Located in the north of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Hubei boasts a great number of rivers and lakes, hence the name the “land with 1,000 lakes.” Hubei is the birthplace of the Chu culture, and one of the regions that took the lead in developing the economy in South China in ancient times. Its advantageous geographical conditions, abundant products, advanced economy and culture have laid a solid foundation for the culinary civilisation of Hubei.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jianghan Region became the hub of water and land communications; and the mixture of different ethnic groups, the circulation of products, the rise of commerce and the exchange of culinary cultures greatly influenced Hubei’s culinary civilization. Gradually, dishes invented by people in Hubei exhibit more local characteristics. In the late Qing Dynasty, Hubei boasted several thousand kinds of dishes and snacks, in addition to several hundred types of banquets. All these prove that Hubei Cuisine is rich and varied.
Hubei Cuisine features thick juice, thick gravy and a salty and pure taste.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, is China’s hub of south-north communications. Wuhan has a large number of scenic spots and historical sites. Is famous traditional dishes and snacks are mainly prepared with fish.
Special Local Dishes:
Steamed Wuchang Fish in Clear Soup—清蒸武昌鱼
Steamed with Wuchang fish, also called triangular bream, hams, dried mushrooms, winter bamboo shoots and chicken broth, plus various kinds of seasonings, this dish features a beautiful colour and shape, a delicious taste and tender fish meat.
Braised White Catfish with Soy Sauce—红烧鮰鱼
With white catfish as the main material, and cooking wine, salt, onions and ginger as seasonings, this dish is delicious, tender, smooth and refreshing.
One-Thousand Meat Slices—千张肉
With sliced thin streaky pork as the main material, sesame oil, fermented bean curd, fermented soybeans, soy sauce, salt, onions, ginger and Chinese prickly ash as seasonings, this dish is overall excellence in colour, smell, taste and shape. Tender and delicious, the dish consists of many thin slices of pork, hence the name.
Pumpkins and Chicken in a Wooden Basin—木桶南瓜鸡
Prepared with cubed chicken and pumpkins, the dish is aromatic and tasty.
Special Local Snacks:
Three-Delicacy Dried Bean Curd Sheet—三鲜豆皮
Procedure: Prepare dried bean curd sheets with mung beans and rice; make a stuffing with fresh shrimps, minced pork, eggs, dried mushrooms and winter bamboo shoots; roll the bean curd sheet and stuff the rolls with the stuffing; fry the rolls.
The rolls are crisp and delicious.
Hot Dry Noodles—热干面
Procedure: Boil noodles in water; take noodles out of the boiling water; mix the noodles with oil; dry the noodles by airing. Before the noodles are served, dip them in hot water and add some sesame seed sauce.
Steamed Bun Stuffed with Minced Pork and Gravy—汤包
Glutinous Rice and Bean Cake—樵米豆粑
Quanliao Glutinous Rice Dumpling Served in Soup—全料汤
Jingzhou, an ancient city, has many scenic spots and historical sites, which attracts countless Chinese and foreign tourists. Aside from tourist attractions, there are also many delicious local dishes and snacks in the city. Its most representative dishes include:
Thick Soup Made of White Gourd and Calipashes and Calipees—冬瓜鳖裙羹
Prepared with small white gourd balls, calipashes and calipees, plus some seasonings, this dish is delicious and nutritious.
Fish Cakes and Balls—鱼糕丸子
Procedure: Take fish meat and pork as the main materials; mince the fish meat and pork; add starch, egg liquid and seasonings to the mixture of minced fish meat and pork; make fish cakes and balls; steam fish cakes; and garnish the fish cakes and balls with slices of bamboo shoots and pork tripe. This dish is palatable and rich in nutrition.
