The Most Sophisticated Nobility
Shandong cuisine, more commonly known in Chinese as Lu cuisine, is the only spontaneous type in the Four Major Traditional Cuisines, of which the other three, more or less, integrated the characteristics of various regional dishes. It derived from the native cooking style of Shandong Province, a northern coastal province of China, whose ancient name was Lu.
2500 years ago, Shandong Confucians laid the aesthetic orientation of Chinese diet to focus on delicacy, mildness and healthiness. An ancient book drew up the framework of Chinese culinary techniques in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River as steaming, boiling, roasting, brewing and frying. Since Qing dynasty, a large number of Shandong chefs brought Lu dishes into the court, resulting in a promotion of luxuriance, mildness and healthiness as characteristics in the cuisine, which set a foundation for other cuisines in the nation.
Features of Lu cuisine
Lu cuisine is famous for its sophistication, as well as the wide selection of material and the difficult practice of various culinary skills. The raw materials, mainly domestic poultry and cattle, seafood and vegetable, are chosen strictly for the pursuit of pure taste and natural umami of food. As to seasonings, the green onion, a specialty of Shandong, along with ginger and garlic, is frequently used to add rich aroma to dishes.
Due to its coastal location, aquatic products in high quality supply in a large quantity, with little unpleasant smell. Originality is much valued in cooking fresh seafood, like shrimps, grabs, shells and clams, which usually paired only with vinegar and ginger slices. But other dry materials, such as edible bird’s nest, abalones and fish glues, at high prices but with bland taste, are regularly cooked with soup stock as a seasoning.
2. Culinary Methods
The common cooking methods are over 30 types and the masterly ones include Bao (quick frying), Liu (quick frying with corn starch), Pa (stewing), Shao (roasting), Zhu (meaning boiling) and Ba Si (making food candy-flossed and crystallized), among which Bao and Pa are widely appreciated for the precision in the duration of heating.
3. Mild Taste and Blended Flavors in Harmony
Authentic Lu cuisine highlights the exquisite seasonings with a salty-umami taste and regards soup stock as the origin of umami, leading to the stress of the modulation of both clear broth and milky soup. The mild here does not mean dullness, but a proper and moderate taste to fit the regimen, while atsumi, the flavor itself which is too thick to fuse other tastes, is not able to attain the realm of art. So far, most of the Lu cuisine required of umami could be achieved by merely using a small amount of salt.
In Shandong cuisine, the fusion and harmony of different flavors are attached with great emphasis. The belief was derived from a classical theory which insisted it was ideal realm of state politics to tolerate differences and try to find common ground.
4. Focus on Etiquette
Shandong people are simple with benevolence and sincere with generous hospitality. The feature reflected in dining lays in the use of oversized bowls and the huge portions of quality dishes. Influenced by Confucianism, the appealing of bouquets and dining etiquettes are persistently emphasized.
Branches of Lu cuisine
Ji Nan Flavor
Its famous soup dishes, the main body of the cuisine, has a great influence even all over the nation. Ji Nan cuisine focuses on quick-frying, braising, blanching and boiling, presenting a style of vigor with fragrant umami and tenderness.
Braised Intestines in Brown Sauce
When the dish is done, the intestines no longer smell unpleasant. Instead, it shows a glowing reddish appealing with a multiple flavor and tender texture which is really inviting.
The practice seems unique to other dishes in Lu cuisine that the use of seasoning is reckless and comprehensive with almost all tastes.
De Zhou Braised Chicken
The dish has a history of more than 300 years and widely known for the spiced scent and melting tenderness. In addition, the five-spiced flavor infiltrates even into the bones which makes the chicken finger-licking delicate.
Braised Pork in Crock
Season pork ribs with various spices, put into a crock and simmer to well cooked. The dish presents brightly ruddy in a thick broth with an enticing fragrance, tasting very palatable with deboned tenderness but not greasy.
Soups in the school focus on the taste of refreshing, and poultry dishes prefer seasoning by sweet bean paste, forming a flavor of salty sweet with soy-sauce-like aroma.
