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Ten Must-Try Foods in Shanxi 山西美食探险

Shanxi oat noodles 莜面烤栳栳
Shanxi Province is not only the cradle of Chinese history but also home to one of China’s great eight cuisines, known as jin cai 晋菜, famous for its liberal use of locally produced aged Shanxi vinegar, round breads and pastries known as bing, and an extraordinary variety of noodles.
 
Having now traversed Shanxi from north to south eating everything that was put in front of me I can confirm Jin cusine is pretty exciting and very diverse. True to form I tended much more towards the local street food than haute cuisine, and Shanxi people seem to love eating on the street as much as I do – the province was full of snack stalls and night markets bursting with atmosphere and the smells of good cooking. 
 
The following list isn’t meant to be definitive, it’s just ten of the foods I enjoyed most while in Shanxi. I hope you get a chance to try them too.
山西省不仅是中国历史的发源地,同时也是中国八大菜系"晋菜"的故乡。晋菜以其对当地特产的山西陈醋的广泛运用,被称为"饼"的圆形面包和酥皮糕点,以及种类繁多的面条而闻名。
我正在由北往南横穿山西,见到什么就吃什么,我确信晋菜是如此千变万化令人垂涎欲滴。事实上,相比正统的菜式,我更倾向于当地的路边食物,山西人似乎和我一样热爱在路上吃东西整个山西省到处都是洋溢着美食氛围的小吃摊和夜市。
下面的清单只是我在山西期间最喜欢的十种食物,并不绝对。我希望你也能有机会尝尝。

 

1. Shanxi Oat Noodles 莜面烤栳栳
Street vendor selling oat noodles, ready to steam at home
Think oat noodles might be dense and chewy? Think again. The first surprise when ordering Shanxi oat noodles (shanxi youmian kao lao lao 山西莜面烤栳栳) is when the steamer lid is lifted to reveal their unusual honeycomb appearance, the second surprise being their soft light texture and mild taste.
Oats are a staple crop in this part of China, so there many kinds of oat noodles on offer in a variety of shapes but these are the most well-known. A steamer basket full of the wonderful hot honeycomb noodles alongside a small bowl of a rich, thick tomato and garlic sauce, and you simply peel off a single noodle and dip it into the sauce before eating.
Alternately you can have the steamed noodles quickly dry-fried with plenty of garlic, onion and chili and a little ziran spice mixture – known as ganbian kao lao lao 干煸烤栳栳 (see picture below).
Where to try it: You can find oat noodles all over Shanxi but kao lao lao is more common the further south you go in places like Taiyuan and Pingyao.
ganbian kao lao lao 干煸烤栳栳
1. 莜面烤栳栳
觉得燕麦面可能比较浓稠难以咀嚼吗?再想想。点山西燕麦面(山西莜面栳栳)的第一个惊喜是蒸笼盖打开时露出的非同寻常的蜂窝状外表,第二个惊喜则是它们松软的口感和清淡的味道。
燕麦是此处的主要作物,因而当地供应各种形态的品种繁多的燕麦面,但是下面这些是最有名的。一个装满热腾腾蜂窝状面食的蒸笼,旁边配有一小碗料多浓稠的番茄大蒜酱,你只要剥下一段面食蘸着酱吃。
或者你可以把蒸好的面食炸一下加上足量的大蒜,洋葱,红辣椒和少许孜然一起炸这就是干煸烤栳栳(如下图所示)
哪里可以尝到它: 在山西到处都能找到燕麦面,偏南如太原和平遥等地更为普遍。

 

2. Shi Tou Bing 石头饼
shi tou bing 石头饼
These prehistoric looking cakes are made with corn meal flour and filled with either a sweet red bean paste filling or a savoury sauce, before being baked with hot pebbles (or ball bearings, see below) indenting their surface, hence their great name: shi tou bing 石头饼 or stone cakes.
Crisp and delicious when hot out of the griddle, the crisp textured surface with the soft filling makes for a great snack.
Where to try it: southern Shanxi, on the streets of Taiyuan and Pingyao
2. 石头饼
这些看着很古老的蛋糕由玉米面制成,馅是一种甜味的红豆沙货或是一种爽口开胃的酱汁,然后将之与滚烫的卵石(或是滚珠,如下图所示)一起烘烤以塑其外形,因此它们被称为:石头饼或石头蛋糕。刚出锅时,口味松脆可口,这道好吃的小吃表面松脆内里松软。
哪里可以尝到它:山西省南部,太原和平遥的大街小巷。

 

