A Taste of Chengdu: Mutton Soup and Winter Solstice

Authors: Go Chengdu

2016-12-21

One of the 24 solar terms in the traditional Chinese calendar, Winter Solstice is also an important traditional festival in China.

What does Winter Solstice mean?

The Winter Solstice (Dong Zhi, 冬至in Chinese) falls on sometime during the period Dec. 21-23. As early as 2, 500 years ago, the Chinese people had used the earth sundial to measure the movement of the sun and determined the day of Winter Solstice ― the earliest decided term of the 24 terms. On the day of Winter Solstice, the northern hemisphere gets the least sunshine ― 50% less than that on the southern hemisphere ― and the shortest daytime in a year.
The Chinese people have the custom of "Nine-day Count" (Shu Jiu, 数九in Chinese), a traditional way to indicate the weather changes during the period of about 80 days from Winter Solstice to Spring Equinox in the next year.

Winter Solstice in Chengdu

Winter Solstice is also an important traditional festival in China, and customs vary in different areas of China. On the day, people eat dumplings in most parts of northern China, while people in Chengdu have the custom of drinking mutton soup, since they believe it can help drive away coldness from the body and strengthen the vitality.
Every Winter Solstice the city stages the annual ritual of eating mutton dishes and drinking mutton soup, which involves almost everyone. The price of mutton sees an obvious rise on the day, but the soaring price seems to not to daunt local people savoring the mutton soup.
The most famous and popular mutton soup is from Jianyang City in southeastern Chengdu, noted for the milk-white soup and tender meat.
Actually, the time-honored traditional cooking of Jianyang mutton soup has been listed in the fifth batch of Chengdu Intangible Cultural Heritage items.
And NOW you can make the famous mutton soup at home! Just read the following recipe:

How to make Jianyang mutton soup

Follow the three steps:

1.soup making

Ingredients: lamb bones, anise, ginger and mutton
How to do: put all the ingredients into a pot and stew together. Then pick out the cooked mutton and continue to cook the soup for about 2-3 hours, and finally remove all of the solid pieces (bone, anise and ginger) from the soup.

2. mutton frying

Ingredients: oil, the cooked mutton (now cooled off), sliced ginger
How to do: stir fry the mutton and sliced ginger in the heated oil, and then add some soup and cook for several minutes. Add salt and optional seasonings and cook until you think the meat is perfect to your taste.

3.add vegetables or/and other ingredients

Ingredients: vegetables and ingredients you like, such as tofu, cooked blood curd or Chinese radish, chopped green onion and cilantro, etc.
How to do: meat satiated, you can add some vegetables and whatever you like into the soup to complete the savoring experience in the cold weather and feel invigorated.
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