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A land of honest folk and warm stewsBy Kang Shu
  If China resembles a grand rooster, my hometown Jiamusi is located near its beak. It is among the few Chinese cities to be bathed in the earliest rays of the morning sun in northeastern China.

This majestic and mystical land in Heilongjiang province not only nurtures people known for being frank and straightforward, but is also home to delicious food and unparalleled natural beauty.

Local children have great fun ice sliding in Jiamusi. Qiu Qilong

An everyday favorite is stir-fried eggs with soy paste. When this is accompanied by a bunch of fresh cucumbers, it feels like finishing a huge cup of ice cream on a hot summer day. Often, the locals eat scallion, which is too spicy and strong to be eaten raw, with their stir-fried eggs and soy paste - a combination whose heady fragrance is guaranteed to prime your appetite.

Another special feature of the cuisine is stewed dishes. To keep warm in the long and freezing winter, locals often stew various things together in a pot, like chicken with potatoes and wild mushrooms, or chewy beef with tomatoes.

Stewed pork with vermicelli made from flour, was once a well-known local dish. But, nowadays, stewed salted vegetables with vermicelli has become more popular. The one dish that may never run out of fashion here is the stewing of various meats in one pot: the meat of rabbits, quails, pheasants and deer. The various textures complementing one another make for one wonderful treat.

Another two dishes of note from this region are sweet and sour pork, which is crispy outside and soft inside, and the nutrition-rich salted caviar made from chum salmon.

The delicious food owes as much to the special ways of cooking it as to the rich black soil that give vegetables a special flavor. One of my father's friends once took some Chinese cabbage seeds from Jiamusi back to his hometown in eastern China's Shandong province. However, the cabbage just didn't taste the way it did in Jiamusi. That is the magic of this land.

If you want to work off all this delectable food, take a walk in the city park besides the Songhua River. In summer, the park offers a tranquil getaway and in winter, it magically turns into a paradise for lovers of ice sports.

During the day, fields of ice attract skaters and sleigh riders from all corners of the city while slides of ice draw hordes of jubilant children.

Even those not quite the masters of ice can have plenty of fun. Sit on a thick wooden board and leap down from the top of an ice-covered hill, for a thrilling feel of what it means to glide like a swallow.

In the evening, with tanghulu (candied haws on a stick) in hand, you can check out the numerous ice sculptures and colored ice lanterns.

So don't despair over the fast-approaching winter; instead, head to this frontier city and make the most of its many offerings.

(China Daily 10/23/2008 page19)
source: (China Daily)

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