China has diverse natural, conditions across its land. As a result, Chinese people living in different areas enjoy absolutely different but rich staple food. From the south to the north, the diverse staple food provide energy for human bodies. Moreover, they influence people's feelings towards the change of four seasons and enrich the lives of the Chinese.
The Ding Village in Shanxi is the most ancient village in the Central Plains. Housewives here are best at making food out of flour. Local people call the powdered cereals as flour.Cereal processing has a history of over 10,000 years. The most ancient millstone was unearthed just nearby. Today, millstones of the same shape are still being used. Millstones grind up cereals into powders. Sieve out the coarse grains. Then the real flour food appears.
Rich in mountains while lacking rivers, Shanxi is scarce in its vegetable varieties. Housewives cannot do much to enrich the non-staple food. So they figure out different ways of making flour food to increase the family's appetite. Flour is processed into various delicacies on the table.These diverse and delicate foods remind people of the women's nimble fingers and rich imagination.
When the women in the Ding Village are busy preparing a birthday feast, a fragrance of flour floats out from a cave house on the loess plateau. Huang Guosheng, a Suide native, just got a tray of yellow buns steamed. Processed by Huang, the glutinous millet becomes sweet and tasty. From the lunar November on, he would ride 1.5 hours to the county town every three days to sell the buns.
Suide County sits in the hilly-gully areas in Northern Shaanxi. Today, minor cereals and wheat are the main ingredients on the table. Local people make them into diverse dishes. Suide is rich in the glutinous millet resources. The yellow steamed buns are made with this main ingredient.
Due to its drought-enduring nature, glutinous millet became the most important crop on the loess plateau. It was planted along the Yellow River regions more than 8,000 years ago. If the glutinous millet is directly steamed, it doesn't taste good enough. But it used to be the most popular staple food for people in Northern Shaanxi.
There are two types of glutinous millets, the hard and the soft. Huang Guosheng mingles the two based on this proportion: 70% hard glutinous millets and 30% the soft kind, dip them in water over a night and then grind them up on a millstone. Then he would use a sieve to get rid of the rough grains. Huang firmly believes that the glutinous millet powdered by a machine lags far behind those ground up on his millstone.
Fried glutinous millet produces natural fragrance. That's a recipe that Huang feels most proud of. After kneading the glutinous millet flour, Huang would put it in a big jar for fermentation for a night. Experience taught Huang to wrap up the jars with quilts to make the buns tastier.
Huang's home, a cave house, is the most traditional dwelling format on the loess plateau in China. It has a history of over 4,000 years. For the hardworking farmers here, their basic wish is to renovate a cave into a home and marry a wife. That's how a life gets complete.
Huang and his wife can make 700 buns every time. Grinding up, kneading and fermentation, the whole process takes 3 days. The couple works from 3 a.m. through 9 p.m. Huang's buns are good-tasting. And Huang is an honest businessman. One yuan for each bun, no bargain. In the coldest two months of a year, Huang can sell 15,000 buns. Taking into account the cost, he can earn 8,000 yuan in a winter.
Huang has a son and a daughter. Both have settled down in the city. They no longer work on the farmland. But Huang doesn't want to leave. Living in his cave house and eating the food he plants, Huang feels satisfied with his wife.
For thousands of years, Chinese people gain food and clothing from the five cereals. The feel of satisfaction brought by these carbohydrates is just provided by millions of hardworking farmers like Huang.
In autumn, the ripe wheat decides the basic color of the land in North China. Wheat was introduced into the Central Plains through the Hosi Corridor. As it contains rich nutrition, it has been the most vastly planted crop in North China after a localization process of over 4,000 years. This species originated from West Asia and has become the most important staple food for the Chinese.
After the wheat flour ferments, people bake them in a specially-designed fire pit. This type of round pancake contains little water and can be preserved for a long time. They're the indispensable staple food for Uyghur families in all seasons.
In Kuqa, Xinjiang, people celebrate the Corban Festival with delicacies. Naan is the most favorite staple food for Uyghur people. The name originated from ancient Persian and has a history of over 2,000 years.
