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Shanxi cuisine (Chinese: 山西菜; pinyin: Shānxī cài), or Jin cuisine (simplified Chinese: 晋菜; traditional Chinese: 晉菜; pinyin: Jìn cài), is derived from the native cooking styles of Shanxi province in China, and it is famed for noodles, its fried flatbread (dabing), and its sour taste. The cuisine is also famed for utilising its locally produced vinegar, just like in Huaiyang cuisine, but the flavour is totally different.
Generally speaking, Shanxi cuisine is less known to people outside the region. One of the reasons is that Shanxi is less populated as compared to other provinces in China. Being a very traditional region where the lifestyle of locals has not been modernised, many outsiders find Shanxi cuisine too authentic and traditional.
Despite the use of pork and chicken, one of the most popular meat sources in Shanxi is lamb, as well as some other parts of the body of a goat or sheep. For example, lamb soup is usually cooked with livers, stomach, and some other organs from the lamb. However, as a traditional area with strong cultural connections with early Northwest Asian nomadic nations and minorities, the use of lamb in Shanxi has been presenting a unique and blended way of cooking of both North Chinese minorities and the Han Chinese. For example, using ground lamb and carrots as a common kind of dumpling filling, is something that has not yet been found in any other Chinese cooking styles outside Shanxi. Besides, blending ground pork with chopped dill is another kind of popular dumpling filling enjoyed by the locals.
Shanxi cuisine comprises three styles:
- Northern Shanxi style, represented by dishes from Datong and Mount Wutai, with emphasis on colour and oil.
- Southern Shanxi style, represented by dishes from Linfen and the Grand Canal regions, specialising in seafood, despite the fact that Shanxi is a landlocked province.
- Central Shanxi style, represented by dishes from Taiyuan, which presents a mainstream cooking style compared to both the northern and southern regions of the province. Before the 1970s, as local cuisine and professional cooking had not been influenced by Cantonese and Sichuan styles, Taiyuan cuisine contained a number of noodle dishes, Chinese Muslim dishes, local hot pot dishes, and meat dishes using fresh water seafood and lamb. The region is especially famous for its hand shaven noodles (daoxiao mian).
Shanxi mature vinegar (also called "over-mature vinegar"), called Shanxi lao chencu (simplified Chinese: 山西老陈醋; traditional Chinese: 山西老陳醋; pinyin: Shānxī lǎo chéncù) in Chinese. Based on the techniques used to prepare the vinegar, it should be more accurately called "aged Shanxi vinegar" or "extra aged vinegar". Some of the methods used in brewing Shanxi lao chencu have been considered intellectual properties and are under the protection of Chinese laws. It is a famous product of the region, and is produced primarily in Qingxu County, a vicinity of the provincial capital of Taiyuan. The Shanxi Vinegar Culture Museum has been built there. Local Taiyuan residents, especially those who have lived there for generations, prefer ninghuafu yiyuanqing (simplified Chinese: 宁化府益源庆; traditional Chinese: 寧化府益源慶; pinyin: Nínghuàfǔ yìyuánqìng), a brand of vinegar produced by the Yiyuanqing Company in the old downtown area of Taiyuan.
In the United States, some Asian grocery stores sell Shanxi lao chencu. One of the common suppliers is Shuita Brand (水塔牌), a brewing company located in Qingxu County.
Tou-nao Lamb Soup
Literally means "head brain" lamb soup. It is made from lamb, rice wine, yam and other spices. The soup has nothing to do with a lamb's head or brain despite its name. It is traditionally enjoyed during winter and is said to be nutritious.
Stir-fried dishes made from ground pork or ground beef.
The duck is steamed first and then pan fried. This creates a crispy and rich taste without making the duck meat too greasy.
Soy cheese steamed pork
Pork is stir-fried first, then steamed in a big bowl together with red salty soy cheese curd (similar to the one used in Beijing cuisine), ginger and garlic. When done, the pork has a creamy, soft, lightly sweet and richly savoury taste from both the soy cheese and pork fat. The pork is thinly sliced and served with fresh herbs.