WUHAN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Heat plays a central role in Wuhan’s food tapestry.
The cuisine is typified by an oily, spicy sauce filled with dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and various spices – the combination is called mala, which literally means numbness in the tongue.
You will also find lots of street food unique to the city, like dry noodles, which can be savoured in the popular food mecca – Hubu Alley.
These dry noodles are a breakfast staple (otherwise known as guozao) in Wuhan and, if you are in Hubu Alley, you will see lots of people around you slurping on this, even late at night.
The noodles are topped with sesame paste, vinegar, chilli oil and a sprinkling of spring onions.
You can toss this all together before eating the noodles.
The dish has strong sesame undertones and spicy hints bursting through in every mouthful.
A popular Hubu Alley offering, doupi is a specialty omelette made of mung beans, eggs, milk and flour for the outer layer.
The interior is filled with fried sticky rice, diced bean curd and minced pork.
Cooked in a large wok, the entire concoction is then cut up into smaller pieces. Doupi is soft and fluffy on the outside, and bouncy and springy on the inside. It is also very filling, so go easy if you plan to indulge in other snacks, too.
Hotpot is very popular in Wuhan, especially during the colder months of the year. At Wuhan’s Yuan Lao Si Hotpot, the mala hotpot reigns supreme.
The soup base is made with lots of dried chillies and a motherload of Sichuan peppercorns. On the side, people normally assemble a bowl using various condiments provided, so you can layer your bowl with sesame paste, spring onions, garlic and other bits and bobs, and once you’re ready, you can add a bit of the soup and other cooked hotpot elements to this.
This stuff is lethal – so spicy and tongue-numbing, that you will need to take breaks in between to let the fog surrounding your brain clear. But if you can take the heat, this oily, fiery, peppery broth is guaranteed to be etched in your food memory forever.
SPICY LOBSTER AND CRAYFISH
Bali Lobster is practically an institution in Wuhan. You have to take a number and stand in line to get into this eatery, because the queues are phenomenally long.
But trust me, these crustaceans are worth the wait! The lobsters and crayfish are coated in the familiar chilli-peppercorn mixture that will leave your senses in a state of total wakefulness.
The seafood is plump and fresh, with lots of meat and the redolent flavours of the peppercorns infused between joints and crevices.
If you would like to take the spice level down a notch, try the garlic crayfish, where the seafood is slathered in a creamy garlic sauce that is delicious and not spicy at all.