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Beijing - The food capital of China per Discovery


hzrt8w
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Two weeks ago I watched the premiere broadcast of the program:

Discovery Atlas: China

on the Discovery Channel. This first episode featured China. In the program, there was a small segment on Beijing. The narration said "Beijing is the food capital of China". I was thinking "What?" immediately after I heard that statement. The clip featured some cooks working in the restaurant kitchens in Beijing - just some generic shots.

I felt: Where did the Discovery channel research staff get their information? Since when did Beijing become the food capital of China? The capital, yes. The cultural capital, maybe. The food capital? Hmmm???

Years ago when I was in Beijing, the one thing I liked and longed for was Peking Duck. Over the past 2 decades, things have much improved. But...

The show seemed to be carefully avoiding the mentioning of Hong Kong. Perhaps because of Hong Kong's "special" status. It is China and it is kind of not China enough? If they turn their head and not look at Hong Kong, how about at least look at Guongzhou or Shanghai?

Beijing - "THE" food capital of China. Do you agree?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I have to go along with:

"Born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, and die in Liuzhou." - Chinese saying

While Beijing had the great cooks for the emperors, and Shanghai had all the international influence, and the West had their own unique style, I don't think that anything can compare with what is available for and used by the versatility of the Cantonese.

Of course that is the traditional view, and in these modern times the playing field has been leveled.

Capital restaurants may draw master chefs, but who is to say that they represent the country as a whole.

I wonder who paid for the sponsoring of that program.

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I'd vote for Xi'an.

You can find everything there.

Certainly not Beijing.

I would have never thought if Xi'an. Is it because of its physical location? Would you expound on it? I'm really interested.

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this has nothing to do with food...because I have never been to china, but why the heck didn't they cover all of china? They only went to beijing and like one other city.

china is HUGE....there is so much more they could've covered

I thought shanghai was the capital of chinese food? (this is what I have heard)

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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When I was a graduate student in Beijing, Chinese tourists from other cities would tell me there was nothing good to eat in this city compared to "their" homeotwns.

One suspects the Discovery channel was blathering........

Ditto the vote for Chengdu - but only because my taste runs to the garlicky-spicy.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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Expanding on my choice of Xi'an.

Yes, a lot to do with location - almost dead centre. It has cuisines from all over China. In my experience, more so than other cities and to a higher standard. It is also a centre of Chinese muslim food.

Shenzhen is a close runner up! Some of the best Sichuan food I have eaten! And Hunan. 90% of residents are non-Cantonese and have brought their food cultures with them.

(Sorry to the many Cantonese people here (and fans of Cantonese food) -I think it is the most over rated food in the world!) :smile:

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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It's a confusing tag.

Do they mean in the sense of "Chinese" cuisine? If so, then the general consensus is still Chengdu, although a lot vote for Taipei as well (with some claims, ala Justin Quek, that the quality of ingredients in Taiwan is second to none). Both benefited from having had a large mix of the country come to visit (in the form of the Kuomintang) for extended periods.

If they mean in terms of "Chinese" and international cuisine, then I would think that Shanghai has overtaken Beijing, and probably Hong Kong at this point, with the money and chefs starting to pour in (I find Shanghainese cuisine itself a tad on the oily side).

Beijing does have some very good Szechuan (perhaps the most popular regional cuisine according to the folk I was talking with there) and Hunanese places (going back to Mao), and more than a few good Cantonese, but not to compare with what you would get if you went to these places.

A spot I quite liked was Dark & Duck, across from the Kempinski. Yuppy and modern, so I know it'll draw some disdain, but they had excellent duck, very good fish (in a bowl of oil buried under half a foot of chilis), and a fantastic shredded and fried potato dish that bore a striking similarity to Marge Simpson's hair-do.

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I cannot agree to "Cantonese food is overrated". Of course one would say that I am biased. I am a Cantonese. I think that a majority of the "Chinese" restaurants in the U.S. is mediocre. They don't do justice in giving good impression of what real Cantonese has to offer in terms of taste.

