Min Cai is an abbreviation for the Fujian cuisine which originated in Minhou County in Fujian. Fujian cuisine has developed, represented by Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Xiamen dishes etc. It is one of the major cuisines of China and enjoys pride of place amongst the culinary culture treasures of China. The cuisine’s best cooking techniques are stir-frying, sautéing, frying and simmering - steaming is the most distinctive of its techniques. Since Fujian lies in a southeastern coastal area it is abounds with various kinds of sea foods such as conger eel, razor clam, sleeve-fish, yellow croaker and sea cucumber etc. Various dishes of Fujian cuisine, therefore, are predominantly cooked with sea food as their main ingredients. Their flavors are distinctive.
The features of Fujian cuisine
The features and characteristics of Fujian cuisine: simple and elegant, fresh and tender, mild and mellow, a lingering fragrance.
I. Major ingredients are those of sea food and food from mountainous regions. Fujian is advantageously situated near both mountains and coastal areas. There are mountainous areas to the north of Fujian and its coastal area is in the south. The boundless mountainous areas are rich in mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tremella, lotus seeds and mountain delicacies such as paa spinosa, river eel and soft-shelled turtles etc. The long shallow seas of the Fujian coastline are rich in the high-quality sea food such as fish, shrimp, oyster and sturgeon etc., the supplies of which are year round.
II. The cuisine’s cutting techniques are exquisite and taste is paramount. Cutting techniques are of great importance to cooking Fujian cuisine, and all cutting techniques were developed with taste taken into consideration. The original flavor and character of the raw materials should be revealed by means of cutting techniques. The showy, insubstantial and artificial cutting techniques are prohibited. The natural beauty of raw materials is incorporated in dishes and flavors should be refreshing, integrated and transparent. The dishes should be cooked to a turn both inside and outside, and their forming should be natural and dignified. The “sliced whelk in a nest” is a typical dish that has the appearance of a blooming peony thanks to the cutting techniques and proper duration of its cooking - it is pleasing to the eye and tastes crisp, tender and delicious.
III. Soups are exquisite and rich in variation. The soup is a very important element of Fujian cuisine, which is associated with the cooking of sea food and traditional eating customs. For a long time, chefs of Fujian cuisine have attached great importance to the ensuring of fresh quality, pure flavors and nourishment features of the raw ingredients. It has been found through cumulative experience, that the use of soup is the most effective means for maintaining the naturally occurring and original flavors of ingredients. There are, therefore, many kinds of soup in Fujian cuisine and they are all exquisite. Some are white as milk, sweet, refreshing and tasty; some are as clear as water, bright-colored and delicious; some are golden and transparent, full of fragrance; some are thick and dense with a strong color, mellow and fragrant in taste. “Braised sea clam with chicken soup” is a representative dish of Fujian cuisine. Its chicken soup is not merely a chicken soup but an elaborate soup “made from three velvet-like ingredients”, i.e. extracts of hen flesh, pork tenderloin and beef. The ingredients are quickly boiled in with Fujian sea clam. Consumption of the dish leads to a relaxed and happy feeling, and it has a lingering aftertaste.
IV. Fujian cuisine’s cooking process is exquisite and its seasoning is of great importance. The exquisite cooking is evident in the meticulous choice of materials, proper soaking, precise seasoning, fantastic soup making and precise timing in cooking etc. The importance of seasoning is demonstrated by the maintenance of original flavors. Sugar is used to eliminate fishy odors and the smell of mutton. Fujian cuisine makes the best use of vinegar, as acid can be both tasty and refreshing. Light tastes contribute to the maintenance of original flavors. Fujian cuisine is, therefore, famous for its agreeable sweetness and acidity.
Buddha skipping the wall, soaked and wined chicken, hot and sour squid, sliced wined chicken, Tai Chi prawn, steamed bream and lychee-sharped pork etc.