Steamed Pork in Rice Powder—粉蒸肉
Steamed Black Carp with Rice Powder—粉蒸青鱼
Pearly Pork Balls—珍珠丸子
Steamed Bream with Rice Powder—粉蒸鳊鱼
Steamed Spareribs with Rice Powder—粉蒸排骨
Steamed Beef with Rice Powder—粉蒸牛肉
Large Bun Stuffed with Chicken Balls—鸡球大包
Beef Cooked in Small Bamboo Streamers—小笼牛肉
Minced Chinese Yams—山药泥
Huangzhou is the former name of Huanggang. People in Huangzhou has also invented many famous traditional dishes, such as:
In the Song Dynasty when Su Dongpo, a famous poet, served as a local official of Huangzhou, he created a dish - Braised Pork in Soy Sauce. Later, this dish, named after Su Dongpo, was inherited by the people in Huangzhou.
Braised Three Materials—烧三合
Also known as Braised Three Delicacies, this delicious and nutritious dish is prepared with fish balls, pork balls and pork cakes.
Fried Meat Sandwiched in Between Two Pieces of Lotus Root—藕盒
(Steamed dumplings with the dough gathered at the top)
Small Crisp Cake—小酥饼
(4). Hubei Vegetarian Dishes
Hubei is home to a lot of famous Buddhist and Taoist temples, such as Guiyuan Temple in Hanyang, Five Ancestors’ Temple in Huangmei, and Baotong Temple in Wuchang. All of them serve vegetarian dishes.
Dongpo Pork is a famous dish of Huangzhou. “Huangzhou has plenty of pork, whose price is very low. The rich detest it, and the poor do not know how to cook it. Stew pork over a low fire, and add a small amount of water to it, the braised pork tastes delicious when the time is right.” It was written by Su Dongpo, a great writer of the Song Dynasty when he was demoted to be a local official of Huangzhou. Su Dongpo was good at dietetic treatment and health care. Once, he went to the kitchen to stew pork over a low fire. Then Su Dongpo and his friend started to play chess. A quite long time had passed, and Su Dongpo who concentrated his attention on the chess game suddenly thought of the pork. He ran to the kitchen and opened the cover of the pot, finding the pork was bright red in colour, with thick and mellow juice. After the host and guest tasted the pork, they were surprised that the pork was extremely delicious, aromatic, soft and not greasy.
Later this dish was called Dongpo Pork. Hangzhou also has a pork dish cooked with wine and pork contributed by the local people for the labourers who were building the Su Causeway. The unique cooking techniques used to prepare the pork has been handed down since ancient times.
Fish Cake 鱼糕
Fish Cake is a famous traditional dish in Hubei. Legend accounts that this dish originated in the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.), when the state of Chu made Ying (north of present-day Jiangling in Hubei) its capital. King Wen of Chu was fond of fresh fish, but he ate fish, fish bones were often stuck in his throat. Then the King usually killed the chefs and the official in charge of the imperial food, making all the imperial cooks tremble with fear. A high-ranking official suggested that the King should employ a chef who could prepare boneless fish dishes with high pay. There were lots of applicants, but none of them was qualified.
One day when a restaurant owner in the city was considering how to make a boneless fish dish, his youngest son asked for a rice cake. All of a sudden, he had a bright idea: “Why don’t I make cakes with fish meat?” He started to work on the new dish right away. He got rid of fish bones, minced fish meat, mixed the minced fish meat with pure bean powder, added some wine and other seasonings, and steamed the fish cakes. When he tasted the cakes, he thought them very delicious. Later he was employed as an imperial chef, and the king liked Fish Cake prepared by him so much that he designated it as the “National Dish.” Since then, Fish Cake has been spread far and wide and has become a famous local dish of Hubei.
Mianyang Three Kinds of Steamed Food—沔阳三蒸
Mianyang Three Kinds of Steamed Food is a famous traditional dish of Mianyang consisting of steamed fish, pork and lotus roots. The legend goes that this dish was related to Chen Youliang, a leader of a peasants’ uprising army in the late Yuan Dynasty. One year, Chen Youliang was fighting a battle in Mianyang alongside his troops. As the military situation was very tense, the soldiers had to eat half-cooked rice and vegetables boiled in salty water. With the passage of time, lots of soldiers suffered from malnutrition, and the army’s combat effectiveness was weakened. Aunty Luo, who was in charge of rear service, then learned to make steamed food from the local people. She mixed rice powder, fish, lotus roots and Chinese cabbages together and steamed the mixture. The steamed food that contained both staple and non-staple foods was delicious and aromatic. All the soldiers liked the steamed food very much and won victories one after another. Later this steamed food was spread to the other parts of the country as the uprising army was making headway. It is said that Emperor Qianlong once tasted this dish during his inspection of South China, and spoke highly of it. Since then, Mianyang Three Kinds of Steamed Food has become one of the must dishes served at local banquets.
