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A visit to Ningbo Cuisine Museum
2022-07-06 20:45 Text Size: A A A

Since ancient times, Chinese people have always had a special passion to and pursuit of diet.

With the legislation on the use of serving chopsticks in Ningbo, local people have been paying more attention to Ningbo cuisine, which is famous for its salty, fresh and “smelly” taste. Meanwhile, some citizens have also raised some interesting questions: what did the Ningbo people like to eat in the past? What dining habits did they have?

Perhaps a visit to the Ningbo Cuisine Museum can offer answers to these questions.

A museum started by a chef

Since its opening in January last year, Ningbo Cuisine Museum has introduced to people the start, development and prosperity of Ningbo cuisine through the display of artifacts, words, pictures, models, videos, etc., showing the specific development context and special characteristics.

Li Yanghui, founder of the museum, used to be a chef. Out of great passion to cooking, he has been collecting some antiques related to cuisine since he started working as a chef. Most of the over 600 items in exhibition in the museum, including some tickets, documents, and cooking utensils, are from his personal collection.

A museum retaining the ancient delicacy

The first thing visitors see upon entering the museum is a table with the models of traditional Ningbo dishes, some of which are disappearing from the local feasts. For example, early in the mid-1950s, ten local dishes were elected as the “top ten famous dishes in Ningbo”, such as the stewed turtle in crystal sugar soup, the stewed river eel in sauce, the stewed whole chicken with sliced ham, and the goose liver coated with pork intestines. “Nowadays, several dishes are not commonly seen in local people’s lives.” said Li Yanghui. For example, he stewed turtle in crystal sugar soup and the stewed river eel in sauce can usually be ordered only in big hotels and restaurants, and the goose liver coated with pork intestines has been rarely cooked. In addition, with the depletion of wild yellow croakers in the East China Sea, the price of wild yellow croakers has soared. As a result, the sautéed yellow croaker with pickled potherb mustard, a famous traditional Ningbo dish, has become quite rare.

What is the old-style hotpot in Ningbo like?

As is known, there used to be two forms of Ningbo hotpot. One is the pot with charcoal burning below and a copper basin covering it, which was popular both in the north and the south. But most people use the other type, with a stove tube underneath, a pot around it, and sometimes a small chimney. In the old days, there used to be one or two hotpots in the kitchen of a Ningbo household. When a daughter got married, the hotpot was also a common dowry object.

Separate dining system: popular in the ancient time

“There is a long history of separate dining system in China. The ancient people adopted this system when eating, especially at top-grade banquets, that is, everyone had his specific chopsticks and spoons.” said Li Yanghui. With the progress and civilized development of society, people are now advocating the use of serving chopsticks and the recovering of the separate dining system. With the active guidance of the legislation, people may come to a consensus for those practices in the whole society.

With the requirements of the new era, people are bound to face the continuous updating of ideas, and a healthier and more scientific new lifestyle will gradually become a consensus. It is against this background that the “separate dining system” is widely concerned and advocated. The essence from the traditional culture will be valued to adapt to the new norms of the times. The separate dining system is sure to become a good habit in people’s daily life.

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