Pig tripes and chicken gizzard are chosen as the main material. With skillful cutting, the raw materials are quick-fried in boiling vegetable oil to get instantly cooked thoroughly, keeping a crisp mouthfeel. Due to the high moisture in both material, the dish tastes tenderly crisp and smoothly refreshing. what’s fascinating is that the mingling of two colors, white and red, beautify each other, greatly appetizing and presenting a realm of art.
Fried Carp with Sweet and Sour Source
The carp in the Yellow River are famous for the high fatness and fleshiness. The served dish presents the carp with an adorable appealing of golden scales and a ruddy tale curling up.
Tai An Vegetarian
There are many temples in the Mount Tai with numerous monks and taoists. Thus, vegetable diet, such as tofu, cabbage, and local spring, are dominating the table. Taking the advantage of variety in vegetable and fungi, the dishes reveal a tone of exquisiteness and elegance, as well as a mouthfeel of tenderness.
It is a unique cooking method of Shandong cuisine which can be also applied to fish, meat and other vegetables. With balanced nutrition and likable flavor, the dish integrates regimen with delicacy perfectly.
Braised Black Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots
The vegetable dish has a collision of the crispness of bamboo shoots and tenderness of black mushroom, with high-dense nutrition and mild flavor, bringing a wonderful experience to the tastebuds.
The fishery has a long history in Jiaodong owing to its superior location along the coast. The abundance of seafood, like sea cucumber, scallops, abalone, conch, shrimp, determines the main raw materials of the cuisine.
Besides, the convenience of navigation and transportation provide opportunities and possibilities to learn from overseas. The cuisine stresses on the selection of raw material and cutting skills to keep umami and originality of materials.
Braised Sea Cucumber with Scallions
The dish takes soaked sea cucumber and scallions as main material. Sea cucumber in the cuisine tastes elastic and smooth, with rich scallions flavor. Such a lip-smacking dish!
Braised Prawns in Brown Sauce
Due to the 1,300km coastline of Jiaodong Peninsula, the delicate seafood supply in a large quantity, prawn included. Prawn from Jiaodong is famous for its fleshy texture and rich nutrition, thus frequently used as cooking material.
Tip: The key to the dish is the strict control of heating and the source which should be thick enough to wrap the prawn.
Recent improved dishes even integrate with western culinary methods, resulting in the use of jam and bread in cooking. Dishes, like roasted sea bream, chrysanthemum-shaped fish with tomato sauce, curry chicken chunks, belong to this school.
Confucian is the oldest and largest hereditary family in history. Confucianists raised the dietary requirements for excellence and luxuriance, and high frequency of bouquets. The mansion attracted senior chefs nationwide who brought the cuisine continuous enrichment and development. Its culinary skills later reached a superb level, establishing the foundation for its great influence.
The Confucian dish has a far-reaching influence on the formation and development of Shandong cuisine. Its dietary materials are selected widely, both pricy and normal, but most local. Dainty and seasoning are seriously focused on, along with the flavor of salty umami and smoothy tender.
Yi Pin Bean Curd
The dish tastes smooth and tender with high-dense nutrition. Tofu is used as a container stuffed with various material, usually mushroom, bamboo shoot, scallops, ham and shrimps, simmering in a pot with broth for at least one hour. Inside the skin is the snow white bean curd which is full of elasticity. When the teeth just bite off the skin, the rich sauce flows immediately into the mouth, salty-spicy and slippery, with a wonderful aftertaste of slightly sweetness.
Stewed Swiftlet Nest
It is more an art piece than just a dish. The snow-white edible swiftlet nest, willow-like pigeon eggs and ham slices form a quiet elegant composition of crystal clear soup with a pure taste of umami.
Si Xi Meatballs
The dish is consisted of four meatballs dressing with thick source. The practice is comparatively easy. Mince pork belly with scallions, ginger and garlic. Blend with eggs, Sichuan peppers powder and other condiments to become a pastry. Round the meat into balls and deep-fry in boiling oil. Dress the meatballs with a source made by soy sauce, star anise, scallions and hot water.
The meatballs looks brightly golden in the clear dressing, with a palatable taste of salty crispness, traditionally symbolizing luck, fortune, longevity and happiness, usually served as the finale dish of a bouquet.