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Famous cuisine of Shunde 顺德


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Shunde came up recently in another thread and I thought I would cross-post the information here in the Food and Drink section so that it might have broader exposure. Shunde is a city in Guangdong Province 广东省, part of Foshan Municipality 佛山市, in the fertile Pearl River Delta 大珠三角 and is widely considered to be the birthplace of Cantonese cooking 粤菜。Furthermore, it is one of the places where it is not only kept very much alive, but where it is flourishing and evolving. Nonetheless, it's a place that, for whatever reason, is not well known in the west. It for sure is not a "household word" there, even among those who enjoy Chinese food. 


I first came across Shunde by means of a Chinese TV series which opened my eyes to the quiet splendors of the place. Not only is it somewhere that top quality ingredients can be easily found, but it's a place where ordinary people really, really care about their food. This obsession has given rise to many great restaurants, lots of them small. Not uncommon to find a place with only a half dozen tables that has been passed down for three or four generations in the same family. And it does't hurt that Shunde is relatively affluent, one of the most affluent counties in all of China. 


Here's a relevant Wikipedia excerpt:



The chefs in the city pay special attention to retaining the ingredients’ flavors and cook with attractive colors, fragrances and tastes that can be described as "light, fresh, crispy, tender, smooth and genuine". Shunde cuisine is famous for its delicacies characterized by their nutritional value and preparation. The combination of inventive cooking methods, creative ways of presentation and outstanding flavors, make the city’s cuisine truly exceptional.


Shunde has also become famous as a magnet city where young Cantonese chefs get their first formal training and then cut their teeth in small establishments before being recruited to the kitchens of prestigious restaurants and hotel kitchens all over Asia, especially places to the south and east such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur , Jakarta, and Singapore. These chefs have spread their prep skills and style of presentation widely, though not much in the west. In most of the U.S. for example, if one seeks out better Chinese restaurants, one will mainly find proprietors and chefs from Sichuan, Fujian, Hong Kong and maybe Beijing. 


Here's how you can learn a little more about it. This series TV has high production values, and I wouldn't be surprised to find they were made by the same team that put together Bite of China 舌尖上的中国。The title of the series is 《寻味顺德》which is a pun or play on words. Means something like "thinking over Shunde" or maybe "seeking Shunde," but you immediately recognize 味 from it use in 味道, which means taste or flavor. 




Here's an episode I watched recently. It's fairly representative and you could use it to see whether or not this might be a "food and cooking" show series you might enjoy.




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17 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

Have you been to Shunde? Does it live up to legend?


I went there once, but it was before I really knew what I was looking for. I hope to make a return trip sometime this year to explore better. It is on my agenda! 

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  • 4 months later...

One of Shunde's claims to fame is that its culinary schools turn out several graduating classes of very well trained chefs every year. These schools have notoriously high, exacting standards. Therefore Shunde-trained chefs, even newly minted ones, are in high demand. Many move to Hong Kong to take jobs with the better restaurants and hotel kitchens. More than once I've seen "Shunde Chef" proudly written on a display sign or on a menu. It draws in knowledgeable diners. 


Part of the appeal of having a Shunde Chef at the helm, or in the higher ranks of kitchen staff, is that they insist on the freshest and best local ingredients. They are taught to demand nothing less. This article gives one example when it talks about "pan-fried milk." Quote from SCMP:




Another Shunde speciality that Chan serves up is fried milk, which is a signature of the Daliang district. Chan says that experienced local chefs use a specific type of milk, shui niu nai,which literally means “water milk”, and refers to milk taken from the cow between 3am and 5am and considered the best for achieving velvety results.


It’s not easy to pan-fry milk, requiring precise control of temperature and cooking time. The chef smears a dab of oil evenly over the wok, pours in a well-blended milk and egg white mixture and “gently push-fries” it, explains Chan. “Remove the wok from heat the moment the milk turns solid, before throwing in scallops and prawns. The timing is important,” he says.



Shunde has immense prestige and reputation in the Chinese cooking world. And it is largely unknown in the west.  



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2 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

Shunde has immense prestige and reputation in the Chinese cooking world. And it is largely unknown in the west.  


My Mother in law's ancestral home... ??


She is a good cook. 

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8 hours ago, Flickserve said:

My Mother in law's ancestral home


You are very lucky! 


Another quote from the SCMP article: 



Kwan believes the merit of Shunde cooking can be summed up in the phrase jiu di qu cai, meaning the cook makes the best of whatever produce is available. There’s no fixed menu here. Dishes are prepared using seasonal ingredients, including the freshest catch of the day. Non-seasonal ingredients are frowned upon in Shunde culinary tradition, according to Kwan.


I try to follow this advice at "Cafe ABC" (my home kitchen here in Kunming.) "Seasonal, seasonal, seasonal" and "fresh, fresh, fresh" are my mantra, even though I don't have even a small fraction of their cooking skills. Nearly everything I try to make here at home is "ingredient driven."

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