Sunday, January 06, 2008

The most salty Chinese cuisine you've ever heard of

"So what else have been keeping us occupied?" you ask.

Well, at the moment we are playing host to a house guest... her name is QiQi (or GiGi as she also calls herself) and she is a friend of a friend.

Basic facts: GiGi is a nurse from China and recently completed her studies in Adelaide to qualify as a practising nurse in Australia. She got a job in Perth and is moving here to settle down and work. Our friend asked us to help look after her since she's never been to Perth before and this will also be her first experience working in Australia.

So we've been doing things such as taking her out shopping, answering questions and supplying heaps of information, introducing her to new friends, taking her out to view places to rent, and so on.

She's originally from Ningbo in China, which is located about 2 hours drive south of Shanghai. So her Mandarin accent is quite different. She even has trouble understanding hubby's Malaysianised Mandarin sometimes. But it's quite interesting and amusing to learn from each other.

She also shared some interesting facts about the cuisine from her hometown in Ningbo:

1. The locals in Ningbo like exremely salty food (I really mean EXTREME)... particularly seafood, as her town is well known for its salted seafood cuisine. (At one of the restaurants we took her to, GiGi ordered fried rice with salted fish because she missed that salty-fishy taste in her food)

2. GiGi doesn't like desserts and sweets. No cakes or cookies or chocolates for her please. She grew up eating and loving her food very salty, so she always prefers savoury over sweet.

3. Some examples of how they prepare and cook Ningbo style seafood:

Chop up some fresh crab, place in a pot of very salty cold water with vinegar and rice wine, and leave for 2-3 days. The salt, vinegar and wine will cure the crab meat. After that all you need to do is crack open and enjoy. GiGi said even the Chinese from other provinces are unable to stomach this and will suffer from diarrhea after eating. (I said I was game to try it! So GiGi said next time she will cook some for us. Hubby is dubious about it though)

Pile fresh fish with heaps of salt (really heaps and heaps of it) and leave for 2-3 days. When the fish is cured, steam the fish and serve. Sometimes for the more exremely salty fish (with double the amount of salt) they will slice up the fish into smaller pieces and steam it with meat and vegetables.

Take some fresh eel and completely cover it with salt, then leave to dry in the sun. After it is dried, chopped it up into pieces and fry it.

Place fresh prawns in pot of rice wine and leave for few days. After that drain and serve it just like that --raw and semi-cured by the wine. (This I am also game to try, but I will need hubby to help me peel the prawns as I can't stand the feeling of the prawn legs and eyes when I peel them)

Quite interesting eh? But imagine all that salt!!! It can't be good for them, which brings me to my next point...

4. Many of the locals in Ningbo suffer from health problems like high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. But they still can't help enjoying their salty food.

5. Apparently the popular Chinese Tang Yuen with those glutinous rice balls, which are filled with red bean and black sesame, first originated in Ningbo and is still known as Ning Bo Tang Yuen.

GiGi's parents currently run a restaurant in Ningbo. She has dreams of sponsoring her parents to come over to Australia to set up their restaurant here to serve the Ningbo cuisine here. Good idea... but I'm not sure how the people here will take to the raw crab meat, though.

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