Profound Food History in Haidian District2016-08-29 14:30:50Share:
A Brief Introduction to the Cultural Relics in Old Beijing described Beijing’ s food culture in the following lines: Beiping (a former name of Beijing), the former imperial capital, had been known for its luxury. Food was no exception. Every food item was made delicately to the fullest extent possible, and thus the cuisine in the old capital formed its own system, and those who knew the cooking skills there could survive anywhere else. It can be seen that the food culture in the old capital played a leading role in that of the whole country and how enjoyable it was to dine there.
Formation of Beijing cuisine
With a history of over 3,000 years, Beijing has been an important place in north China since the Spring and Autumn Period. It served as the capital of the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties successively in Chinese history, and gradually became the political, economic, cultural and diplomatic center of the nation where a large number of the Han, Manchu, Mongolian, and Hui people settled and diversified cultures in China and across the world exchanged and blended with each other.
Beijing cuisine is constituted of Beijing local cuisine, halal cuisine featuring beef and mutton, imperial court cuisine in the Ming and Qing dynasties, delicate Tan cuisine characterized by its seafood, as well as cuisines from other places in China.
Among them, Shandong cuisine has a far-reaching influence on Beijing cuisine. Shandong flavor restaurants like the eight lous, eight jus, and eight tangs used to be everywhere in Beijing. Its cooking techniques like stir frying, deep frying, quick frying, steaming were adopted by Beijing cuisine, forming the strong and fresh Beijing flavor.
Halal cuisine is an important component of Beijing cuisine, which uses beef and mutton as its main ingredients. For example, the famous “Whole Mutton Banquet”, which is typical of Beijing cuisine, uses each part of a sheep to cook about one hundred dishes. Besides, roast mutton and Mongolian hot pot also have a long history and are beloved by people for their unique flavors.
Imperial court cuisine stands out among Beijing cuisine. It is characterized by precious ingredients, delicate flavor, and elegant dish names. Most of the modern imperial court dishes like are from the Ming and Qing imperial palaces.
Tan cuisine is a typical Guanfu cuisine. It emphasizes the original flavor, moderate taste, costly ingredients, and good cooking. As a typical dish of Tan cuisine, braised shark’s fin in rice wine sauce can best illustrate these features.
The reason why Beijing cuisine could be formed is that as the capital city Beijing gathered cooks and rich ingredients for cooking from all over China. With the rise of imperial garden building in Haidian in the Qing Dynasty, the area became another political center of China in addition to the Forbidden City where the emperor lived and handled state affairs, therefore, besides common Beijing food, imperial court cuisine accounts for a large proportion of the food in Haidian.
Imperial court food & time-honored restaurants
It was in the Ming Dynasty that Beijing cuisine changed from mainly absorbing regional cuisines to innovating and developing by itself and traditional Beijing cuisine began to thrive. Roast duck was introduced to Beijing during Emperor Chengzu’s reign in the Ming Dynasty and this former folk snack turned into an imperial delicacy. Meanwhile, Beijing people also created such classic snacks as pea flour cake and cake made of glutinous rice. In the Qing Dynasty, traditional Beijing cuisine reached its peak and different varieties of staple food like noodles were developed. Some imperial delicacies gradually came into people’s daily lives as the communication between the upper class and common people increased. Bianyifang Roast Duck Restaurant was opened in 1855 and Quanjude in 1864. It was the time when today’s time-honored brands like Yueshengzhai, Liubiju, Wangzhihe, Xinyuanzhai and Donglaishun developed quickly and became the delicacies of ordinary people. Snacks like almond pudding, roast chestnuts, saqima, etc also appeared during this time.
Manchu Han Imperial Feast
Manchu Han Imperial Feast is a grand banquet originated from the Qing Dynasty. Based on traditional Manchu cuisine, the Qing court developed rich imperial court cuisine by absorbing the features of southern cuisine (mainly the cuisine in Suzhou and Hangzhou) and northern cuisine (Shandong cuisine) of central China. Founded during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Manchu Han Imperial Feast combined the features of imperial court food and the essence of regional food and at the same time emphasized the unique Manchu flavor and the special characteristics of Han cuisine. It is the treasure and represents the highest level of Chinese cuisine culture. Containing 108 courses, the feast is served for three days.
The ingredients for Manchu Han Imperial Feast include eight mountain treasures, eight land treasures and eight sea treasures which do not only cover a wide variety but also are very precious. The feast reached a summit in Chinese cuisine development. Some of the animals used in the feast have become national protected animals which are not available today.
Fangshan Restaurant has offered Manchu Han Imperial Feast since 1982 which contains 234 hot dishes and 42 cold dishes as well as various snacks and fruits and is supposed to be eaten up for six times.
Snacks & folk life
Beijing abounds in snacks. Beijing snacks are commonly referred to as “pengtoushi” or “caicha”, which has adopted the Han, Hui, Mongolian, and Manchu snacks as well as imperial court snacks in the Ming and Qing dynasties and features a number of varieties and unique flavors. It is estimated that there are about two to three hundred kinds of Beijing snacks including side dishes, cakes and buns, and small and cheap dishes for breakfast and late supper. Soy milk, roasted stuffed chitterlings, fried liver, madoufu, and fried sauce noodles are among typical Beijing flavor snacks.
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