Fujian cuisine is one of the Right Culinary Traditions of Chinese Cuisine, native to the cooking styles of Fujian province in China, especially the Fuzhou region. This particular cuisine is supposed to light, flavorful, soft, tender and lays particular emphasis on the Umami taste, which in Chinese cuisine is referred to as ‘Xianwei’. It also lays a lot of emphasis on retaining the original flavors of the food, instead of masking them with spices and seasonings.
It uses a diverse range of seafood and woodland foods like local fish, shellfish, turtles, mushrooms, bamboo shoots; which specifically grows in the coastal and mountainous regions of the province. The common cooking techniques are braising, stewing, boiling and steaming.
Particular attention is paid on the finesse of knife skills and cooking technique of the chefs, which is used to enhance the flavour, aroma and texture of seafood and other foods. Strong emphasis is put on the making and utilising of broth and soups. There are sayings in the region’s cuisine:
“One broth can be changed into numerous (ten) forms” , and
“It is unacceptable for a meal to not have soup”
Fermented fish sauce, known locally as “shrimp oil”, is also commonly used in the cuisine, along with oysters, crab, and prawns. Peanuts (utilised for both savoury dishes and desserts) are also prevalent, and can be boiled, fried, roasted, crushed, ground or even turned into a paste. Peanuts can be used as a garnish, feature in soups and even be added to braised or stir-fried dishes.
Fujian cuisine consists of three styles:
Fuzhou: the taste is lighter compared to other styles, often with a mixed sweet and sour taste. Fuzhou is famous for its soups, and its use of fermented fish sauce and Red yeast rice.
Southern Fujian: the taste is slightly stronger than Fuzhou cuisine, showing influence from Southeast Asian cuisine and Japanese cuisine. Use of sugar and spices (like shacha sauce and five-spice powder) is more common. Various kinds of slow-cooked soup (not quite similar to the Cantonese tradition) are found. Many dishes come with dipping sauces. Main ingredients include rice, pork (pork offal are considered delicacy), beef, chicken, duck, seafood and various vegetables.
Western Fujian: there are often slight spicy tastes from mustard and pepper and the cooking methods are often steaming, frying and stir-frying. Food is saltier and oilier compared to other parts of Fujian, usually focusing on meat rather than seafood.
Unique seasoning from Fujian include fish sauce, shrimp paste, sugar, Shacha sauce, and preserved apricot. As well, wine lees from the production of rice wine is commonly used in all aspects of the region’s cuisine. Red yeast rice is also commonly used in Fujian cuisine, imparting a rosy-red hue to the foods, pleasant aroma, and slightly sweet taste
Fujian is also well known for its “drunken” (wine marinated) dishes and is famous for the quality of the soup stocks and bases used to flavor their dishes, soups, and stews.
If Fujian cuisine had to be summed in four unique features, they would be unusual ingredients, soups, decorations and unique seasonings. Their cuisine is known for the use of exotic delicacies from the mountains and sea as the main ingredients, an emphasis on soup eating, precisely applying various kinds of seasonings, and an emphasis on artistically cutting and decorating food. Fujian’s abundant natural resources mean that their cuisine is rich in quality nutritious ingredients. They’ll use somewhat exotic ingredients such as wild foods, wild herbs, varieties of mushrooms, bamboo, and many kinds of seafoods. So it is nutritious, and it is good for dieters since it isn’t high calorie.
One of the strangest and the most classic dish in Fujian cuisine would be ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’. It is also called as Buddha’s temptation. It is a kind of shark fin soup. There are many stories on the origin of the dish. A common one is about a scholar traveling by foot during the Qing dynasty. While he traveled with his friends, the scholar preserved all his food for the journey in a clay jar used for holding wine. Whenever he had a meal, he warmed up the jar with the ingredients over an open fire. Once they arrived in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, the scholar started cooking the dish. The smells spread over to a nearby Buddhist monastery where monks were meditating. Although monks are not allowed to eat meat, one of the monks, tempted, jumped over the wall. A poet among the travelers said that even Buddha would jump the wall to eat the delicious dish.
Another interesting dish is Dongbi Dragon Pearl, it is a dish that chooses materials from rare longan trees with thousand’s of years of history at6 the Kaiyuan Temple in Quanzhou. IT has a very captivating delicate scent.
‘Fried Xi Shi’s tongue’, another popular dish, is made from the locally produced Fujian mussel. According to legend, the concubine, Xi Shi of the king of Wu state was thrown in the sea tied to a huge stone by the wife of Gou Jian, the king of Yue, who destroyed Wu, to prevent her husband being seduced by her beauty. In the area of the sea where she sank, a special breed of mussel appeared and this was said to be Xi Shi’s tongue, which is used to prepare this dish.