Quanzhou's rich cultural and culinary history mesmerized a group of travel aficionados during a three-day visit to the historical city between Dec 17 and 20.
Six seasoned travellers from China, Indonesia, and France were invited by the local tourism authorities to tour Quanzhou, a city with a culinary legacy capable of rivaling any other.
Known as the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, Quanzhou became one of the four largest ports in the world in Tang Dynasty (618-907) and boasts a profound history, wonderful architecture, a rich cultural diversity and a spectacular culinary scene.
Visitors often stumble upon hidden gems, unnoticed streets, and unassumingly delicious eateries as they wander casually around town.
Feasting at a local chef's table
Upon arrival the miscellaneous group of travelers gathered for their first dinner together. They had been generously invited to the home of Liu Xiaohong, a respected local chef, based in Jiu Guan Yi, a historical quarter formerly home to government buildings and affluent mansions.
Liu and his wife entertained an additional six locals to form a party of 12 and the chef laughingly joked that this was the most people his house had ever hosted.
Unsurprisingly, the food lived up to its splendid reputation with fotiaoqiang proving a particular highlight. The dish is a tasty stew made with a variety of seafood ingredients and other delicacies such as hams, mutton, mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
One particularly vocal fan was Indonesian student Muhammad Nurckhalik. He comes from a coastal area of the Southeast Asian country and Chef Liu's dishes, despite being made in a quite different cooking style, reminded him of some hometown specialties.
Also in attendance were online bloggers Wang Haopeng and Deng Zhihong. Wang claimed that he will remember Quanzhou on account of Liu's steamed pork trotters alone – Liu's preparation involves wrapping the feet inside gauze filled with mushrooms, dried scallops, dried shredded squid, and lotus seeds.
Deng, on the other hand, was impressed by the rolls of fried pork and water chestnut wrapped in tofu skin.The dish is called wu xiang juan, meaning it has rich flavors.
In truth, each guest found a certain flavor particularly appealing and it was hard to put the chopsticks down and admit to being full.