3. Sea Buckthorn 沙棘属
These tiny orange berries, about the size of a plump peppercorn, grow wild all over Shanxi Province, being well-suited to the dry conditions (in Europe they grow in coastal areas and are salt-tolerant, hence the name). They have the most unusual taste – a little sour, with the rich taste of a really ripe apricot and a deep orange colour.
Sea Buckthorn juice is sold everywhere, and sea buckthorn wine is also available. This dish was a one of the most memorable and inventive I ate in Shanxi – a steamed yellow millet pudding surrounded with soft honeyed jujubes, and drowned in a sea buckthorn syrup – soft, sweet and comforting with the slight tartness of the berries overcoming the cloying sweetness of the syrup.
Where to try it: Datong’s Yonghe Food City 永和美食城: 大同迎宾东路8号
Sea buckthorn juice and wine available all over Shanxi.
3. 沙棘属
山西省到处长满了这种适应干旱环境的干胡椒粒大小的橙色小浆果。(在欧洲,它们因生长在海岸地区并且耐盐性很高而得名)。它们具有最独特的口味——有点酸,充满成熟的杏子的味道,外表呈深橘色。
沙棘属汁到处都有卖,还有沙棘属酒。有道菜是我在山西吃过的最难以忘怀最有创意的菜——四周配有甜枣的蒸黄米布丁,浸在沙棘属果汁里——柔软,甜蜜,轻微的辛辣感盖过果汁腻腻的甜味,让人满足。
哪里可以尝到它:  永和美食城:大同迎宾东路8
全山西都能买到。沙棘树汁和沙棘属酒

 

4. Fragrant Straw Beef 香草肉
Fragrant straw beef (xiāng cǎo ròu 香草肉) are small parcels of savory home-made beef sausage wrapped in tofu skin and steamed inside a tiny woven straw caboose, imparting a lovely fragrance to the finished product.
Where to try it: the streets of Pingyao – look for the large tin steamers with the woven straw parcels peeking out.
4. 香草肉
香草肉是一个个美味的小包裹——将做好的牛肉香肠包在豆腐皮里,然后放入小巧的草编容器中蒸熟,这样做出的成品便有一种清新怡人的香味。
哪里可以尝到它: 平遥的大街小巷——找有草编小包的大型格状蒸笼。

 

5. Bottle Gourd with Aged Shanxi Vinegar 养生葫芦丝
This dish highlights for me just how often Chinese cuisine continues to surprise and delight. This cold dish, served at the start of a meal, is elegant and complex with a contrast of textures and flavours that brings every ingredient to life.
You would be forgiven for thinking this was a noodle dish, when in fact it is carefully coiled shredded bottle gourd, dressed with aged Shanxi vinegar, chilies, and finely sliced cooked scallions(yangsheng hulusi  养生葫芦丝). The textures and flavours are simply sublime, a little crunch, the deeply complex vinegar, the light heat of the chilies.
Of course, it does help that it’s served in Datong’s most exquisitely beautiful restaurant, the Phoenix Court, in a Ming Dynasty house that has been home to this restaurant for several hundred years (since 1518, to be exact). The surroundings are extrardinary with gold phoenixes flying across the ceiling and heavy carved mahogony tables.
Where to try it: The Phoenix Court Restaurant, Huayan Temple Street, Datong 凤临阁烧卖: 大同城区华严寺街
5. 养生葫芦丝
这道菜于我而言尤其重要,让我知道中国的菜系层出不穷的惊喜和美味。这道冷菜,在正餐前上桌,它优雅且充满生活酸甜苦辣的各种滋味。
你大可以把它想成一份面食,事实上,面食被细致地盘放在葫芦里,装点上山西陈醋、红辣椒,和切成细丝煮好的青葱(养生葫芦丝)。口感和香味极为出众,稍许清脆,醋味十足,红椒轻微的灼热感会于一体。
当然,在大同最精致美丽的凤临阁呈上这道菜也为它加分不少。凤临阁数百年间就在这栋明朝的房子中经营着(精确地说,始于1518年)。四周墙壁满是金色的飞天凤凰,飞过天花板和厚重的雕花红木桌子。
哪里可以尝到它:凤临阁,大同城区华严寺街

 

6. Scissor-cut Noodles 剪刀面
Shanxi’s noodle fame is well-deserved with more than a hundred varieties of interesting shapes, sizes and textures. I loved watching the skill of these young noodle chefs in Taiyuan as they made scissor-cut noodles from a spindle-shaped piece of dough held in their hand, using what appeared to be a pair of giant dressmaking scissors to slice long thin noodles with gently tapered ends.
The noodles are served with a variety of rich sauces – in this case a ragout made from pork, yellow beans, cubed tofu, and green bean pickles (below left).
Other varieties include mao er duo or cat’s ear noodles (below right), tiny triangular noodles with curled edges, perfect with a thick and hearty sauce.
Where to try it: All over Shanxi, although Taiyuan has a great concentration of restaurants specialising in noodles.
6. 剪刀面
山西面食以其百多种形态各异,大小不一,口感不同的面条而闻名。我特爱看太原这些年轻面条师傅做刀削面,他们拿着一块纺锤大小的面团,用一副看起来像裁缝用的剪刀渐渐把面团剪成细条状面条。
面条配有各式浓稠酱汁——在这里是用猪肉,黄豆,油豆腐和腌绿豆制成的蔬菜肉汤。(见左下图)。
还有猫耳朵(见右下图),小小的三角形面条,边缘微曲,与浓稠醇厚的酱汁可谓绝配。
哪里可以尝到它:山西全省,但太原的聚集了众多精于面条制作的饭店。

