By Abigail Javellana
Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province, is rich in history being one of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China. Tourists are treated to UNESCO heritage sites such as the famed Shaolin Temple, Luoyang's Longmen Grottoes, the picturesque Yuntaishan Mountain, and so much more.
But a visit to Zhengzhou wouldn't be complete without tasting the local cuisine that can be found in their restaurants, food stalls, and night markets.
Here are 10 Henan Dishes you should try ...
1. Luoyang Water Banquet
The beautiful soup is called Luoyang Water Banquet. The Peony flower-shaped egg slices on top symbolize Luoyang's most beloved flower. It is a popular Henan-style dish that originated from the Tang Dynasty and is often served to important guests who visit the city.
A total of 24 dishes are served at the Water Banquet, with 8 cold and 16 hot dishes, each having its unique flavor and ingredients. The soup may include meat and vegetable dishes, cold and hot, with different tastes--some being sweet, salty, sour, or spicy.
The soup we had was a sour vinegary broth with cooked shredded radish inside, with a texture similar to bird's nest.
2. Chinese Wild Yams
Chinese wild yam has tons of health benefits since it's good for the kidney and spleen. It also helps in lowering blood sugar and promotes longevity.
It is cooked in a variety of ways--may it be as a drink, a soup, steamed, fried, or made into a delicious snack.
3. Carp on Noodles
Carp on Noodles is a special local food in Zhengzhou created in 1930 by a famous chef in Kaifeng.
The dish is a classic twist to your favorite sweet and sour fish by adding a very thin layer of fried noodles on top.
4. Kaifeng Steamed Stuffed Buns
Similar to my favorite xiao long bao, the Kaifeng version has a thicker dough.
It is an imperial food served during the Northern Song Dynasty made from ground meat with its natural juices steamed inside its beautifully shaped dough.
5. Jiao Hua Ji
In Yuntaishan Mountain, we tried specialty dishes cooked by the local farmers and villagers. One, in particular, intrigued me--a chicken dish called Jiao Hua Ji.
It uses an old traditional cooking method developed by farmers who were too poor to even have their own cooking utensils. The native chicken is hunted in the forest then wrapped around a layer of dirt and mud while being roasted.
Note: The cooked chicken inside the mud wrap can last 2-3 days.
6. Almond Tea Soup
The almond tea soup is a favorite local dish. Though unique to our palette, the soup has a watery, sweet almond taste. They say the soup keeps the skin supple and glowing.
It is made from lotus foot starch, almond peanuts, sesame, and rice for a creamier texture. My local friend swears by this dish. I'm guessing it is an acquired taste.
7. Braised Yellow Carp with Brown Sauce
In Zhengzhou lies the famed Yellow River teaming with yellow carp.
The dish is fried then cooked again in a thick sauce with a slightly sour taste.
8. Donkey Soup
The local food is mostly soup because the climate in Zhengzhou can get as cold as -10 degrees. Locals love this dish so much that it's served in the cold winter and even in the dry summer.
There are many small soup shops all over Zhengzhou and though the interiors might not be as great, the soup is delicious.
There are more than 10 different soups but the popular ones are the beef, mutton, and donkey soup. These are best paired with pieces of shaoping bread (Chinese pancakes) on top.
I suggest you be adventures and try the donkey soup--the meat is much leaner with light gamey taste.
It is a dish locals in Zhengzhou crave for when going back to their hometown.
9. Mashed Sweet Potato
For dessert, we had cooked sweet potato in honey, sugar, and peanut oil. Though the sprinkles on top were distracting, the dish reminded me of a local Filipino street food I like called Kamote-Q (Deep Fried Caramelized Sweet Potato).
10. Fried Jelly
Though this dish wasn't to my liking and tasted bland, it is a local favorite made from sweet potato or green bean powder. It is then made into a jelly then pan-fried in sesame oil.
Explore historical Zhengzhou and Henan province with Tigerair's latest flights from Singapore-Zhengzhou.
Our flight from the Philippines to Zhengzhou was made convenient with the tiger connect transfer service within Singapore Changi Airport's transit area without the need to clear arrival.
Service is weekly and operates every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Zhengzhou Blogpost Series:
- ZHENGZHOU: 8 Awesome Places You Should Visit in Zhengzhou! @TigerAirSG
- ZHENGZHOU Food Trip: 10 Henan Dishes You Should Try in Zhengzhou! @TigerAirSG
- ZHENGZHOU: Dengfeng Shaolin Temple @TigerAirSG
- ZHENGZHOU: Yellow River Hovercraft Experience! @TigerAirSG
- YUNTAI MOUNTAIN: First Timer's Guide to Yuntai Mountain (Photo Essay) @TigerAirSG
- ZHENGZHOU: The City of Kaifeng (Memorial Temple, Qingming River Park, and Drum Tower Night Market) @TigerAirSG
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our experience was courtesy of Tiger Airways. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. Barbecue Cicada, anyone?
Barbeque Cicada. Though I didn't have the courage to try it, I'd be happy if someone can share how it tastes like.
You'll find this in the 1st night market in China with a history of over 1000 years. The Drum Tower Square is a popular dining market famous for it's special Kaifeng snacks and Henan Dishes. Meanwhile, there are also stalls selling different souvenirs, popular women's wear, accessories, and the like.
Xingshengde Spicy Peanuts
The soil in Kaifeng contains a lot of sand and silt that is good for growing peanuts. We've noticed the peanuts are larger compared to the ones we're used to.
The traditional recipe has a golden color that tastes spicy, salty, and a bit sweet.