Could any of these be the Chinese answer to roast turkey? As people across the United States tuck in their chairs to a delicious dinner this Thanksgiving, we take a look some of the most delicious meals you can find in China.
Source: Yinan Chen
We know Thanksgiving isn’t really about the food, right? It’s about connecting with family, the lively conversation, the warm room insulated from the cold winters night. But hey, who doesn’t love a good meal! We’re going to look at some of the best Chinese food to rival your thanksgiving feast at home.
Let’s start with the obvious:
Roast turkey may not exactly be a staple of traditional Chinese cuisine, but if a delicious bird-based meal is what you’re after, then China isn’t likely to disappoint.
Beijing was once known in the West as ‘Peking,’ and we’d like to say it was this delicious dish that put the city on the map. Of course, it wasn’t actually. Being the capital city of the world’s most populous nation is probably enough to win you a mention in the geography classroom, duck or no duck.
Geography aside, however, with it’s crispy skin, tender meat and rich, black sauce, Peking Duck or ‘Beijing Kaoya’ is still more than enough to steal away the winter blues and rival any Turkey offering back at home.
Source: Lucyna Wawrzyniak
Legend has it that one day in ancient China a beggar stole a chicken from a farm. The farmer caught the beggar in the act, and the thief fled with the chicken in hand. Hopping down a river bank, he hid the chicken in wet clay and slipped away out of sight. That evening he returned, and set fire to the clay in which the chicken was hid.
The beggar then extracted the (now thoroughly deceased) bird, and found that the clay had formed a seal around it. As he peeled off the clay, the feathers came loose revealing a perfectly cooked, aromatic chicken, the flavor having been sealed in by the clay. The beggar went on to present his new invention to the king, and lived out his days as a prosperous purveyor of his unique Chicken recipe – the Colonel Sanders of ancient China, if you will.
If committing larceny on Thanksgiving isn’t your idea of a wholesome way to mark the occasion, you’ll be relieved to know that Beggar’s Chicken is now a common dish at up-scale and traditional Chinese restaurants in Jiangsu, where the dish originates, and across the country. These days lotus leaves or a coating of flour normally replaces the clay, but the unique flavor and aroma that so impressed the king remains.
It’s no Turkey, to be fair, but it’s chicken like you’ve never tried it before.
Maybe we’ve sold you on the ‘Chinese roast turkey’ argument. Or, you might be the honeybaked ham kind of person. China has an answer to that too. In fact, WildChina founder Mei Zhang wrote a book about it called ‘Travels Through Dali: With a Leg of Ham.’ It’s been published by Penguin (which is one bird we hope that you will not find on the menu in China or anywhere else, for that matter).
Dali, in the southern province of Yunnan, has a proud tradition of curing their ham, using special salt and skill passed through generations to craft a product which may not taste the same as the ham you’d find at home, but is sure to be at least as delicious. Pop down to Dali yourself when you’ve recovered from the holiday festivities, and we’ll cure you up a fresh helping!
Lotus Root Soup
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without your starchy sides: Aunt Betty’s mashed potatoes or Grandma’s cauliflower casserole. China also has a side dish that soothes the soul. The lotus root features in many Chinese dishes across the country, from bubbling away in chilis in Chongqing hotpot to served as a sweet desert in a Shanghai Fanguan.
Lotus Root soup, as pictured above, is frequently prepared with meat so it’ll pair perfectly with your Beggar’s Chicken. This rich, crunchy root vegetable is low in calories, rich in fibre, full of vitamin C, and very easy to pick up with chopsticks even if you’re brand new to the Chinese culinary arts!
Ready for More?
If the dishes above whet your appetite, consider accompanying us on a Gastronomic Tour of China to discover the best that this country has to offer.