When they first emerged, steamed buns were called Chui cakes and steamed cakes. They are the most popular staple food in the Central Plains. Ancient Chinese people were inspired by the water boiling food theory. They made China the earliest country to cook with steam.
Five cereals in China have always been a changing concept. Around 2,000 years ago, the five cereals were namely rice, broomcorn millet, millet, wheat, and beans. But today, the three grains that rank top in terms of their production volumes are rice, wheat and corn. No matter how things have changed, the leading status of rice remains unchanged.
In the Dong language, Dimen means the origin of spring. Dimen Village sits at the origin of Qingshui River. It mostly rains throughout a year. Wu Shunyu is fetching rice from their own barn. Barn plays a vital role in the storage of rice. The barn of tile and wood structure was built above the water to prevent fire, mice and insects. The most ancient barn here has a history of 300 years.
The rice Wu Shunyu has fetched is with shells. The fresh taste of rice can be preserved with the shells. The rice Wu fetched today would be presented as a gift to a family in their village. In Dimen, after a woman gives birth and her baby reaches the age of one month, her parents-in-law would send her the betrothal gifts. That marks the official formation of a new family. Other women in the village would also send baskets with new rice and eggs. That represents the most sincere blesses for the newly-born.
Rice noodles are the most important rice product in Liping, Guizhou. They can be seen everywhere on the local markets. People here love the noodles in soup the most. Refined rice noodles in the spicy broth can be served for any of the three meals daily. Grind the dipped fresh rice into rice milk, that's the first step for Yang Xiuxia to make to rice noodles. Scoop out the milk, steam it. The rice milk is steamed on the boiling water, air dry it and store it. This is a typical rice noodle workshop in South China. As white as jade, the rice noodles preserve some warmth and produce the unique fragrance of rice. For every movement, they've repeated for hundreds of times.
Plowing a field in spring, hoeing and weeding in summer, harvesting in autumn and storing up in winter. Today, more than 65% of the Chinese eat rice. China is the earliest country to plant rice paddy. Some 7,000 years ago, rice paddy was grown in the Yangtze River areas. From the green rice shoots to the golden paddy, rice has been made into different foods based on people's diverse eating habits.
Guangzhou natives also love rice noodles, which are cooked similarly to Liping rice noodles. Around 150 years ago, rice noodles first appeared is Guangzhou. The rice noodles here are thinner and more transparent and they taste more tender and smooth. The most popular rice noodle product emong the Cantonese can be this stir-fried rice noodles with beef. This dish is a test of a Cantonese chef's basic skills. To make this dish perfect, chefs have to fry the noodles on vigorous fire. While frying the noodles evenly, chefs also have to guarantee the intactness of the noodles. People in North China like eating flour products. The noodles in the south are made of rice.
More than 1,000 years ago, China was divided by the Qinling Mountains and Huaihe River in terms of the rural pattern: rice in the south and wheat in the north. Therefore, people in the south love eating rice and those in the north cannot live without wheaten food.
Thousands of miles away in Xi'an, this restaurant in the old city town is always filled with people waiting. What can keep the local people wait so patiently can only be the marinated meat in baked bun.
In Xi'an, this type of baked bun is the most widely accepted steple food. The marinated meat in baked bun in the most classic way to enjoy the buns. Marinated meat and baked bun are the perfect combination. The buns Xi'an people eat are baked on fire. The meat is made with 30-plus seasonings and is stewed with gentle heat. So it tastes soft and glutinous. The plain buns can better highlight the mellow meat.
Xi'an native Cao shi founded a band with a few friends. They sing in Xi'an dialects. Cao is a college teacher and also the lyric writer for the band. In this song, he lists dozens of local delicacies in ordinary people's loves in Shaanxi.
Xi'an was once the most prosperous city in the world. Thirteen dynasties set up their capitals here. People from around the world gathered here, bringing the place diverse delicacies. Today, Xi'an remains a heaven of staple foods for the Chinese.
Paomo, another staple food in Xi'an, originated from the baked buns. Based on their own preference, people can tear a bun into different sizes. As for Xi'an natives, this process is what they enjoy very much.
