On February 2 nd, "Dragon Food" sold well, royal banquets became commonplace, and folk snacks were innovated.

On February 2 nd, "Dragon Food" sold well, royal banquets became commonplace, and folk snacks were innovated.

The year 2024 is year of the loong, and dragon-related food is naturally highly respected. But whether it is year of the loong or not, the "dragon food" will become the focus every year on the second day of the second lunar month. Chen Liansheng, a leading snack expert and Beijing snack expert, said that "the dragon looks up" is also called Spring Farming Festival, Farming Festival, Qinglong Festival and Spring Dragon Festival. On this day, people’s eating should be related to dragons. For example, eating spring cakes is called "eating Long Lin", eating noodles is called "eating dragon whiskers", eating wonton is called "eating longan", eating jiaozi is called "eating dragon ears", cooking noodles and wonton together is called "taking dragon beads", and eating onion cakes is called "tearing dragon skin".

Every year, "February 2nd" is a very busy day for the snack origin shop in Huguosi. Several long queues are almost arranged from the counter window to the dining area, all of which are customers who come to buy "Gentiana". This kind of excitement will start almost a week before February 2, and it can even reach more than 4,000 on February 2.

"Gentian" is actually a fried cake with stuffing. In some areas such as Beijing and Tianjin, it is customary to eat "Gentian" on February 2, probably because the fried cake is golden in color and similar in appearance to the "Gentian" that everyone imagined. The "Gentian" fried cake in Huguosi snack origin shop pays attention to the production of millet flour. In addition to the most traditional red beans and jujube paste fillings, in recent years, lotus seed paste, sea salt cheese fillings and chocolate fillings have been newly developed, and "Gentian" has also been transformed into a "flowing heart" through technological improvement. Steamed millet noodles and fried fillings have introduced various new tastes that young people like, which is also an "attack" for Beijing snacks to adapt to the development of the times.

"Gentian" is fried cake with stuffing. Photo courtesy of respondents

Before February 2nd this year, I just finished the third solar term of the traditional 24 solar terms in China. There is also a dragon-related food-"lazy dragon" on the day of "Jing Zhe". It is a season of high vitality and enterprising spirit in a year when the spring thunder begins to sound and everything recovers. Small hanging pear soup, which focuses on Beijing cuisine, is always full of diners who come to eat "memory lazy dragon" during the "shocking" season every year. Liu Zheng, the brand official of Xiaotiao Pear Soup, said that in Beijing’s folk customs and food customs, "lazy dragon" means to get rid of "lazy spirit", cheer up and work hard to refuel.

"Lazy Dragon" is a kind of steamed pasta, which has a sweet mouth and a salty mouth. It can be added with different fillings such as bean paste, sesame sauce and pork. It looks like a long dragon, and the method is not complicated. It is a very grounded old Beijing cuisine. Many children in Beijing, whether at home or in kindergarten, always have a memory related to the "lazy dragon": the elders rolled the dough into a big piece, then evenly spread the mixed meat into it, and then rolled it into a roll and put it into a steamer like a dragon. At the moment when the pot is steamed and uncovered, the kitchen is full of steaming heat. The "lazy dragon" is plump and white. When it is slightly cooled on the curtain, adults will cut it into sections, and the children holding plates next to it will be drooling. The gravy soaked in soy sauce flowed out and soaked in the white flour roll, and it was full of satisfaction.

◆ Ancient and modern "dragon food"

China’s cuisine pays attention to the culture of not eating from time to time, the concept of balance between Yin and Yang, harmony of five flavors, the technique of reverence for heaven and earth and respect for ingredients, and "what to eat" has always been deeply linked with long-standing folk customs. From the twenty-four solar terms, known as "the fifth invention of China", to the Chinese Zodiac, which is given to 1.4 billion people in China, there are delicious foods endowed with food culture, prayers and folk legends.

Zodiac is a long-standing symbol of folk culture. "What to eat in what year" is the expectation, hope and blessing of people for the new year, just like issuing zodiac stamps, zodiac commemorative coins and derived zodiac mascots. Eleven of China’s 12 Zodiacs are real animals, and only "dragon" exists in legends. The food related to dragon has more symbols and meanings: pictograms combine wishes and symbols combine expectations, and the culture and interest contained in "dragon food" become more and more prominent.

