the lack of meat on the bone. The Huangshan stone frog (sometimes listed on menus as "chukka") is an impressively sized black-skinned amphibian at 250 grams on average that provides plenty of healthy meat. Health is a key word -- the frog is said to have all sorts of medicinal properties - and eating this dish is supposed to assist in strengthening bones (essential as we all get older), help remediate eyesight effects, and even reduce fever! Better yet, the preparation of this dish calls for the frog to be steamed -- locking in the flavour -- and then lightly flavoured, to really enjoy the light, sweet and intriguing taste.
Lightly salty tastes, strong pungent fragrances, legendary medicinal properties.
Huangshan fragrant fish, smallgoods selections (varies in different restaurants), Bagong Mountain tofu rolls, three rivers gumbo, stewed soft-shell turtle with sweet ham, Li Hongzhang hotchpotch (stew).