Guo Bao Rou 锅包肉
Guo Bao Rou (锅包肉) is a classic dish from Northeast China, originating in the city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province.
Zheng Xingwen (郑兴文), the private chef for the highest officials in the Harbin government, first created this dish in the early 20th century. At the time, the Harbin government often welcomed Russian guests, but the original recipe was a bit too heavy for their tastes, so Zheng remodeled the dish by introducing its now distinctive sweet and sour flavor. The Russians were delighted, ordered the dish every time they visited.
Before the Xi’an Incident (1936), the northeastern provinces were administrated by Zhang Xueliang’s (张学良) family, and dishes cooked up for top Harbin government officials were kept a closely guarded secret.
During the International Plague Conference held in Shenyang in 1911, Zheng Xingwen (郑兴文)’s cooking technique was highly praised by visiting international dignitaries, and he was awarded a plaque reading: 滨江膳祖 (Bīnjiāng shàn zǔ, the creator of Bīnjiāng cuisine).
Guo Bao Rou was unanimously voted one of the chef’s most delicious dishes, triggering the spread of its fame across the country and beyond. After Japan occupied Heilongjiang Province, Zhang Xueliang began to lose his grip on northeast China, and his government’s secret recipes gradually began to seep out of Harbin and into the wider world. During a process akin to Chinese whispers, guobaorou was slightly altered as it traveled, with cooks in Liaoning Province adding tomato sauce as the final step, and other regional flourishes emerging according to taste.
Retrieved from http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2012/02/guobaorou-the-pork-dish-of-the-gods/
Ma Po Dou Fu 麻婆豆腐
Ma Po Dou Fu was created by Wen Qiaoqiao(温巧巧), who was a married, lower-class Chinese woman in the Qing dynasty, her birth name was merely a code that had little use. In that era, a married woman in China had to change her name into a combination of her husband’s last name and her marital last name, to exhibit her husband’s “ownership” of her. Worse, in Wen’s case, because her husband Chen’s face was marred with pockmarks (ma’zi in Chinese), people only remembered her as Mapo, the wife (pó) of Chen the pockmark man (ma’zi).
At the time, Wanfu bridge was a key stop for the low-paid oil and rice transporters. Those men worked long hours with labor-intensive tasks. From experience, Mapo knew that men like them sweat a lot and crave heavy flavors, so whenever it’s meal time, she would whip up a dish with tofu, and add spices like ginger, chili and Sichuan peppercorn to open up their appetite. Once in a while, those men would contribute a bit of their savings, buy a small chunk of pork and hand it to Mapo for an elevated meal, and Mapo, with her cooking talent, would combine all the ingredients perfectly and present the men a plateful of salty, spicy tofu with sliced pork.
Words soon began to spread that an amazing tofu dish had emerged in the Wanfu bridge area, and gourmands around the region started to pour in. Right around that time, however, Mapo’s husband Chen passed away. Mapo sustained the business by herself for a while and but the workload eventually burned her off. She hired an assistant Xue Xiangshun to help her cook and wait the tables.
Xue was also an experienced cook and had his own understanding of flavors. He improved Mapo’s tofu by adding fermented bean paste for depth and switched sliced pork into ground beef for a more rounded texture. Xue’s upgrade finalized the recipe for Mapo Tofu, and is the one chefs around the world follow today.
Retrieved from http://www.taotieh.com/the-woman-and-the-story-behind-mapo-tofu/
Yu Xiang Qie Zi 鱼香茄子
One of the representatives of Sichuan cuisine is Sichuan eggplant, or Yu Xiang Qie Zi(鱼香茄子in Chinese). “鱼香” actually means Fish-Fragrant, is a kind of flavor which is quite famous in Sichuan dishes. In fact, fish-fragrant eggplant has nothing to do with fish.
According to folklore, a housewife was cooking eggplant for dinner and did not want to waste the leftover sauce used in a fish dish. The sauce was designed to cover up the fishiness and muddiness of river fish, so it’s extra fragrant. The dish turned out so well and her husband loved it more than the original fish dish. Thus, the dish was named Yu Xiang or “fish-fragrant” as a homage to the delicious sauce.
Retrieved from https://omnivorescookbook.com/sichuan-eggplant/