preserved vegetables

preserved vegetables
Vegetable preservation dates back to Qimin yaoshu [Agricultural Techniques in Qi], China’s first encyclopedia of agriculture (531–50 AD). There is hardly a place in the country that does not produce preserved vegetables. Each has its own traditions and flavours. The most famous are: Beijing’s rutabaga (shuigeda), Tianjin’s garlic cabbage (jindongcai), Baoding’s potherb mustard (chunbulao) and Sichuan’s preserved mustard (zhacai), king of Chinese preserved vegetables.
Chinese preserve their vegetables by soaking them in brine or applying salt after they are deprived of moisture. Another method, called pao, is to sour vegetables with lactobacillus or organic acid such as vinegar.
Sichuan spicy pickled cabbages (paocai) is one of the most popular, Yet another big family of preserved vegetables is ‘vegetables preserved with soy’ (jiangcai). There is a northern school of jiangcai, represented by the famous Liubiju, Tianyuan and Dahulu brands in Beijing and a southern school, represented by the brand names of Sanhe and Simei in Yangzhou. The northern tastes a little salty, while the southern is sweeter. Everything can go into the soy jars: turnips, melons, lettuce, garlic bolt and lotus root, as well as peanuts, almonds and walnut meat.
With the availability of non-seasonal vegetables and refrigerators, very few families now preserve vegetables on a large scale. Mass production of preserved vegetables is, however, a multimillion-dollar business—Liubiju, maker of jiangcai, has an annual output of 5,000 tons. Today, people eat preserved vegetables for a change. Before the 1980s, by contrast, ‘corn bread with preserved vegetables’ (wotou xiancai) was the hallmark of a harsh life.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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