Fujian Cuisine, aka Min Cuisine, has long been known for its four distinctive sub-categories, or styles, corresponding to two regions and two cities. These are: Southern Style, Western Style, Fuzhou Style and Quanzhou Style. In particular, Fujian Cuisine is famed for its use of seafoods, its soups and stews, and for the stunning visual presentation of its dishes.
To list all of the ingredients typical to Fujian Cuisine would require many pages, but a few of the major seasonings used include shrimp sauce and shrimp oil, while soy sauce is used for salty dishes, and white vinegar and qiaotou (qiaotou is a vegetable similar to green onions, or garlic) are often used in sour dishes. Sweet dishes feature brown and crystal sugar, while the spicier dishes feature pepper and mustard. Ingredients that give off a sweet aroma include brown sugar, spice powder, aniseed and cassia bark.
Fotiaoqiang; Steamed Abalone with Shark's Fin and Fish Maw in Broth
Fujian Cuisine is especially fussy when it comes to the flavoring of its clear soups. The Fujian Cuisine chef goes to great lengths to prepare the base stock for a Fujian soup. This can take several hours, but when the final result is filtered, it yields a very clear broth that is rich in colour, fragrance and flavor, and is well worth the chef's extra effort.
In addition to the usual range of basic techniques involved in Chinese cooking, Fujian Cuisine often employs red rice-wine in grilling, sautéing, smoking and stewing. This imparts a unique flavor to Fujian Cuisine. Red rice-wine is made from glutinous rice fermented with red yeast, and thus has been dubbed "red distiller's grain". With a production process that takes over a year and involves a specially made vessel that is hermetically sealed at strategic phases in the production process, red rice-wine adds a sharp, sweet-sour flavour that is highly prized by Fujian Cuisine chefs as well as by the Fujian gourmand. Red rice-wine goes extremely well with light meats, seafood and stir-fried vegetables. When added to the natural juices of light meats and vegetables, it produces a thin but pungent sauce that has a vibrant, deep rose-red colour with an enticingly-edged bouquet.
Southern Style - The Southern Style of Fujian Cuisine is characterized by a mix of tastes in spicy and sweet flavours, with an elaborate selection of sauces to provide the gourmand with a seemingly endless number of choices.
Western Style - The Western Style of Fujian Cuisine often has a piquant taste. It is typically characterized by steaming and stir-fry cooking methods.
Fuzhou Style - The Fuzhou Style of Fujian Cuisine is considerably lighter compared to the other styles, often with a mixed, sweet-and-sour taste. A secondary emphasis is on utilizing a variety of soups.
Quanzhou Style - The Quanzhou Style of Fujian Cuisine is the least oily of the four subcategories of Fujian Cuisine, yet is characterized by the strongest tastes and flavours. The Quanzhou Style also puts a great deal of emphasis on the visual presentation of a dish, which in turn affects the choice of ingredients for each dish.
The dishes of Fujian Cuisine often have very descriptive if not somewhat literary names. Representative dishes include: Braised Weeverfish with Chrysanthemum, Sautéed Phoenix-Tailed Shrimp, Simmered Top-Grade Pomfret Fish; Buddha's Delight (made of select seafoods), Stir-Fried Azure-Jade Peas, Finding Pleasure Amid Suffering (made of tomato, balsam pear, prune, bread crumbs, red seaweed, lobster sauce, fresh caraway and lettuce), Stewed Frog with Garlic (or, as a French chef would call it, Ragout de Grenouille). Other typical Fujian Cuisine dishes make use of various diced meats, stir-fried with celery and bamboo shoots, as well as soups made with cabbage and dried shrimp.
In each of the localities where the four Fujian Cuisine styles reign, the visitor will run across local specialties that surprise and delight the palate, making Fujian Cuisine one of the more exciting "schools" of Chinese cuisine.