I don't know what Discovery used as a measure in determining the "food capital" of China. In terms of taste? Variety? Simply number of restaurants per capita or per square kilometer? I think in whichever measurement, Beijing would not be at the top. It seems to be just a casual assertion.

Just taking a look at the variety of food Cantonese has to offer:

- Stir-fries, Cantonese seafood

- Cantonese BBQ

- Clay pot dishes

- Hot pot

- Dim Sum

- Preserved sausages and ducks

- Noodle soup (wonton, etc.)

- Congee

Each one of these categories contains many dozens of varieties.

From my travels inside Mainland China, I just haven't seen something comparable yet. Or maybe I am way off.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ha ha! I didn't expect you to agree! It's just a matter of taste. I find Cantonese food looks great but tastes bland. Just my opinion.

I could easily change your list to

- Stir-fries, Guangxi seafood

- Guangxi BBQ

- Clay pot dishes

- Hot pot

- Preserved sausages and ducks

- Noodle soup (wonton, etc.)

- Congee

Yes I had to remove dim sum. Not that they aren't available here, just not local food.

But generally, I agree the question is silly.

(But the answer sure ain't Beijing!)

:biggrin:

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Having lived in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong (for comparisson sake however I will leave HK out of it), I would have to say Shanghai is way ahead of Beijing.

I don't think the food is terrible in Beijing, I just think that nothing stands out as great nor memorable. I went to at least 5 different places where everyone says they have the "best" or "original" kao ya, but none of those places created the urge for me to go back! I had peking duck in Shanghai at this place Naning Jiu Jia, and thought it was just as good as any of those places in Beijing. I frequent Naning all the time!

I think there are a lot of "interesting" and "traditional" places in Beijing, but nothing to create a fuss over. I think Shanghai has much more to offer and places that are definitely a lot more memorable.

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I'm curious about who was doing the judging, and what their guidelines were. Did those judges actually eat the food, and were they qualified? Were they going by statistics -- like the number of restaurants, or the variety? The popularity of a restaurant?

That last can be so mis-leading. In NYC, a place will get a rave review and the lines start forming. The lines continue to form even after the chef who got the raves, in the first place, left.

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ahhhh ahahah

I'm sorry.. I love eating in Beijing. And I must say that to live in Beijing or probably most parts of China, this type of discussion comes up a lot!! And there are always the same comments had by almost all. Namely: Shanghai food is probably the worst local food you can find in China.. by far. And on the opposite side, one can find the best of every regional cuisine (especially local) in Guangzhou.. by far.

As for me personally... this is what I do here. I hop on planes and trains to cover as much as I can so that I can taste as much as I can. I lived here in beijing for a short while, with an even shorter while in Shanghai. I honestly could rarely find a decent meal in Shanghai. Most of the places looked nice, tasted like sugary drivel. There were some bright moments, but the infrequency and inconsistency killed the whole experience for me.

At this moment, I'd have to say Guangzhou is absolutely the best place I've ever been for food.... but a close seconds would go to Xi'an, Chengdu, Changsha.

But Beijing?? that's gross incompetence as a reporter to call it the capital of food in China. .... though you'd sometimes think otherwise --- like yesterday when I was told that the BBQ chicken wing place I was standing in front of needed me to book at least a week in advance... this is for 25 cent wings!! Yet I've heard of Guangzhou food critics having trouble getting a table at somewhat new local places without success for 7 months !!!

Ok enough... Anyone else with qualifiers..?

-- oh and for my opinion of Guangzhou, or for all of these places.. it's hard for me to limit things to the 'regional/local cuisine'. Xi'an has one, Guangzhou has one, Chengdu for sure... But Beijing certainly does not, neither does Shanghai really. And you can't base the 'food capital of china' on something as trivial as Kaoya... I've had it better in Toronto than in many of the large Beijing Kaoya places. And LaoBeijingCai.... nothing to write home about. I sat next to a 65+ year old tourist from Nanjing while tasting some, like douzher... She spit it all back in the bowl and left with this disgusting sour look on her face. THAT's real Beijing food. Therefore I think its best to look at what a city offers as a whole. And for that, its possible that Shanghai outdoes Beijing in many respects, but I still prefer Beijing since a quick stop into a random fast-food shop here will still always yield safer results than Shanghai. That being said, in total food not counting regional offerings Guangzhou still tops both cities.

oh jeez.. you got me started.

