Chinese cuisine enjoys fame the world over for its style, spice, delicacy and savouriness. Imagine my surprise that Jiangsu Province’s culinary claim to fame happens to be… the worse cooking in all of China. 1.3 Billion people can’t be wrong. The shocking thing to me, Jiangsu should boast the best cuisine in this populous country. But it doesn’t. Oh, how it doesn’t.
Jiangsu, known for frying the fuck out of everything. Oily n’ fried or fried oily. Those are the default choices offered up here. The province straddles the north-south divide along the Yangtze River, enjoying the grains of the north and paddies of the south, where noodles meet rice instead of culinary creation there resides like residue a cooking miasma.
Fry it. Fry it all!
The best-worst thing is… sometimes they get it really right.
During my wander that eventually led me atop a hill adorned with statues, I found myself peckish and I ambled past a restaurant that reminded me suspiciously of my local Binhai noodle house. Naturally I doubled back and plunked myself down and ordered up some chao fan… fried rice.
I planned on a quick bite before continuing my trek up the road. Something about this street caught my eye, not least of which being construction workers weren’t ripping up concrete. Without my phrasebook, I managed to order up some fried rice, the thin soup arrived complimentary and I figured that would be that.
Only the fry-chef offered me some 锅贴… or guōtiē… or fried dumplings. I knew I didn’t need fried rice and fried dumplings but… damn those dumplings looked good.
I ordered five.
The dumplings arrived first, alongside the soup… the fried rice shortly thereafter.
It wasn’t healthy, at all, but it proved to be so, so savoury.
The proprietors and customers took great mirth in watching me dine on the Jiangsu fried delicacies, whereas I ignored the eyes and enjoyed the food.
In short order I devoured my meal and asked (in one of the few Chinese phrases I know) “How much?” 10 Yuan. I nearly gave my head a shake. For less than $2, I received a heaping plate of chao fan, five pieces of guōtiē and a bowl of soup.
I love Asia.
I continued on my exploration, at the end of this road I would discover Jiuhua Park, and add another good meal to my growing list of culinary excursions gone good.
Fry on Jiangsu, fry on.