Citizens, as noted in my exhaustive post on the 58 styles of Chinese cuisine – There are Eight main regional cuisines, or Eight Great Traditions (八大菜系) in Chinese cuisine:
Anhui(安徽菜), Cantonese（广东菜）, Fujian（福建菜）, Hunan（湖南菜）, Jiangsu（江苏菜）, Shandong（山东菜）, Sichuan（四川菜）, and Zhejiang（浙江菜）.
Anhui cuisine (Hui Cai for short), is one of the eight most famous cuisines in China, but is the least rarely seen outside of its native region. It consists of three styles: Yangtze River region（沿江）, Huai River region（沿淮）, and southern Anhui region（皖南）.
The highly distinctive characteristic of Anhui cuisine lies not only in the elaborate choices of cooking materials but also in the strict control of the entire cooking process.
Anhui cuisine is known for its use of wild herbs, from both the land and the sea, and simple methods of preparation. Braising and stewing are common cooking techniques. Frying and stir frying are used much less frequently in Anhui cuisine than in other Chinese culinary traditions.
Anhui has ample uncultivated fields and forests, so the wild herbs used in the region’s cuisine are readily available.
Anhui cuisine chefs pay more attention to the taste, color of dishes and the temperature to cook them, and are good at braising and stewing. They are experts in cooking delicacies from both the mountains and the sea.
Anhui dishes preserve most of the original taste and nutrition of the recipe ingredients. Generally, the food here is slightly spicy and salty. Some master dishes are stewed in brown sauce with a stress on heavy oil and sauce. Ham is often added to improve the taste and sugar “candy” is added to gain “freshness”.
To showcase an Anhui recipe I turn to my dear friend Carolyn Phillips! As the undisputed Queen of Chinese cuisine writing in English, she has much to say about this particular recipe:
Anhui’s is none other than the famed Fuliji Poached Chicken (Fujili shao ji), which is a direct descendants of one of Shandong’s greatest poultry dishes, Five Fragrance Fall-Off-The-Bone-Tender Braised Chicken (Wuxiang tuogu paji).
In many ways this is an extravagant dish because it is fried in toasted sesame oil, and the blast of its mouthwatering fragrance will wake up your appetite with a roar. The skin caramelizes as it fries thanks to the thick sugary goo called maltose.
This deep brown chicken is finally set down into a pot of herbal goodness (TFD note – these herbs are extraordinarily healing!) that will add other layers of delectable aromas to this fragrant cloud. The good news about all this prep and cost is that both the oil and the poaching broth can be used a couple of more times as long as they are properly stored, so consider them savory investments.
Serve this chicken as a starter at either room temperature or just slightly warmed. You will want to chill the chicken after it is done because it is so tender that it cannot be cut up without falling apart. So, let it come to room temperature, cover it and chill it overnight, and then cut it into pieces the next day. This is a great party food, as it can be done in steps many days ahead of time, and it freezes beautifully.
My recipe is based very closely on hers, though I have added back in the authentic herbs and spices that she by necessity had to leave out for her readers. By the way, her new book “All Under Heaven” is by far the most exhaustive study of the many styles of Chinese cuisine ever written in English – if you are at all serious about true Chinese cooking!
Citizens, I recognize this is a dish you may not ever be able to make unless there is a Chinatown near you – but if there is, by all means you MUST try this fantastic and rarely-tasted delicacy of Anhui! I have included the poaching herbs and spices in Mandarin for you to take to a Chinatown herbalist – they should have all the needed ingredients there! If not, just leave out the missing ingredient(s).
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