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Slow-cooked Bamboo Shoot Soup, or 腌笃鲜 Yān dǔ xiān, is a dish that came from Anhui Cuisine (徽菜 Hui Cai). Though, the dish is more popular and associated with Shanghai.
It’s a simple dish with only 3 main ingredients, which some say is represented by the 3 words in the dish name.
腌 Yān can be translated to marinated, cured or pickled, and this refers to Chinese ham. I’m using Jinhua ham, which is considerably saltier than most hams.
笃 dǔ can mean sincere or genuine. Some say the prefix of the word, the “bamboo prefix”, refers to the bamboo shoots. But actually, 笃 dǔ is transformed from 炖 Dùn, meaning to stew. In Shanghainese, 笃 dǔ and 炖 Dùn have the same meaning; to stew. While in the original Anhui cuisine, the dish is called 腌炖鲜 Yān dùn xiān.
The last word, 鲜xiān means fresh, and it refers to fresh meat.
Together, the name of the dish means cured and fresh meat slow-cooked together.
Because the basic step is mostly throwing everything into water and boil for a few hours, the quality of the ingredients affects the taste of the dish more than anything. This is the reason why Zhongli’s version of the dish in Genshin Impact calls for very specific ingredients; meat freshly hunted in Springvale, bamboo shoots harvested from Qingce Village, and ham that meets the Yuehai Pavillion’s gourmet standards.
For a dish that can be described as “throw everything in a pot”, the prep is actually quite particular.
Slow Cooked Bamboo Shoot Soup 腌笃鲜 Yān dǔ xiān
- 100 g Jinhua Ham
- 300 g Pork Belly
- 4 Bamboo Shoots
- 50 g Tofu Sheets
- 2 Tbsp Goji Berries
- Splash Rice wine/shaoxing wine
- 5 slices ginger
- 1 bunch spring onion reserve some tops for garnish
- Water enough to cover, as needed
- Soak Jinhua Ham for at least 2 hours in warm water. Then discard the water. If using other ham, skip this step.
- Cut 300g of pork belly to the desired shape. Put pork belly in a pot of water andturn on the heat. When it starts boiling and white foam can be seen, reserve the pork and discard the water. This step is very common in Chinese cooking to remove odour, blood and other things like the foam seen.
- Make a few slices of ginger and tie the spring onion into a knot. Throw in the soaked Jinhua ham, blanched pork belly, ginger and spring onion into a pot of fresh water (using claypot is more traditional, and the flavour may be different). Make sure the water is enough to cover the ingredients.
- Stew on low heat, covered, for 1 hour.
- Prepare the Tofu Sheets by cutting a small rectangular shape for every piece of tofu knots (百页结) you are making. Fold it in half, twist it, then make a knot. You can use as many as you want, but I made about a dozen.
- Cut the bamboo shoot into the desired shape. If using packaged bamboo, boil them in water for 3-5 minutes to remove the sour taste from oxalic acid.
- Put in the tofu knots and bamboo shoot into the stewing pot. Top up water as needed. Let it stew for another hour to two hour.
- When the hour is up, taste the soup and adjust the saltiness accordingly.
- Take out the ham and slice to the desired shape.
- Serve. Use tofu knots and less photogenic bamboo shoots as a base to prop up the meat and garnish.
A story behind the dish
The story goes that Hu Xueyan, a famous businessman in the 1800s loved to eat salted meat (咸肉) and would always have them ready at home. At the time, Yan Du Xian in Anhui cuisine used cured ham (腊肉, uhhh my translation could be wrong here).
Zuo Zongtang (aka General Tso) happened to smell the salted meat and followed the scent to Hu’s house. With the sudden visit, Hu was forced to prepare something for the guest, but he only had lots of salted meat.
So Hu prepared Yan Du Xian using salted meat instead of cured ham. Zuo liked the dish so much and this version using salted meat spread across the country.
The above sounded like half-myth that is possibly rooted in some truth, but I wasn’t able to find many sources confirming this to be a common legend. So, I didn’t include this legend in the video.
Additionally, many dishes with long history basically have the same story template except changing character names and time period. These also read more like stories or fairy tales rather than facts.
For example, Jewelry Soup, or 珍珠翡翠白玉汤 in real life “pearl, green jade and white jade soup”. The Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398) was a wandering beggar and fainted in the streets. A random old lady helped him up and used leftovers (tofu, spinach and rice) to make a soup. Dude thought this was some good shit and the dish name later spread across the country.
Same template of
- hungry person visit someone
- that someone doesn’t have ingredients and hastily makes a new dish
- new dish is the good stuff and name spreads
Perhaps it would be possible to study the migratory patterns and follow the foodways of salted meat, but for now that’s enough history.
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