Maybe it's because of the fine and beautiful scenery, the gentle and elegant taste, and the consistent prosperous economy since ancient times that people living around the Yangtze River estuaries have developed an exquisite and particular attitude to life, which is reflected in their refined cuisine. Exquisite snacks there are a feast for the eyes and enough to make any mouth water with anticipation.
The snacks from around the Yangtze River estuaries are diverse, beautiful, delicious and also seasonal. Eating different snacks in different seasons is not only a long tradition, but also a reflection of the delicate taste of life. For example, when traveling to West Lake in summer, as well as appreciating the beautiful scenery, having a bowl of cool West Lake lotus powder will help you have a two-dimensional taste of the "worldly paradise" flavor with both your eyes and tongue.
During the Tomb-sweeping Festival, you should have glutinous rice balls which are very soft and as green as jade. When making this kind of balls, filled with bean and date paste, using only local weed juice in the glutinous rice powder can make the balls turn a warm green grass color after being steamed, and give out a special fragrance and flavor when you eat them.
At lunar New Year, every household arranges some simple and delicious seasonal snacks. Before the eve of the lunar New Year, they either buy or make some traditional food such as egg dumplings, spring rolls, sugar rice cakes and small glutinous rice dumplings. When it is time for the New Year's Eve dinner, the golden egg dumplings are boiled in chicken soup or meat soup as a symbol of wealth and affluence for the whole family in the coming year. It is both delicious and auspicious.
On the morning of the first day of lunar New Year, people traditionally have a bowl of small glutinous rice dumplings after getting up. When boiling the dumplings, they also put several slices of sugar rice cake in the pot. Once cooked, the dumplings are put into small white porcelain bowls with a teaspoon of soft white sugar. Holding the bowl is supposed to warm the heart while eating the dumplings, which are sweet and refreshing, is believed to bring good luck, sweetness and unity in the coming year.
The origins of these special snacks are unclear, but they are said to date back more than 2,500 years. The variety of snacks gradually increased and the making process became more sophisticated. From the perspective of regional characteristics, the snacks can be divided into three categories: the snacks of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, as well as Shanghai Municipality.
The advantageous natural conditions of Jiangsu Province have provided a wealth of raw materials for the creation of Jiangsu snacks. The ingredients for making the snacks mainly include: flour, glutinous rice, seafood, lotus, bamboo shoots, arrowhead and other vegetables and fruits. Osmanthus and starch syrup are usually used in the making process to add more flavor to the food. Some regions also use flowers, leaves and the stems of plants as well as shellfish and other seafood as ingredients for fillings to make as many as 140 varieties of snacks, including crab meat buns, steamed meat buns, steamed buns filled with roast pork, fresh fried buns, multiple layer oil cake, plum blossom shaped cake, coin-shaped turnip cake and clam cake. Jiangsu snacks are very particular in shape and seasoning and the exquisite creation process ensures the perfect color, aroma and taste.
Zhejiang snacks also come in many varieties and various flavors and the making process is very sophisticated. There is a complete set of strict procedures in ingredient selection, processing and cooking. In terms of specific taste, Zhejiang snacks can come in many flavors--sweet, salty, meaty, oily, crisp and glutinous. The famous snacks include glutinous rice dumpling filled with meat, sugar rice cake, fragrant cake, spiced dried bean curd and sponge cake of Shaoxing, eight-treasures rice, steamed meat buns and wonton filled with fresh pork of Ningbo. There are also some costal specialties such as snowball fish soup, fish dough wonton and shrimp cake.
Due to Shanghai's unique geographic location and history, Shanghai snacks have a strong mix of Chinese and Western flavors. They not only include local snacks and Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing and Guangdong snacks, but have also absorbed the key elements of various desserts from England, France, Germany and Italy. For example, glutinous rice balls, a symbol of "goodness, sweetness and unity" that are eaten at Lantern Festivals, include not only solid small glutinous rice balls with local characteristics, but also fruity glutinous rice balls with Beijing flavors. Various Western-style snack and coffee bars have already spread through the streets of Shanghai. Some pancake-making people have even had the idea to spread a layer of minced meat with special seasonings on the Shanghai local pancakes to make delicious "Chinese pizza," which is very popular.