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June 26, 2010

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Famous dishes of Jinshan District

JINSHAN District is more than beaches, ancient towns and scenic countryside -- there's delicious country cooking available in restaurants and home kitchens.

Many famous dishes have stories behind them, like the Classic Old Duck favored by the Emperor Qianlong who paid a surprise visit and had his men snare duck from the marsh and stir-fry it.

The district is famous for its fresh and organic vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry and fish, and is known for great and healthy eating.

The district government recommends eight famous local dishes (although there are many more to discover).

Little Eggplants

This is one of the most common dishes in Jinshan, usually eaten in summer and autumn when purple eggplants are at their prime.

Eggplants, which are stir-fried, are said to strengthen the activity of antioxidants, delay signs of aging and bring down fevers.

The saying goes that "eggplant in June tastes better than pork."

In traditional Chinese medicine, eggplant is said to eliminate "pathogenic heat" from the blood and relieve pain. It is said to help prevent capillaries from bursting.

In the old days there was a doctor surnamed Qin living at Mudan Village where he treated many farmers. The doctor grew his own eggplants and said eating them frequently was the secret of his own strength and good health.

Many people learned of the benefits of eggplants and the dish became famous. It is often served to guests as a specialty food.

Chicken with Pickles

The dish is simple -- free-range chicken simmered with vegetables and wild herbs and served with pickles.

It's an example of basic, pollution- and chemical-free food served in a pure environment where ingredients are a gift from nature.

It became famous when an artist from the city went to rural Jinshan to collect folk legends. At noon he entered a small restaurant where many dishes were on offer.

Nothing appealed to him, but then he was struck by a wonderful aroma and immediately ordered the dish, called Chicken with Pickles.

The artist savored the dish and ate his fill.

"Look at the chicken, it's almost the color of gold," he is said to have remarked.

Since more and more people are focusing on a healthy diet, organic food should be the choice.

Jinshan Yipinxian

Yipinxian means "fresh," and this dish is a very fresh mixture of salted pork, egg rolls, radish balls and baby cabbage. There's a story behind it.

In the 1930s a national, 10,000-meter race was held in Shanghai Jiangwan Stadium. To build his strength, athlete He Baoshan, who represented Jinshan, regularly ate the dish that his mother prepared for him. It was his favorite.

"I promise I will win first prize after eating this dish," He said.

So he did, and the dish became famous.

Pork Bones with Carrots

There's an old saying that eating carrots in winter and ginger in summer will keep the doctor away.

The dish is healthy, aromatic and delicious.

Carrots help digestion and reduce phlegm; when cooked it has the same role as ginseng, a famous tonic.

It is said that Wang Wenji, a doctor from a family of famous doctors in Jinshan, prescribed the dish for a coughing child who soon recovered from his respiratory problem.

Classic Old Duck

Crispy, tender, fragrant and delicious, Classic Old Duck uses ducks from local marshes called Bainiudang.

It's one of the most distinctive dishes in the area. According to legend, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was making an incognito inspection trip to Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. He passed Fengjing Town in Jinshan by boat and was attracted by the vast reed marshes filled with ducks.

He was told the place was Fengjing Bainiudang.

Seeing all those fat ducks, the emperor felt hungry so he and his party disembarked and walked to a small restaurant. As he always liked to try new dishes, he ordered a man to catch an old duck in the reed marsh and quick-fry it.

The emperor was well pleased with the taste, aroma and color, he ate his fill and praised the dish. Word of the emperor's duck spread and the dish became famous.

Egg and Pork Dumplings

This is a typical dish in rural Jinshan and is considered very healthy for people of all ages.

Pork and eggs are rich in nutrition and fat. According to traditional Chinese medicine, egg nourishes yin (cold) energy and pork nourishes yang (warm) energy.

There's an old story that the simple dish was prepared by a young wife for her husband, the eldest son of a rich family who passed the highest imperial examinations.

Everyone wondered why such a rich family prepared such a simple dish to celebrate the success.

The cook said it was the man's favorite dish and his wife prepared the dumplings.

Hangzhou-flavor Pork and Vegetables

It is a combination of streaked (fatty) pork, cabbage and mushrooms, simmered together.

It is said that Gu Shangzhi, a well-known doctor in Jinshan, once cured a rich patient, and in gratitude the patient ordered his cook to prepare the dish for the doctor.

The physician enjoyed it and said cabbage is good for the spleen and mushroom is good for refreshment. He recommended his patient eat more of it.

And so the rich man got healthier by eating the dish regularly.

Roast Carp, Mutton and Shallots

Crucian carp and mutton are roasted with shallots. It's delicious and nutritious, especially good for people who are weak, suffering yang (hot) energy deficiency and often having cold hands and feet.

Traditional Chinese medicine recommends crucian carp to tonify the spleen and stimulate appetite. Fish is a good source of protein for those with cardiovascular conditions.

The legend goes that Yao Dashan was the only child in three generations of a wealthy family in Jinshan. Yao was smart and passed the provincial level of the imperial examination, but he was frail and often ailing, so he could not advance.

His father ordered a famous chef to prepare the youth a dish of crucian carp roasted with shallots. The young man's health and energy improved and he passed the imperial exam at a high score.

The dish is one of the most popular in Jinshan.


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