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Tianmen steamed dishes

Source: Changjiang Weekly 03/22/2016 09:03:22

Located to the north of the Jianghan Plain, Tianmen is a place with a pleasant climate and fertile lands. Its produce, livestock, and aquatic products are sources for the city's wonderful steamed dishes. Steaming, a classic Chinese culinary technique, preserves the original taste and the nutritional value of the food.

Archaeological evidence shows that steaming was first used as a cooking method in the Neolithic Era; the zeng, a kind of cauldron, was invented at that time. At the recognized point of origin for Shijiahe culture in Tianmen, raw materials for preparing rice and vegetables and zeng fragments were found. Tianmen steamed dishes have a history of over 4,600 years.

In 17 A.D., when food was in short supply, the Wang brothers would grind rice into powder and mix it with edible wild herbs, which they then would steam in a zeng. This cooking style has been popular ever since. Steamed dishes of this nature have a history that dates back to the Han Dynasty.

In 350 A.D., steaming gained popularity among the monks; they were influenced by Zhi Dun, an eminent Buddhist monk of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, who had a special preference for steamed dishes. During the Tang Dynasty, the tea saint Lu Yü and his respected tutor lived in Xita Temple in Tianmen for quite some time. They had a special appetite for lotus root; they steamed the lotus roots with the rice powder to create a crisp and refreshing dish.

During that same period, steamed dishes became popular with ordinary people. Instead of just steaming vegetables, people steamed vegetables with meat. Steamed vegetables, steamed pork, and steamed fish came to be the three representative steamed dishes of Tianmen.

Starting in 1911, the chefs in Tianmen began working to develop nine different varieties of the original three steamed dishes.

Nine methods

Because the chefs were both creative and innovative, new steaming methods were added to the three original steaming methods. There were nine methods in total.

Steaming with rice powder: Season the food for taste and mix with rice powder. Steam in a wooden steamer.

Exclusive steaming: Steam the food in a wooden steamer. Cover with sauce.

Steaming in seasonings: Put the food and seasonings into a bowl for steaming; after it is cooked, cover the food with heated cooking oil. Add chives for extra flavor.

Steaming in a bowl: Place the food into a bowl with seasonings; after the food is cooked, add some sauce.

Steaming wrapped food: Food and lard are wrapped up in an omelet or a lotus leaf and then steamed.

Combination steaming: Put the food into a carved-out tomato, apple, or pepper, and then steam.

Steaming in shaped mold: Place the liquid or semi-liquid food into a shaped mold and steam thoroughly.

Sealed steaming: Wrap the food, such as preserved meat, fish, or chicken, in a lotus leaf, tinfoil, or brown paper and seal before putting it into a stewing pot to steam.

Dry steaming: Put some undried, newly harvested rice into a bucket for steaming.

Steamed pork ribs with rice powder


The main ingredients are pork ribs and rice. Seasonings include fermented tofu juice, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, white liquor, salt, chives, ginger, anise, Chinese prickly ash, and red pepper.

1. Wash and clean the pork ribs, rinse off any remaining blood, and then add some white liquor, chives, and ginger. Let the mix sit for 15 minutes.

2. Remove the chives and ginger from the preserved ribs. Add the ribs to a mix of fermented tofu juice, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and salt. Stir well.

3. Place the washed rice into a dry pan. Add Chinese prickly ash, anise, and red pepper. Stir fry on a low heat until the rice becomes light yellow.

4. Put the fried rice into a food processor and grind it into powder. Pour the powder over the preserved ribs. Stir well. Steam in a pressure cooker for half an hour.

Recommended restaurant

Tianmen Gourmet Street, Tianmen, Hubei