Look beyond the familiar Cantonese favourites when cooking Chinese food this winter and you’ll discover a wealth of warming dishes. Hailing from Sichuan, Hunan, Xi’An and other northern locales, these authentic Chinese recipes will help you beat the chill.
One of the 8 great cuisines of China, Sichuan food is known for its liberal use of chillies, oil and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Signature winter dishes include the ubiquitous hot pot (find out how to make your own Sichuan hot pot here), and punchy kung pao chicken. Warm yourself from the inside out with this simmered beef in hot chilli soup, luscious double-cooked pork, or this speedy ma po tofu.
Eating out: Dainty Sichuan, Melbourne, South Yarra and Box Hill, VIC
With temperatures dropping well below freezing across much of the nation, the winter months in China cry out for rich and delicious braises. From the Hunan province in the southeast of the country, this delectable Mao-style braised pork belly is sticky and satisfying, with the added benefit of Chinese medicinal ingredients such as ginger and garlic. Hailing from Hangzhou, inland from Shanghai, this dong po pork also uses superfoods such as cinnamon and star anise.
Eating out: Chairman Mao, Kensington, NSW
The further north you travel in China, the more you’ll notice wheat-based products replacing rice. In Beijing and the surrounding regions, you can buy piping hot baozi (pork buns) straight from the pan, or zha jiang mian, a satisfying dish of thick wheat noodles, spicy pork and cucumber, which tastes like China’s answer to spaghetti bolognese (and is just as comforting!)
Thanks to its location as the eastern end of the Silk Road and its Muslim community, the cuisine of central Xi’an and the province on Shaanxi showcases exotic spices that you may not normally associate with Chinese cooking, such as cumin and coriander seed. At home, try this stir-fried beef with cumin and oyster sauce – this recipe works really well with lamb steaks, too.
Eating out: Xi’an Cuisine, Haymarket, NSW, or Xi’an Famous Food, Melbourne, VIC
Forget the delicate steamed dumplings of your favourite yum cha restaurant. To warm up this winter, zero in on these fried Chinese meat dumplings from Shanghai and northern China, loaded with pork and cabbage, then dipped in black vinegar or chilli sauce.
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