Hebei Cuisine

Updated: Jul 1, 2019 Print
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Pieces of cake baked in a jar (缸炉烧饼/Ganglu Shaobing), a traditional local wheaten food in North China's Hebei province [Photo/IC]

Hebei province, called "Ji" in ancient times, was one of the nine provinces in ancient China. Therefore, Hebei cuisine is also called Ji cuisine for short. The cuisine is one of the local schools of Chinese cuisine.

The cuisine dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Its formation and development have close connections with the province's culture and history, geographic environment and economic conditions.

Hebei has a moderate climate. Coupled with diverse landforms, the area has always had exceedingly rich food resources, which helped to create the diversity of its cooking techniques and ingredients.

Located in the northern part of North China, Hebei spans the southeastern area of the Inner Mongolia Plateau and borders the Bohai Sea in the east. With such favorable geographic conditions, Hebei was a traffic hub on the ancient Silk Road and one of the earliest developed regions in China, which helped to bring in large amounts of cooking ingredients and seasonings for Hebei cuisine leading to the invention of many great special local dishes.

In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), one of the most prosperous dynasties in China's history, the flourishing agriculture and handicraft industries also boosted the development of the catering trade. During this period, the cooking methods and techniques, and ingredients and seasonings saw great diversification. In the mid-Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Hebei cuisine took shape.

The cuisine has the following characteristics: meticulously selection of ingredients, good use of thickening and soup, emphasis on the aesthetic look of dishing up, a salty taste and a faint aroma.

It is generally considered that there are three schools of Hebei cuisine: typical local dishes in the south of the province, the coastal food in the east, and imperial dishes north of the Great Wall.

The typical local dishes in southern Hebei, represented by local food in Baoding, Shijiazhuang, Handan, Xingtai and Hengshui, usually have a wide choice of raw ingredients. Mountain products, fish caught in Baiyangdian Lake in Baoding, and shrimp and crabs are the main ingredients.

The coastal food, represented by Tangshan food, is more adept at cooking aquatic products due to its location close to the Bohai Sea. It emphasizes pouring oil or thickening over the cooked dishes.

The imperial dishes beyond the Great Wall, with Chengde food as the representative, are similar to the imperial dishes of Beijing cuisine. However, the two also have differences in the flavors, dishing up and bowls and plates.

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