Wu Yong

China Daily (Canada) - - HOLIDAY -

dishes when he came to work for the mayor of Harbin 100 years ago.

The city at the time was one of the most pros­per­ous places in Asia that housed dozens of for­eign con­sulates and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

The then-mayor of­ten en­ter­tained for­eign guests and asked Zheng, his main chef, to im­pro­vise on some lo­cal dishes. It remains un­clear as to how many at­tempts the chef made be­fore he got some­thing that could please lo­cal and west­erner palate. The com­bi­na­tion of crispy pork cubes in a swee­tand-sour sauce proved just righ­tand­made­this dish a star.

Dumplings are prob­a­bly the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive food of the re­gion, and one of the most fa­mous names in the busi­ness is Shenyang Lao­bian. The brand has been listed as a lo­cal in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage and is an at­trac­tion for tourists from home and abroad.

Bianfu, its founder, is said to have walked thou­sand of kilo­me­ters from the nearby He­bei prov­ince to Liaon­ing in search of gold dur­ing the late Qing Dy­nasty and opened a small res­tau­rant in Shenyang. His son, Bian Degui, im­proved the process of stuff­ing in 1870 and even­tu­ally peo­ple flocked to buy their dumplings.

The birth of Lao­bian dumplings was pos­si­ble with the open­ing up of North­east China between the late Qing Dy­nasty and the Repub­lic of China ages, was mostly known for its for­est and ranches.

The in­gre­di­ents for a Lao­bian dumpling vary ac­cord­ing to the sea­son. It uses leek and shrimp in early spring, prawn with pump­kin in sum­mer, pep­per and cu­cum­ber in fall and cab­bage in win­ter.

To­day, Shenyang Lao­bian is a chain, with stores in ci­ties such as Shi­ji­azhuang, Xi’an, Changchun, Dalian and Bei­jing. In ad­di­tion, it runs an out­let in the Ja­panese city of Sap­poro.

The name of this clas­sic dessert comes from a Manchu term that means “rice cake with nuts”. It is pro­duced by first fry­ing rice noo­dles and then mix­ing them with sugar and nuts be­fore stir­ring them to form a thick pie and cut­ting them into pieces for eat­ing.

Nurhachi, the first em­peror of theQingDy­nasty, is said to have in­vented the food as mil­i­tary pro­vi­sion dur­ing a war with a neigh­bor­ing king­dom. Ex­perts said that Sachi­mais rich in calo­ries and easy to pre­serve, which is in line with the needs of troops at war. After con­quer­ing the hearts of the res­i­dents of Bei­jing, the dessert spread to the coun­try’s south and evolved into vari­ants.

Ge Xin in Shenyang con­trib­uted to the story.

Con­tact the writer at wuy­ong@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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