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Famous Snacks
2014-03-26
Eight Famous snacks of Qinhuai River
As early as during the six dynasties, there were many pavilions and restaurants along the Qinhuai River and the Qingxi River; and in the Ming and Qing dynasties, they became even more flourishing. Now in the Confucius Temple area, there are restaurants, tea houses, pubs, and snack shops every where. Just in the central area of the Confucius Temple, more than 200 snacks are served.

There are eight snack restaurants at the Confucius Temple famous for their unique flavors which are called “unique of Qinhuai".
1st uniqueness: eggs boiled with five spices and tea leaves, spiced beans and Yuhua tea at Kuiguangge;
2nd uniqueness: sliced bean curd cooked with dry shrimp, and crab-shell-yellow baked cakes at Yongheyuan;
3rd uniqueness: bean curd slices with sesame oil, and baked duck-oil cakes at Qifangge;
4th uniqueness: jellied bean curd, and onion-and-oil cake at Lufengju;
5th uniqueness: steamed bun stuffed with assorted vegetables, and noodles with sliced chicken meat at Qifangge;
6th uniqueness: beef soup and baked dumpling stuffed with beef' at the Jiang family restaurant;
7th uniqueness: thin-wrapper dumplings, and noodles with fried fish in red soup at Zhanyuan wheaten food restaurant;
8th uniqueness: small stuffed rice balls with acanthus flowers and five-color rice balls and cakes at Lianhu sweet food restaurant.

The eight famous snacks are sixteen different wet and dry dishes. Deciding from the many variations of which goes with which is not as important and not nearly as exciting  as digging into the small steaming bowls of warming soups or munching away on a few fried morsels. A full set of dishes can be found in nearly every sit-down establishment in and around the Qinhuai River area and is similar in feeling to dim sum as small dishes of no more than a few bites encircle you. 

Duck Blood Soup

Spicy duck blood soup, Yaxue Tang, with bits of duck gizzards is great on a cool morning to get you going or late on a chilly night to warm you through. While many in the West would not normally cook with blood it is a very popular Chinese dish and once sampled will quickly become a favorite. 


Salted Duck
In a city built at the meeting of two great waterways, the Qinhuai and Yangtze Rivers, there is no doubt that the duck dishes of Nanjing would be a staple food loved all over China. As a former imperial seat, prepared duck was seen as a tribute food of Nanjing. With a history reaching back some l,400 years several different duck dishes can be found in Nanjing including the milky-broth of old duck soup, Jinling roasted duck similar to Peking duck, braised duck, a boneless preparation called pearl duck, cluck gizzards, duck blood in noodle soup and savory duck oil pancakes. The most famous is saltwater duck..

Unlike the name suggests saltwater duck is not a salty tasting meat but a brined duck that often has a sweet aroma from the sweet osmanthus blossoms that are used in the preparation. The duck can be found all-year round but is really spectacular in the autumn months when the sweet osmanthus blossoms are in full bloom. Sweet osmathus has an aroma similar to a sweet orange but very light and not overpowering. Osmanthus blossoms are used in other famous delicacies and teas in China and forest of this evergreen can be found all around Nanjing.

The special preparation of brining a whole duck or boiling in salted water with a selection of spices including Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon and possibly cherry depending of course on what master chef you can convince to tell you their secrets renders the special texture of the meat. Duck can be very greasy and fatty, one of the main reasons it tastes so good, but it can be difficult to balance the fat to lean ratio to get the best combination of flavor. The Nanjing preparation creates flavorful meat with a glistening layer of fat and a skin, arguably the best part of the duck that is tender yet chewy to round out the entire eating experience.

This preparation is so special in the eyes of the Nanjing people that palette loads of prepared ducks in vacuum sealed bags can be found in all tourist areas and fill the overhead compartments of planes leaving Nanjing. When you first see someone with his or her arms straining from bags full of ducks you giggle a bit, until you try it and start making room in your own suitcase for a few ducks. Even highly respected food science journals have published papers on lipid oxidation and other unique properties exuded when Nanjing chefs make their famous duck. It seems that there might even be magical properties to the fair of Nanjing.

Stinky Tofu

The first greets you long before you even know that you are hungry and is perhaps more popular as a solo dish, the brutally but honestly named stinky tofu. Legend has it that this fermented, then deep-fried snack was perpetrated by a nervous young wife whose overbearing mother-in-Law was impossible to please. The young wife could not do anything right in the eyes of her new houseguest and upon leaving a tray of fresh tofu outside over night she returned to see that it had started to turn. Not wanting to incur any more wrath, she prepared the fermented bean curd and surprisingly it was a success. Now the pungent aroma of the bite-sized snack can be found wafting down every lane and is the most popular snack with locals. The “stinky” connotation is more like the bouquet of a fancy French cheese but far less shy and takes a minute to overcome before you try the tofu. In all honesty it is really good and when served piping hot with a squirt of hot sauce over top it is a good cheap snack.
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