Cross-straits banquet

By Li Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2015/11/13 5:03:02

Dongpo pork Photo: CFP

Dandan noodles Photo: CFP

The historical meeting between President Xi Jinping and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou drew attention from around the world this week. The media was even commenting on what the two ate during their dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

Considering Xi is a native of Shaanxi Province, while Ma's parents were from Hunan Province, many guessed that the meal would include dishes from both these provinces, where food tends to be spicy and strongly flavored. However, the dinner actually consisted of Hunan, Zhejiang and Cantonese cuisine.

Six dishes, one staple and two dessert were served, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

Sliced roast pork decorated with gold foil, along with abalone and cucumber were the two cold dishes. Hunan style stir-fried lobster with green garlic, coral trout served with bamboo leaves and glutinous rice, Hangzhou-style Dongpo pork, and stir-fried celery with lilium bulbs were the four main hot dishes.

The main staple of the meal was Dandan noodles while the desserts were glutinous rice dumplings in osmanthus syrup and hasma soup and plates of fruit.

Dandan noodles were served because they fit the tastes of both sides. Chinese from Shaanxi, like Xi, prefer eating noodles, while Chinese from Hunan tend to eat spicy foods.

Chinese wine was also served at the dinner. According to The Central News Agency in Taiwan, Ma prepared two bottles of Taiwan's Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor.

A sorghum liquor from Kinmen Island, a former battlefield, Ma's spokeman Chen Yi-hsin called the gift a "liquor of peace." He explained that the two bottles were originally owned by Kao Hua-chu, the senior military officer in Kinmen in September 1990 when Red Cross from the mainland and Taiwan came together on the island to sign a historic agreement. Kao bought the bottles to commemorate the agreement and had kept them with him ever since.

Just like how the Qing-Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop added a "presidential meal" to its menu after Xi once had lunch there one time, restaurants across China are most likely going to add a "Xi & Ma" special to their menus so you too can try these dishes together. But if you don't want to wait you can head out to some restaurants and order these dishes now, or even try and make them at home. 

Dandan noodles

A bowl of Dandan noodles is one of Sichuan's most famous snacks. It's said that porters used to sell these noodles from pots handing from their shoulder poles down at the local docks. The shoulder poles were called dandan, which is how the noodles got their name. This snack was entered into the list of Top 10 Famous Chinese Noodles by the Ministry of Commerce and the China Hotel Association in 2013.

Dandan noodles are served in a red-color soup with stir-fried mincemeat, vegetables and other seasonings. The result is a salty, strong and very spicy dish that will knock your socks off if you don't eat spicy food that often. Of course, one of the characteristics of Sichuan food is that even when its spiciness is practically killing you, you still can't resist having one more bite.

While many kinds of noodles can be used in this dish, the mincemeat is stir-fried with a mixture of sweet flour, which causes it to come out crispy. This crispy meat is then put at the bottom of a bowl and the noddles and soup is then poured in.  Some people even like to add crushed peanuts and sesame oil to add to the flavor.

Dongpo pork

Dongpo pork is a famous dish from South China and is seen as originating as part of Zhengjiang cuisine.

Cutting fatty pieces into large cubes, the meat and fat end up feeling squishy when you bit into it, but surprisingly doesn't come across as oily.

Although it may look simple, it's actually quite a complicated dish. Even if you follow instructions online, you may end up with another dish entirely, such as pork braised in brown sauce, if you are not careful.

Talking to the Qianjiang Evening Post, a chef surnamed Chai explained that choosing the right meat is the main key to this dish.

"To make the best Dongpo pork, your best choice is pork with with one layer of lean meat and a layer of fat," Chef Chai explained.

The meat is cut into cubes so that there is one layer of meat with another thick layer of fat on top. These are then boiled in water to eliminate any strange odors. Before putting the cubes in a pot, chefs will add a layer of shallots and ginger at the bottom of the pot. Then once the meat is placed inside another layer of these vegetables are placed on top. This adds flavor to the meat while also preventing it from being burned.

"Add yellow wine, soy sauce and sugar. Using lots of wine and sugar is important. That's why this dish smells of yellow wine and tastes sweet and has a glutenous texture," Chai said.

Getting the heat right is also as important as adding the right ingredients.

"Water should cover the meat. Once you get it boiling, turn to small heat and braise for about two hours. Then stick the meat with a chopstick. If it easily pokes through the meat, then its ready to be taken out."

Chinese wine

The type of Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor served was called "Black King Kong," according to a Beijing Youth Daily interview with a wine wholesaler surnamed Wang. The name comes from the bottles black packing. It's considered a high quality Chinese wine that can cost as much as 1,166 yuan ($182) a bottle.

According to Wang, most Kinmen Kaoliang are over 8 years old when removed from wine cellars to be sold, and they taste better the older they are. Since the wine given to Xi was purchased in 1990, it must have tasted great. 

Many Westerners who try this wine confess that it feels much stronger than Vodka or tequila. So, it may be worth a shot if you can hold your liquor.

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