Salted Pork Soup (Yan Du Xian)

yan du xian

Salted Pork Soup, known as 腌笃鲜 (Yuān Dǔ Xiān) in Chinese, is a distinctive culinary delight originating from the Jiangnan region, specifically associated with Ningbo cuisine. Over time, it has become a representative dish in the culinary traditions of Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou. This savory dish is characterized by its salty and fresh flavor profile, thick and flavorful broth, tender and fatty meat, and the crisp fragrance and tenderness of bamboo shoots. It has evolved into a dish celebrated for its rich umami taste.

The name “腌笃鲜” can be broken down to understand its key components. “腌” refers to the cured or salted meat, usually using various cuts of salted pork. “鲜” denotes fresh meat, which can include a variety of options such as chicken, trotters, or spare ribs. “笃” signifies the slow and meticulous simmering process, which imparts depth and richness to the soup.

Originally a common household dish in the Jiangnan region, Yan Du Xian has historical roots in the tradition of preserving salted fish and meat during the winter. As spring arrives and an abundance of fresh bamboo shoots floods the market at affordable prices, households would utilize the leftover salted meat from winter and cook it with the seasonal bamboo shoots to create a hearty soup. Wealthier families might enhance the dish by adding fresh pork ribs, elevating the overall flavor profile. Some variations of the soup may also include additional ingredients such as lettuce stems or bean curd knots, adding further complexity to the broth.

The cooking process involves a slow simmer, allowing the flavors of the cured and fresh meats to meld with the bamboo shoots, creating a harmonious and satisfying soup. The result is a culinary masterpiece that balances the richness of the pork with the freshness of the bamboo shoots, creating a symphony of flavors that has made Salted Pork Soup a beloved and enduring dish in the culinary landscape of the region.

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