Edited by jokhm (log)
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Namely: Shanghai food is probably the worst local food you can find in China.. by far. And on the opposite side, one can find the best of every regional cuisine (especially local) in Guangzhou.. by far.

Most of the places looked nice, tasted like sugary drivel.

Them's fighting words, sir.

The use of sugar is indeed often complained of by outsiders. I find that sugar combines well with soy sauce to form a more complex flavor profile. Shanghai cuisine is really a subset of Cantonese so it's not fair to dismiss it while at the same time proclaiming the greatness of Cantonese cuisine.

I really can't stand the use of star anise in damn near everything in Xi'an cuisine. As with sugar in Shanghai, let's just say it's a matter of different strokes for different folks. But on an objective level I'm certain more people would prefer too much sugar than too much anise.

Also, Guangdong may have dim sum but Shanghai invented xiao long bao, the greatest Chinese dish of all time. That along catapults Shanghai to the top of any ranking.

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Hah, maybe so.

A few things about xiaolongbao though... When I first passed through Shanghai they really tipped the scale in favor of the place and each time I returned I HAD to have some. Then I went to Tianjin and had the goubuli, which happened to be quite similar, but I was still big on the xiaolongbao.. enough that it was in my top 5 steamed bun-style snacks. BUT, then I went to Xi'an and was treated to another soup-style bun, the guantangbao with beef and also ones with lamb. This killed any advantage xiaolongbao previously had. And lastly, the best so-called xiaolongbao I've ever had was in HK. I'd say most of the ones in Shanghai that I tried were rarely 'fantastic', and many were downright bad! Thick skin, fatty liquid, too salty, dried up skin on the tops.. blech. OK enough insanity about that. But really.. xi'an is fantastic and although star of anise occasionally finds its way into food, I never found it to be excessive or worse than chengdu.

Shanghai sugar.... well... I admit that it definitely has its place and can be excellent in the food, but more often than not it is a disguise for bad cooking. I think if you want to taste cooking with sugar done right, you go to Hangzhou. At least there there is a great food culture, though it still doesn't make my top of list. However, in the end I would still say that the mere fact that xiaolongbao exists definitely knocks shanghai up one notch, and I think it along with other streetside steamed buns allows it to hold a huge advantage over Beijing for cheapy local snacks. But that's where the good things end.

I think one interesting thing is how the food discussions go when you have a bunch of mainland chinese in one room discussing regional food. Nearly everyone always loves cantonese, while a bunch will always say it is too bland, nearly everyone will also say hunan food is at or near the top, many love sichuan, but some find it too spicy and many find it way too oily, hubei - no one is sure what that is really and some confuse it with hunan, ... Food in beijing? meh... Shanghai, downright bad. Its true though that people love to sh*t on shanghai with every chance they get. I still enjoy the place a lot... just for other reasons.

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I think saying Cantonese food is bland as a blanket statement may not truly understand the cuisine. Cantonese, or perhaps along with its cousin Shanhainese, may be the minority in China who do not eat hot food. In Cantonese cooking, most dominating spices (cumin, sichuan peppercorns, dried chilis, etc.) are notably absent in daily diets.

The climate in Canton has historically been mild compared to the extreme cold in the north and west in the winter, and the extreme hot in the north, and west in the summar, and the humid and hot in the south. We don't eat chili as a way of warming the stomach, producing sweat or stimulating the appetite. We believe in presenting the featured ingredients in their own natural tastes - and this is the characteristics of many Cantonese style fresh seafood dishes from steamed to stir-fried. Don't want to bombard the meat with hundreds of red chilies (what flavor can you bring with 500 dried red chilies that you cannot do with 250 dried red chilies?) like the Sichuan style, or the dark-soy, sugar, master-sauce everything like the Shanghai style, or pump in the vinegar on top of hotness like the Hunan style.

