The land of Confucius, Shandong peanuts and mantous. Being a province in north China, the food can be different from what you’d associate with ‘Chinese food’, which is mostly from southern China due to the bulk of emigration from there. Wheat, in the form of bread, buns and pancake items are the staple compared to rice in the south. Weifang is a small city in Shandong hence no Happy Cow entry – but the traditional food I had at locals’ homes are worth sharing.
Handmade by a distant aunt – wheat pancake jiazi stuffed with chives and mushrooms, cooked without oil on a metal pan. Just one is very dense and filling because it’s farmers’ food. Bread items are always eaten with millet, corn or rice porridge because they can be too dry on its own.
Wo wo tou – steamed corn bread with a pinch of baking soda to bring out the sweetish fragrance of cornmeal and soy flour! Gluten – free. It’s meant to be conical shaped with bigger hole but my uncle was lazy! The hole can be stuffed with stir fries for a savoury bun.
Other types of steamed buns are mantous (plain wheat bun) and huajuan (spring onion and wheat twisted into a bun). What I love most about Chinese steamed breads are the simple base ingredients – yeast, wheat flour and water. Easily vegan and goes well with any dish!
Of course, the iconic northern food, dumplings! Making them is a family event. This is stuffed homegrown chives and gourd with tofu! Large bamboo trays are used to hold wheat – based foods because they are naturally anti-stick.
Pickled foods are in every meal in Shandong. It can be any crisp or juicy plant from cucumber to peanuts, and fermented in water or wine. It’s VERY SALTY but also very umami – best nibbled with porridge!
Raw, minced garlic is a popular dressing for cold dishes. There’s even a saying that Shandong people can sing well because raw garlic make voices good. This appetizing steamed french beans with garlic, sesame sauce and vinegar made by my cousin in law is creamy, tangy with the famous Shandong – grown spicy, garlicky kick.
菇汤素食馆 (literally ‘Mushroom Soup Restaurant’. Address 高新区东方路与福寿街交叉口东南) is one of the vegetarian restaurants I visited in Weifang – the best one! Choose anything you want (The pictures show only half of the buffet) and it will be boiled in rich mushroom broth. Such an overwhelming selection of noodles, ingredients and sauces – from seitan sticks to sweet yam balls to arrowroot noodles. 99% vegan except for the (very little) mock meats!
Lastly, 2 traditional, handmade snacks from a second-generation shop where the son learnt the art of making from his father and is continuing the tradition, but isn’t optimistic about passing onto his son. Melt-in-your-mouth, rustic green bean cake and the crispiest, most fragrant sesame candy I’ve had. Definitely supporting them the next time.
Here ends my Vegan in China series. My travel itch is still there – look forward to more discoveries! Meanwhile, recipes. Thanks for reading these long posts and hope they help in your travels!