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Culture note: Not all about stir-frying

A few days ago, when I was randomly browsing the internet, (this is how I normally waste my time, really bad:((, I know), saw a few questions such as “why do Chinese people always stir-fry?”. I could not help nodding – yes, stir-frying is one of the distinguishing features of Chinese food.

Stir-frying is a good healthy way of cooking and eating. For example, stir-frying requires strong fire, not much oil (although different people might opt for different amounts), can quickly get food done, and keep the nutrients well at the same time. In this case, it is certainly better than the boiling or stewing, because long cooking times could make the vegetables lose their vitamins — well, of course, it depends on what ingredients you are cooking, some foods are good for cooking longer times, so the vitamins can actually be released and easily absorbed by the body. And some other foods, for example, those ‘healthy’ soups, need to be cooked for long time.

Stir-frying is particularly good for cooking those green vegetables, it keeps their original taste well. For example, you can still taste the green pepper’s crunchiness, lettuce’s own juice after cooking. Another advantage is that it can be quickly done. Chinese cooking can be really quick, but preparation times can be longer. After a tiring work day, quickly stir frying a few fresh dishes for dinner is great.

A few months ago, I met an auntie (a friend’s mum) who just moved to my city last year, she said to me, ‘your famous northeast ‘messy’ stewing is really tasty”. I was really happy to see that she liked the most typical, common, traditional northeastern Chinese dish. But it also just made me realize that actually, at least, food in northern China is not all about stir-fry. The theory that Chinese food is all about stir-frying is not totally true.

In northeast China, the most famous way of cooking is actually ‘stewing’, in Chinese, it is called ‘Dun’. The way of cooking is similar to Western ‘stewing’, but the actual sauce/soup is different –depending on the dish, however, most ‘Dun’ dishes have clear ‘sauce/soup’ base, so the soup can be ‘drunk’. It is different to soup dishes as well, as soup dishes normally are just for ‘drinking’ the soup, and the content in the soup is only for enhancing its taste.

Unlike normal stir-fry dishes, which are served in flat plates, “Dun” dishes are normally served in much deeper plates or often just big bowls. In fact, in my ethnic group, the traditional food served for important occasions are called “Eight big bowls’, which involves with some beef dishes, mushroom dishes and vegetable dishes. There are also eight famous northeast ‘Dun’ dishes, for example, chicken with mushroom, lamb with pickled Chinese leaves, beef with potato, pork with wide Fensi and so on. And beside these dishes, there is another most famous dish called ‘Luan dun’, which is what the auntie mentioned, it means that you can put everything together for stewing. Different people would use different ingredients, but the basic ones are always aubergine, potato, meat, tomato.

Dun dishes are particularly popular for winter, as it is normally a bit heavy, and good for warming up your body, give you a good energy boost for getting through the coldness in winter.

Ok, that is all for now. Needless to say, all the “Dun”s recipes will be following soon, so we can have a good winter. :)

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