I know this is a debate that will never end. By the end of the day, those who demand a wallop of hot oil and hundreds of chilies in every meal would continue to do so. And us who get used to eating "bland" food will just continue to do the same.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I guess we best like what we grew up eating. Give me traditional New England clam chowder. Forget the red or clear or hot clam chowders, and leave the cheese out of it! Not that the others aren't totally delicious. But I have a mind set on clam chowder. But who is to say that my taste makes New Encland clam chowder the best?

Maybe not being Chinese is an advantage, as I have no clear favorites. But when in Rome-------

I like the hot stuff when in the west and the heavy foods when in the east. I have an appreciation of the subtle purity of the flavors in the south, and the garlic and chives and regional flavors of the north. Clam soups from any of those places would be interesting.

The point is, they are all winners.

The idea, tho, that calling Beijing the ' foodcapital' just makes me want the author to FULLY describe his reasons for the statement. I haven't been in China for 9 years now. I guess things could have changed, but from whose view and taste values? I really wouldn't put the number of stars on any 'high class' restaurant as reasons to consider a region's values as far as food goes. Or even the variety of restaurants. Heck----- you can find any number of international restaurants in NYC, and many restaurants with oodles of stars, but that doesn't make NYC the food capital of anywhere.

I didn't see the Discovery program so maybe I am not being fair. But the one plus from the program, I think, is that it started discussions like this one. Love them!

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In several books, Beijing is referred to as a food capital because there are so many restaurants there by/for people from the various regions.

This is just a function of being the center of government and offering a wide variety, not necessarily a claim of excellence.

BB

Food is all about history and geography.

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this part is true.... on dianping.com the be all and end all of food web sites, Beijing has quite a few restaurants listed... try over 11 thousand.. !*(#$! But my guess is the site begun in Beijing and has had more support from beijingers to increase the listings and push the site along. Guangzhou and Shanghai have been catching up fast. I wonder does a site like Dianping.com exist anywhere else? For chinese food in China this is my daily resource and I've never seen anything so vast before. Chinese love food !!!!

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Thank you jo-mel for putting it so eloquently. Meat loaf and clam chowder! I will always remember that! :biggrin: Indeed there is nothing like food that would bring out emotions in people. Indeed it's a matter of what one is used to. If I were fed 20 hot dried chilies everything day since the age of 5 growing up, everything else will be nothing but bland.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I simply can't trust the research staff of these travel programs anymore. Next thing you know, they'll say Lhasa is the food capital of China because this is where the Tibetan and Chinese meet when the host is climbing the Potala Palace; or annoited the same crown to Gansu because there the host finds a lot of leftovers from the Tang dynasty in the relic of the Silk Road. Whatever!

The point is, I wouldn't say Beijing is the food capital of China at gunpoint. Food capital is not something decided by a food network host. It's a consensus reached by all the ppl of the country over the years. Take Lyon of France for example. All French will point to the same direction whenever they're asked the same question. I can assure you that if you gather 100 Chinese and ask this question, Beijing will rank very low.

True, there's court cuisine in Beijing -- and frankly I am very much interested to try them out -- but court cuisine itself is not a regional food but a compliation of cuisines from all regions of China (besides, it's out of reach for most until quite recently, but lots of the recipes were lost and the authenticity of the so-called imperial cuisine is very much in doubt). Beijing food by itself is not in the Grand 4 Schools, nor even in the Big 8 Schools of Chinese cuisine. Truth be told, I can show you lots of document proof that, until the late Ching dynasty, the most popular cuisine enjoyed among the commons of Beijing was the Shantong cuisine.

If by food capital the host means the width of choices, the diversity; everyone can tell Shanghai and HK will knock out BJ fair and square in this regard. The only way BJ can claim the title is by money spent per head, given there's lots of government officials and well-off expatriates living over. But this is something quite beyond the taste of food, isn't it?