From Palace Cuisine to "Homemade Edition" of "Oolong Spitting Beads"

The dragon exists in the myth of China, whether it is the ancient Nu Wa who tried to mend the sky by refining stones "killing the black dragon to help Jizhou" or the Four Seas Dragon King in The Journey to the West, which is well-known by women and children. This kind of animal is "a mixture of a serpent as the main body, a horse’s head, a raccoon’s tail, a deer’s horn, a dog’s paw, a fish’s scales and whiskers".

"Dragon" was also related to emperors in the past, so the food related to "Dragon" should naturally appear in the "Imperial Diet" menu. In Beijing Beihai Park, Fangshan Restaurant was founded by chefs Zhao Renzhai, Sun Shaoran, Wang Yushan, Zhao Chengshou, etc. in the imperial dining room of Qing Palace, with a history of 99 years. Xu Xianlin, the current director of the kitchen administration of Fangshan Restaurant, has been working in Fangshan for 32 years. In his memory, Fangshan not only launched the "Man-Han Banquet" for the first time in China in 1979, but also had a "Dragon Banquet". However, with the society paying more and more attention to food civilization and deepening the concept of wildlife protection, many dishes on the "Dragon Banquet" have stopped cooking. Except for some "dragon dishes" presented in the form of setting plates and modeling, it is still the signature dish of Fangshan restaurant, and there is only one "Wulong Tuzhu".

"Wulong Tuzhu" is a traditional Qing court dish, which belongs to Shandong cuisine in terms of cuisine. At first, on the imitation food menu, the name of this dish was the more "luxurious" "Golden Dragon Spitting Beads". The staple food "Oolong" is actually sea cucumber, one of the "Eight Treasures of the Sea" in the "Man-Han Banquet". The "Oolong" is quail eggs, and Xinfeng Building, one of the "Eight Buildings" in that year, upgraded quail eggs to pigeon eggs. Xu Xianlin said that the "Wulong Tuzhu" of imitation food uses 9 pieces of 40 sea cucumbers with good color, and the whole root can reach about 20 cm after hair production. Then, with broth and special cooking sauce, it is repeatedly simmered and slowly stewed. Finally, 9 sea cucumbers symbolizing the "Ninth Five-Year Plan" can be served with quail eggs. The combination of the two ingredients brings out the best in each other, with fresh and strong taste and soft waxy teeth.

Today, "Oolong Tuzhu" is still the top three specialty dishes of Fangshan restaurant, and it simplifies the more economical "home-cooked version". Xu Xianlin said that although the "home-cooked version" of "Oolong Tuzhu" replaces the whole ginseng with a broken sea cucumber, it will not be as serious as a banquet, but there are many production processes and the taste is not bad. Sea cucumber is no longer an unreachable delicacy in the past, and "Wulong Tuzhu" has also changed from royal meals and banquet dishes to people’s daily meals. In many consumers’ comments on it, just like comments on home cooking, they think it is "delicious" and "nutritious".

"Home-cooked version" of "Oolong Spitting Beads". Photo courtesy of respondents

A dragon that Emperor Guangxu punched in.

A dragon restaurant, which opened in 1785, is more historic than the "dragon dish". In 1785, it was fifty years since the reign of Emperor Qianlong. It was impossible for a restaurant to be named after the word "dragon". At that time, a dragon was called "Nanhengshun Mutton Restaurant", and it was just a small shop dealing in mutton and biscuits. It was not until August 1921 that the inscription "One Dragon" was inscribed by Yang Duosheng, the former Qing Dynasty Ministry of Industry.

According to legend, one day in the late spring of the 23rd year of Guangxu (AD 1897), two customers like master and servant came to Nanhengshun. Like a servant, the host ordered hotpot, halal dishes and several halal snacks. Like the host, he told the Korean shopkeeper who stood by while eating, boasting that the meat and tender vegetables were fragrant and delicious, and giving directions to the dishes, but he didn’t have the money to pay the bill after eating. The clerk was just about to collect the bill. The shopkeeper saw that these two people didn’t look like people who ate food, so he smiled and said, "It doesn’t matter, just bring it when it’s convenient for you." Then he taught the clerk: "Didn’t you hear his comments just now? His suggestions for improvement are also enough for meals. Remember to improve according to what the guests say, no more words. "

The next day, a little eunuch in the palace sent the money, and everyone knew that the one who looked like the master the day before was Emperor Guangxu. The shopkeeper immediately consecrated the stools and used hot pots that the emperor had sat on the day before as "treasures" and wrapped them in yellow silk, and no one was allowed to use them again; At the same time, according to the "oral instructions" of Emperor Guangxu when dining, I consulted the chef in the imperial dining room of Qing Palace for many times, and improved the flavor of hotpot and the color, flavor and shape of dishes. The story of "the real dragon emperor" eating in Nanhengshun soon spread in Beijing, and people called Nanhengshun "a dragon". Since then, a small mutton restaurant has become famous. Apart from its delicious taste, it has to be said that this is not unrelated to the shopkeeper’s open-minded and kind management.