In Northwest China, chopped-up baked buns in lamb or beef broth is a perfect combination of staple food and soup. Another example can be the Lanzhou beef noodles. Lanzhou natives start their days with a bowl of beef noodles. With the Yellow River crossing the city, Lanzhou is home to over 1,000 Muslim noodles shops. Everyday, more than 1 million bowls of beef noodles are consumed. People have lavished praise on the tender and hot Lanzhou noodles.
One hundred years ago, a Hui ethnic person Ma Baozi poured the water, in which the beef and lamb livers were just boiled, into a pot. Noodles made in that pot won popularity immediately. The clarity of the beef broth is the way to check if the beef noodles are authentic. The best beef noodles should acquire the following five features: clear soup, clean white turnips, brilliant red chili oil, green parsley and yellow noodles. When kneading the flour, Ma Baozi creatively added some special water, whose main component is potassium carbonate. That made the flour more elastic. All the procedures are manual.
Ma Wenbin is the fourth-generation successor of Lanzhou beef noodles. He's been working in a noodle shop for 40 years. To pull the dough into noodles of different thickness, a chef needs to have extraordinary strong arms and also exquisite skills in controlling his strength. The same wheat and the same flour, but different noodles and different wonders are produced.
For the mouthfeel of noodles, people from the north and south have absolutely different requirements. The Cantonese like this type of slim noodles, which are completely different from Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles. These noodles taste crispy, elastic and chewy. Rice paddy gets ripe in Guangdong for up to three seasons out of a year. But that doesn't prevent the Cantonese from loving the noodles.
Duck eggs are applied in dough making. A bamboo is used to press against the dough. A person jumps while sitting at the other end of the bamboo. Thus, the dough can receive strength evenly. The thin flour can be made into noodles or wanton skin that have special elasticity. Stewing pig bones, ground fish and shrimp eggs for 3 hours, and the soup for the tasty wonton noodles is made.
Cantonese call noodles made with this traditional method bamboo noodles. This ancient method of dough pressing has been passed on for generations.
When making noodles, the Cantonese use bamboo while those in the Central Plains apply a rolling pole. Making dough is a skill that girls in the Central Plains must master. Noodles for breakfast and a banquet in the noon is the custom in Ding Village when people hold a birthday feast. To celebrate her husband's 70th birthday, Madame Wai got up early to prepare the flour food. The noodles are called longevity noodles. Why Chinese people eat noodles on their birthdays? How did noodles become the symbol of longevity? It is said that the shape of noodle is both long and slim. In Putonghua, long (chang) and slim (shou) is similar to the pronunciation of longevity (changshou). Noodles are the most popular staple food on birthdays for the Chinese.
At the birthday banquet in Ding Village, a ritual requiring the participation of all people is ongoing. Before eating the noodles, all the people pick out the longest noodle in their bowl and put it into the bowl of the one who celebrates the birthday. When be eats the bowl with all the long noodles carrying the villagers' best wishes, a birthday banquet can be regarded as complete.
People in Qishan, Shaanxi also eat noodles when celebrating birthdays. Qishan people would gather together and invite a Qin Melody troupe to perform. At this time, a towl of hot, sour and spicy Qishan saozi noodles is indispensable.
From early in the morning, a feast serving guests with noodles starts. As soon as the guests come, they'll get a bowl of noodles. Local chronicles say that Qishan saozi noodles originated 3,000 years ago. According to the local custom, people only eat the noodles but don't drink the soup.
The methods to make the ingredients for the Qishan saozi noodles are very particular. Meat is chopped into thin and even dices and dry-fried until they turn transparent. Add vinegar and chili and fry the meat on slow fire. The good-quality
ingredients for Qishan saozi noodles are red in color, sour and spicy in the taste. The bright color and spicy taste are the essence of Qishan saozi noodles.
The trimmings for the noodles have five colors. Fungus and tofu mean black and white. Eggs represent wealth. Red carrot symbolizes a prosperous life. Garlic sprouts mean vitality. The five colors, red, yellow, green, white and black represent Qishan people's best wishes for life. For thousands of years, saozi soup has been boiling in every corner in Qishan Village. Qishan saozi noodles have become a wonderful art piece.
Qishan saozi noodles function as both the rice and the dishes. Such a combination of rice and dishes can also be found elsewhere in China.