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Actually I'd guess that you are correct about Lhasa's supreme dominance in food culture over the rest of China.

anyway

My friends in Guangzhou always say how in that city you can without a doubt find the best Sichuan and Hunan food in China outside of their original locations, and the same goes obviously for the local food (.... ?)

One of the reasons I feel that this may be, is due to some other regions like Shanghai and Beijing's local tastes interfere with the original region's flavours too much. So many sichuan, hunan, dongbei restos in Shanghai are sweetened up, and the ones in beijing all come in a gloppy and oily sauce (grossly generalizing here).

Guangzhou's local taste only has the effect of potentially making something like Sichuan or Hunan food less spicy... but from my experience there they still nicely blow my head off.

Shanghai has far superior western restaurants than Beijing overall. But I still think most of them would go under within 1 month in my hometown of Montreal. Or maybe its simply that I've become too accustomed to chinese 'Style' food, so non asian food doesn't satisfy the same way? Doubtful... but it is a possiblity. I know I always eat beyond well upon each visit home. Ahh.. cheese.. bagels.. mm

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      1. Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Sichuan peppercorns are neither pepper nor, thank the heavens, c@rn! Nor are they necessarily from Sichuan. They are actually the seed husks of one of a number of small trees in the genus Zanthoxylum and are related to the citrus family.  The ‘Sichuan’ name in English comes from their copious use in Sichuan cuisine, but not necessarily where they are grown. Known in Chinese as 花椒 (huājiāo), literally ‘flower pepper’’, they are also known as ‘prickly ash’ and, less often, as ‘rattan pepper’.
      The most common variety used in China is 红花椒 (hóng huā jiāo) or red Sichuan peppercorn, but often these are from provinces other than Sichuan, especially Gansu, Sichuan’s northern neighbour. They are sold all over China and, ground, are a key ingredient in “five-spice powder” mixes. They are essential in many Sichuan dishes where they contribute their numbing effect to Sichuan’s 麻辣 (má là), so-called ‘hot and numbing’ flavour. Actually the Chinese is ‘numbing and hot’. I’ve no idea why the order is reversed in translation, but it happens a lot – ‘hot and sour’ is actually ‘sour and hot’ in Chinese!
       
      The peppercorns are essential in dishes such as 麻婆豆腐 (má pó dòu fǔ) mapo tofu, 宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng) Kung-po chicken, etc. They are also used in other Chinese regional cuisines, such as Hunan and Guizhou cuisines.

      Red Sichuan peppercorns can come from a number of Zanthoxylum varieties including Zanthoxylum simulans, Zanthoxylum bungeanum, Zanthoxylum schinifolium, etc.
       

      Red Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Another, less common, variety is 青花椒 (qīng huā jiāo) green Sichuan peppercorn, Zanthoxylum armatum. These are also known as 藤椒 (téng jiāo). This grows all over Asia, from Pakistan to Japan and down to the countries of SE Asia. This variety is significantly more floral in taste and, at its freshest, smells strongly of lime peel. These are often used with fish, rabbit, frog etc. Unlike red peppercorns (usually), the green variety are often used in their un-dried state, but not often outside Sichuan.
       

      Green Sichuan Peppercorns
       

      Fresh Green Sichuan Peppercorns

      I strongly recommend NOT buying Sichuan peppercorns in supermarkets outside China. They lose their scent, flavour and numbing quality very rapidly. There are much better examples available on sale online. I have heard good things about The Mala Market in the USA, for example.

      I buy mine in small 30 gram / 1oz bags from a high turnover vendor. And that might last me a week. It’s better for me to restock regularly than to use stale peppercorns.

      Both red and green peppercorns are used in the preparation of flavouring oils, often labelled in English as 'Prickly Ash Oil'. 花椒油 (huā jiāo yóu) or 藤椒油 (téng jiāo yóu).
       

       
      The tree's leaves are also used in some dishes in Sichuan, but I've never seen them out of the provinces where they grow.
       
      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
       

       
      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
       

       
      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
       

       
      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
       
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
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