Now, the plaque of "Mutton Restaurant" and the copper pot used by Emperor Guangxu are still in the store. Although the old shop has experienced several twists and turns, a dragon that returned to Qianmen Street in 2008 still has the characteristics of "fine selection of materials", "fine processing", "complete seasoning" and "fragrant staple food". A dragon’s mutton is specially selected from the "Tan Sheep" in Gansu, which has a small skeleton, pink meat and white waist, and is tender and tender. Cut the meat by hand, and make a frozen meat roll by "cold pressing" process to remove the fat and keep it tender. A variety of meat-washing and dipping materials are blended with dozens of raw materials. At the same time, the sesame cakes that inherit the palace characteristics are exquisite in technology, tender in the outside, distinct in layers and crisp in taste.

Beijingers love to eat hotpot, especially in the dead of winter, when relatives and friends sit around a table, they feel extremely comfortable. Many old diners of a dragon recalled that in the past, materials were scarce and wages were not high. If they could earn more occasionally, they would like to go to a dragon to eat once. At that time, the feeling was that "there was not enough meat to eat", which was actually related to "less oil and water" and "less money to earn". "I haven’t finished this meal yet, so I will lick it next time." Today, a 239-year-old Longmen store is still steaming. In the copper hot pot on the guest table, tender meat and fresh vegetables roll together. The difference is that in the past, I was short of money, but now I am dripping with joy.

Bolong and Ma Xiaoer, another kind of "dragon" in ingredients.

The name of the dish with "dragon" is mostly the product of adding legends and people’s good expectations and integrating them into reasonable imagination according to the shape. The most representative of the "dragon" in the ingredients is lobster. This animal has a thick shell, so it is named because it looks like a mythical dragon. Although they are all lobsters, there are 11 genera of lobsters, with a total of about 46 species. China has also found 8 species of lobster, including Jinxiu lobster, China lobster and ripple lobster.

With the continuous improvement of people’s living standards, lobster consumption is increasing day by day, and the market prospect is quite broad. According to media reports, in 2018, Boston lobsters imported from Canada sold more than 2 million in Box Horse. In addition to going to a restaurant, you can order a cheese-baked bologna, turn on your mobile phone and place an order, and a fresh Boston lobster will be delivered to your home. Whether it is steaming, frying or baking, it is simple and fast. It is an indisputable fact that the "high-end consumption" in the past has become the "daily routine" today.

More grounded than Boston lobster, it is spicy crayfish, which is called "Ma Xiaoer" by Beijingers. Crayfish is not a "lobster as a child", but belongs to freshwater crayfish. The meat is tight, the taste is spicy and delicious, and it is not full of people and exciting enough, which has become the best choice for classic nightingales.

The fire in Guijie Street in Beijing is largely related to crayfish. In the early 1990s, Sun Yuzhen wholesaled aquatic products in Dazhong Temple and brought Anhui crayfish into Beijing, becoming the largest supplier in Guijie. In 1998, she founded Hu Da Restaurant. The earliest spicy crayfish was the "main melody melody" for northerners who were accustomed to heavy tastes. In about 2004, crayfish became the "explosive product" of catering in Beijing, and reached its peak in 2008. Guo Dong, general manager of Hu Da Restaurant, recalled that there were more than 100 restaurants in Guijie Street at that time, and 70% of them were selling crayfish. The sales peak of Hu Da restaurants can sell 15,000 Jin a day, and the number of people queuing lasts from noon to midnight, reaching more than 2,000.

On the New Year’s Eve at the turn of 2023 and 2024, crayfish in Hu Da sold 7,400 Jin, and many diners even finished "bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new year" in line. Nowadays, the hardware facilities of Guijie Street have been upgraded several times, and the catering on Guijie Street has also experienced several rounds of "big waves and sand scouring". The format of this street is more abundant: people spend leisurely and equal time in cafes, drink beer and peel crayfish in the dim night, and hold milk tea and skewers in a relaxed atmosphere. "The more beautiful the night is, the more beautiful it is." "Crayfish" is an indelible impression on people here, and "lobster red" is still the most enthusiastic main color here.

Beijing News reporter Wang Ping

Editor Wang Lin

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