Su cuisine is an abbreviation for Jiangsu dishes, developing from the local dishes in Yangzhou, Nanjing, and Suzhou. It features rigorous selection of materials, exquisite cooking, harmonious color matching, and handsome modeling. Su cuisine is good at cooking river fresh fish, lake crab, and vegetables. Its cooking methods include stew, braise, steam, burn, fry, especially emphasizing the use of exquisite soup. Its flavor features fresh, slippery, soft, fat but not oily, light but not thin.
Jiangsu Cuisine, called Su Cuisine for short, originates from the native cooking styles of South China’s Jiangsu Province. It has a fresh taste, with moderate saltiness and sweetness, which is thick without being greasy, and light without being thin. Meanwhile it places an emphasis on the making of soup and retaining the original taste of the ingredients. Once it was the second largest cuisine among ancient China’s royal cuisines, and it remains a major part of the state banquet in China.
Su Cuisine is composed of six styles: Nanjing Style, Yangzhou Style, Suzhou Style, Huai’an Cuisine, Xuzhou Cuisine and Haizhou Cuisine. Among them Nanjing Style, Suzhou Style and Yangzhou Style are the most notable.
Nanjing Style is famous for its fine cutting techniques, which makes the dishes not only fine-tasting, but also very delicate and good-looking. It features freshness, fragrance, crispness and tenderness. Suzhou Cuisine tends to be sweet in taste and excels in using vegetables of the four seasons, freshwater fish and seafood. Yangzhou Style, which has been called Huai-Yang Style in the past, is renowned for its fine cutting techniques, perfect timing, fresh color and original design.
Su Cuisine is made according to precise material choice and a precise cooking schedule. It requires exquisite and fine cooking. There is an excellence in cooking methods such as stewing, simmering, baking over a slow fire, warming up, steaming, sautéing, stir-frying, and skillful braising in mud and baking on forks.
With the Yangtze River passing through it and a coast on the Yellow Sea, Jiangsu Province is abundant in freshwater fish and seafood, which comprise the major ingredients of Su Cuisine. Jiangsu people have been experts at cooking fish with various cooking techniques for about two thousand years. Su Cuisine has exhibited a fondness for duck dishes since about one thousand years ago. A rich variety of local vegetables are widely used in Su Cuisine, including watershield (or Brasenia) from Taihu (Tai Lake), lotus, Chinese chestnut, winter bamboo shoots, water bamboo and water chestnuts.
The traditional dishes include Crabmeat Meatball, Squirrel with Mandarin Fish, Poached Crucian, Crisp Eel, Phoenix Chicken, Steamed Gansi, etc.
Braised Chub Head
It is a famous traditional dish of Zhenjiang. The flesh is scraped off a big fish to make a dish and the fish head is left as the ingredients. It is braised in chicken soup together with crabmeat, ham, dried mushrooms, chicken, gizzard, liver and fresh bamboo shoots, etc. It has milky white color and thick broth. It tastes fat and tender. Therefore, there is folk proverb going around in Zhenjiang that “the head of a chub is the best part to be eaten; as for herring and duck, they are respectively the tail and thigh”, which is indeed reasonable.