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10 Chinese dishes you've never tried before

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According to Shanghai-born Melbourne based chef David Zhou, Chinese culture has significantly influenced the world's rich culinary palette.

As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival this year, David shared 10 dishes inspired by traditional ingredients and cooking methods from China that many people have probably never heard of or tried before.

David's background as a restauranteur started initially in a warehouse for storage of tea, tea pots and herbs.

“At the time, one customer told me he would like to have a browse at the items and whether it was possible to provide a chair for him to have a rest as he was getting tired. Therefore, I found him a chair, a desk and a cup for tea,” he says.

Growing up in Shanghai, David always held the Jiangnan (Southern China) landscape very dearly in his heart. He decorated his restaurant place like the interior of a ship cabin. The walls are also full of frames of retro family portraits and photos from his childhood.

At this year's 25th Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, David and his team decided to go with an innovative integration of Australian ingredients and Chinese culinary cooking methods.

Kangaroo meat fried rice exemplifies that very well.

“Chinese fried rice is one of Four Heavenly Guardians (4 classic types of Shanghainese breakfast options) in Shanghainese cuisine, we want to use that kangaroo meat in the fried rice.”

According to David, the differences between Chinese and Western cooking are disappearing. Lots of chefs who specialise Western cuisines are learning Chinese cooking and introducing regional produces and ingredients from China. The cuisines in Melbourne are very diverse, catering people from different cultural backgrounds.

“I thought Australians couldn’t take spicy food very well in the past, but they seem very adapting to that now. And sometimes they would even try things that Chinese dare not touch,” David says.

The 'Dig deeper into Chinese cuisine' event was held at his restaurant in Prahran, Melbourne, letting you to indulge traditional Chinese recipes with contemporary taste.

"We bring tradition on the table, offering casual cuisine that inspired by countryside in Shanghai," says David.

Would you like to try any of these dishes?

Iron goddess tonic

The chicken is boiled with Buddha tea
The chicken is boiled with Buddha tea.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

David has a profound knowledge about tea. He started his culinary business by opening a tea house in a cosmopolitan suburb of Prahran, almost 15 years ago.

He says tea leaves can also be added as an exotic ingredient on food.

With this soup, David brews the chicken with Buddha tea, adding bamboo, yam, and goji. Goji was been used as an ingredient in Chinese medicine many years ago.

Three kinds of dumplings

Three kind of dumplings stuffed with lamb and calamari, rabbit, and prawn meat
Three kind of dumplings stuffed with other meats than chicken or pork.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

David serves dumplings in a different way. Not using chicken and pork like in a traditional Chinese dumpling, he adds prawn, lamb, calamari, and even rabbit meat. To make it more aromatic, David adds mint and coriander leaves.

Zoodle salad

Zoodle or zucchini noodles made into salad
Zoodle or zucchini noodles made into salad.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

Following the trend of making noodles from zucchini - otherwise known as zoodles - David makes a fresh salad with the spiralled vegetable. The only Chinese element in this dish is pig ear. Crunchy pig ear is normally served as appetiser, cooked with soy sauce or chilli paste.


Saitan is similar like tofu, made from wheat.
Saitan is almost similar like tofu, but made from wheat.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

Wheat gluten, or seitan, is a natural protein from wheat and is used in East Asia as an ingredient to make noodles. With its chewy texture, seitan is also popular for vegetarians as a meat substitute. David makes seitan stuffed with pork, dried scallop, and goji.

Not usual fried rice

Chinese style fried rice with Australian twist in it
Chinese style fried rice with Australian twist in it.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

Chinese style fried rice has a slightly different look and is made differently to South-East Asian fried rice. David adds kangaroo meat, instead of chicken or pork for this special dish.

Chinese purple spinach

Chinese purple spinach tastes slightly sweeter than any other spinach
Chinese purple spinach tastes slightly sweeter than any other spinach.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

Chinese purple spinach is widely eaten by Chinese people with its slightly sweeter taste compared to other spinach. Served with daikon -a kind of radish, dried scallop, in Chinese superior stock. Superior stock is made from chicken, pork, and ham.

Lotus root

The dish made with jujubes, a red Chinese date
The dish is made with jujubes, a red Chinese date.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

Lotus roots are a common ingredient in China and many other countries in Asia. David adds minced pork, crabmeat, and jujubes. Jujubes are a Chinese red date that is also used in many Chinese dishes. This is served with sauce made from egg white.

Sweet dumplings

Lychee and peach sticky dumpling sweet soup
Sticky dumpling in sweet soup for dessert.

ABC: Erwin Renaldi

These sweet dumplings are stuffed with lychee and peach with sweet soup.

Translated by Grace Feng (Fangjuan), also available in Chinese here.

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