The history of Huaiyang cuisine can be traced back to the Qinglian’gang Civilization about six or seven thousand years ago. Afterwards, there have been many literatures talking about or mentioning the foods in Huai’an, like Qifa, an essay on regimen by MEI Cheng in the Western Han Dynasty, and Journey to the West, a novel by WU Cheng’en in the Ming Dynasty. However, the cuisine didn’t get recognized as a mainstream cuisine until the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
With the development of Caoyun (grain transport by rivers), Yanyun (salt transport by rivers) and Hewu (river management), Huai’an became one of the four most prosperous cities in China. The government offices of Caoyun Governor-General and Southern Rivers Governor-General were located in the present Huai’an District and Qingpu District. A saying goes that the Huaiyang cuisine was developed by the mouths of the corrupted officials and rich businessmen in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The lavish lifestyle and extravagances led to the need for chefs in Huai’an to innovate the way of cooking and gradually it helped the Huaiyang cuisine to form, perfect and become a profound cooking system in China.
Huaiyang cuisine is characterized by the ways of ingredients selection and pre-processing, the heat control while cooking, and the use of different condiments. It tries to keep the original taste of the ingredients and mix the color, smell, taste, shape and meaning into one plate of dish served on the table.
Dishes you must try
This dish can be called “King of Huaiyang cuisine”. It is one of the most prestigious dishes of Huaiyang cuisine. In the first state banquet of new China, it was served as the first hot dish of the main course. The main ingredients are eel and sliced garlic. It tastes soft and tender.
Pingqiao is an ancient town in Huai’an. This dish earned its fame during one of Qianlong Emperor’s south tours in the Qing Dynasty. To make this dish, tofu is cut into small diamond-shaped cubes and boiled in a pot of chicken soup, together with small cubes of chicken, shiitake and minced cilantro, etc. When served, a spoon of sesame oil is poured on the surface.