 

7. Savoury Pork Pastries 肉饼
Bing means anything round and flat, so a pancake can be a bing, and so can a savoury pastries like these. These ròu bǐng 肉饼 are pure theatre in the making, one pair of hands taking the soft and pliable dough and at lightning speed pushing it into long flat tongues to be seasoned with lamb fat and pork mince, then rolled and flattened, dipped in sesame seeds, and cooked on a griddle by an even faster second pair of hands.
Hungry customers crowd around, waiting for the next batch to appear. Piping hot, the flaky buttery pastry melts in the mouth, with salty pork giving the pastry a delicious flavour.
Where to try it: Taiyuan’s night market, on the corner of Wulongkou Jie and Heitu Gangzhong Hengma lu 太原五龙口街黑土巷中横马路
7. 肉饼
饼就是任何圆的和方的东西,所以一个烤薄饼可以是一个饼,以及诸如此类的美味的面团。这些肉饼的制作颇为戏剧化,第一双手以迅雷不及掩耳之速将柔韧的面团拉成长条状,加入羔羊脂肪和猪肉末调味,接着卷起后压平,撒上芝麻,然后交由第二双手以更快的速度在浅锅中烹调。
饥饿的食客围在四周等待下一锅的出炉。热气腾腾的黄油薄片在口中融化,咸咸的猪肉则为其更添一份美味。
哪里可以尝到它:太原夜市,位于五龙口街和黑土巷中横马路路口

 

8. Shaomai 烧卖

Shanxi shaomai 烧卖 are delicate versions of their Hong Kong and Shanghai cousins. The dumplings are wrapped in skins as fine as paper, ruffled at the edges, and filled with a rich, smooth pork filling. The best way to eat them is dipped in Shanxi’s famous vinegar, a special variety expressly used for dumplings.

Where to try it: The most well-known shaomai in all of Shanxi come from Datong, where they are served in every restaurant and many street stalls

 

 

 

8. 烧卖
山西烧卖是香港和上海烧卖的精美的表兄弟。饺子被包在一张薄如纸张的皮中,边缘有褶皱,里面有一块厚厚的爽滑的猪肉。最好的品尝方法是蘸着山西陈醋吃,一种饺子专属的吃法。
哪里可以尝到它: 山西最有名的烧卖产自大同,那里每一家饭店和众多街边摊都有。

9. Doufu Nao 豆腐

Imagine this dish: spoons of soft-set silken tofu, still warm, slipped into a steaming meat broth then topped with chili oil, chive paste, and a little red-fermented tofu. The whole combination of salty, hot, herby, meaty tastes and the smooth, soft texture makes this one of Shanxi’s most popular snacks. Especially warming in winter, people eat it all year round at all times of the day and night. Soul food.
Where to try it: This dish is not indigenous to Shanxi and in fact can be found all across northern China. Look for a vendor on the street with two huge canteens – one contains the soft-set tofu, and the other the broth.

 

9. 豆腐脑
想象一下这道菜:几勺丝般软滑的豆腐,热气腾腾地划入蒸肉汤中,上面淋上红辣椒油,香葱末和少许红腐乳。咸味,热气,青草味,肉味组合的味道以及柔滑的口感组成了这道山西最受欢迎的小吃。人们一年四季,不分日夜都会吃这个,尤其是在冬季更能暖身。灵魂食物。
哪里可以尝到它:这道菜其实并非山西特产,事实上在中国的北方遍地都是。找找有两个大容器的街边摊——容器一个装着丝滑的豆腐,一个装着肉汤。

 

10. Tian Sheng Bing 

 

Yet another bing, these puff pastry circles the size of a cookie are all about flakiness and crunch. In both sweet and salty varieties, they’re a little hand-held snack for morning or afternoon.

A note here: As with many of the street foods I try, I ask the name, make a note of it, and translate it later. Sometimes though, the name doesn’t make obvious sense and there are multiple possible translations. Perhaps I heard it wrongly? Please let me know if I’ve made a naming error!

I loved watching these come out of a street-side bakery the size of a cupboard by the dozen, then lined up neatly in a wicker pannier on the outdoor counter. The black (or white) sesame seeds denote whether the tian sheng bing is sweet or salty.

Where to try it: Look for these in bakeries all over Shanxi.

 

 

 

10. 添胜饼
还有一种饼,这些曲奇大小的蓬松的圆糕饼都很薄脆。有甜和咸两种口味,手掌大小,一般是早上和下午吃。
我喜欢看到这些饼一批批从街边面包店中出炉的样子,整齐地摆放在户外柳条框里。黑白芝麻可以区分饼是甜的还是咸的。
哪里可以尝到它:全山西的面包店都有。