Yingshan Stewed Soup—应山煨汤
Yingshan Stewed Soup was created during the Ming Dynasty. The legend goes that, one year, the uncle of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, came to Hunan and Hubei for an inspection. One day, he arrived at Yingshan. The county magistrate asked a chef to prepare some delicious dishes for the inspector. However, the inspector only ate vegetarian food and refused to take any meat dishes. It was very difficult for the local chef to meet his needs. The chef secretly stewed a jar of chicken broth at the backyard. He scooped out all chicken meat from the broth and made many dishes with bean products using chicken broth as the seasoning. The inspector liked the dishes very much, saying: “I have been to nearly a hundred places, but I am only fond of this dinner.” Since then, it has become a famous local dish of Yingshan.
Yingshan Smooth Pork—应山滑肉
Yingshan Smooth Pork also originated from Yingshan. A story goes that in the Zhenguan reign period (627-649) of the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong Li Shimin of the Tang Dynasty had been ill for quite a long time. He did not want to eat anything. The imperial edict was published, saying a handsome reward would be given to anyone who could meet the emperor’s appetite. Upon learning the news, Master Zhan, a chef from Yingshan County, went to Chang’an and prepared a plate of pork for the emperor with great care. The pork was fat, smooth, tender, tasty, and not greasy. No sooner had the emperor put a piece of pork into his mouth, the pork slipped into his stomach, leaving only fainted scent in his mouth. The emperor kept eating several pieces of pork, and his appetite was greatly improved. The emperor shouted: “Smooth pork! Smooth pork!” Then Master Zhan was appointed as an imperial cook, and the “Smooth Pork” became famous.
Happy Glutinous Rice Dumpling—欢喜团
Happy Glutinous Rice Dumpling, a famous traditional snack of Jingzhou, is also known as Glutinous Rice Dumpling Covered with Sesame Seeds, or Glutinous Rice Egg Covered with Sesame Seeds. The dumpling is usually prepared to celebrate the festivals and family reunion. A story goes that, in the late Qing Dynasty, the members of a family by the surname of Tao in Jingzhou City were broken up in the war. After innumerable hazards and hardships, all the family members were finally reunited. To celebrate the family reunion, the elder member of the Tao family prepared some glutinous rice, cleaned the rice, ground it into pulp, dripped the pulp dry, added a small amount of flour and red sugar to the rice powder, made the pulp into small balls, rolled the rice balls in sesame seeds, and fried the glutinous rice dumplings. The readymade dumplings were so sweet, aromatic and tasty that they won unanimous praise from all the family members and guests. To cherish the memory of the family reunion, the elder member named it “Happy Glutinous Rice Dumpling.” Later, the Tao family established an eatery to sell such dumplings, which became very popular among in the region.
Yunmeng Fish Noodles—云梦鱼面
Yunmeng Fish Noodles is a special snack of Yunmeng in Hubei Province. Legend has it that in the 15th year of the Daoguang reign period (1835) of the Qing Dynasty, the Xu Chuanfa Cloth Shop launched a promotion activity - soliciting customers with fish noodles. The boss of the cloth shop employed a famous chef to make the fish noodles. The chef got rid of the bones in the fresh fish, minced the fish meat, mixed the minced fish meat with flour and various kinds of seasonings, and meticulously made the fish meat into noodles. The delicious fish noodles attracted many customers to the cloth shop, greatly improving its business. The Xu Chuanfa Cloth Shop also made thin fish noodles. They dried them by airing them, packed them, and sold the noodles to other places in the country. In 1915, Yunmeng Fish Noodles won an honorary certificate of merit at the Panama International Fair.