Pancake as thin as a transparent cicada’s wing, noodles chewy enough to tie a knot, wonton soup is clear enough to grind ink — these are the attributes of seven famous Nanjing foods described by “Qing Yi Lu” (“Records of the Strange and Unworldly,” AD 950), a classic recording Chinese culinary history.
Nanjing cuisine is distinguished by its sophisticated craftsmanship and a historical dining tradition originating from boat banquets.
Nanjing chefs are known for expressing moderate and balanced flavors, fine textures created by slow-cooking techniques such as stewing and braising, and vivid presentation of dishes that look like plants and animals.
The city’s distinctive history and geography shaped the style of cuisine, says Sun Xuewu, executive chef of Jinling Hotel, Nanjing.
Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu province, is known as one of the “Four Ancient Capitals of China” and was the capital of six dynasties (not all consecutive). It dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 184-280).
Tycoons and aristocrats used to stage lavish dinners, serving elaborate dishes to showcase their wealth and taste. The ingredients were diverse and meticulously selected; the cuisine became increasingly refined and sophisticated.
The city is located in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, where there are many rivers and lakes, making aquatic food and wildlife abundant. They include lotus seed, mugwort, fish, shrimp, molluscs, ducks, and geese.
The most famous dish is Nanjing duck. Nanjing cuisine probably features the most duck dishes in China. Each part of the duck is utilized.
Whole duck can be made into yan shui ya (salted duck seasoned with osmanthus flower 盐水鸭), cha kao ya (roast duck with honey and fermented rice 叉烧鸭), and huang men ya (long-simmered duck with a soft, tender texture 黄焖鸭).