Guozao in Wuhan

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Guozao in Wuhan


Guozao is a popular way to say having breakfast in Wuhan. It is generally said that Guangdong is the paradise for eating and Shanghai for dressing, while Wuhan is a combination of both of them. Sitting favorably in central China, Wuhan has gathered and mixed together various habits and customs from neighboring cities and provinces in all directions, which gives rise to a saying of concentrating diverse customs from different places.


Long long ago, people in Wuhan developed the habit of eating out in the morning, which had something to do with the city’s geographical location and economic activities. Wuhan is divided into three towns, i.e., Hankou, Hanyang and Wuchang, while Hankou has always been regarded as the district with the most flourishing commerce among the three towns. The term Guozao made its first appearance in Daoguang period of Qing Dynasty, when people were usually too hasty for the bazaar in the morning to have their breakfast at home; instead they ate out in restaurants. This custom has been maintained even till now, and tends to be more popular and accepted by more people because of the increasingly accelerated pace of modern life and farther distance between home and working and studying sites resulting from special distribution of the three towns. With booming development, Wuhan restaurants and snack bars, scattered everywhere even in small streets and alleys, are visited by crowds upon crowds of customers, bringing about flourishing business. Not only is the breakfast in Wuhan very convenient and time-saving, but it is rich in variety by absorbing local flavors of southern and northern parts and delicious in taste. Some famous and popular foods are youtiao (a fried dough stick), mianwo (round and thin fried dough with a crispy center), shaomei (steamed dumplings with the dough gathered at the top), tangbao (steamed dumpling filled with minced meat and gravy), stuffed skin of bean milk, hot braised noodles, beef noodles, noodles served with fried bean sauce, dried rice noodles, boiled dumplings, tangyuan (dumplings made of sweet rice, rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet or spicy fillings).


Wuhan hot braised noodles, inexpensive and economical, is one of the most popular choices for breakfast specially favored by local people. You can fill your stomach easily with hot braised noodles by spending 1 RMB only. It is said that this noodle came into being at the initial period of 1930s when a man named Li Bao who lived in Changdi Street of Hankou district dealt with bean-starch noodles and soup noodles business near Guandi Temple. At the end of a hot day, he boiled the unsold noodles in case they would spoil, and spread them on the kneading board. But due to carelessness, he knocked down the bottle and spilled the sesame oil onto the noodles. In this dilemma, he simply mixed more sesame oil with the noodles and cooled them. The next morning, he put the already cooked noodles into boiled water for a while, pulled them out and added some seasonings like chopped scallions. Soon the smell was prevailing and people fell over each other to buy it. Asked for the name of these specially smelled noodles, Li Bao answered “hot braised noodles” without thinking. From then on, hot braised noodle has become an indispensable part of people’s breakfast in Wuhan and also a member of five most famous noodles in China with shaved noodles in Shanxi, fried noodles of Yifu style in Guangdong and Guangxi, noodles with peppery sauce in Sichuan and noodles served with fried bean sauce in northern part.


Three-delicacy stuffed skin of bean milk, another popular breakfast food with people, is a kind of traditional food in Wuhan. In early period, to celebrate traditional holidays, people made a wrapper by spreading the paste of smashed mung beans and grains mixed with water for filling polished glutinous rice and chopped meat. After being panbroiled, a fantastic food to enjoy on festivals is finished. Later it turned into a common breakfast food. A dish of excellently cooked stuffed skin of bean milk depends largely on a thin wrapper, a clear paste and a perfect mastery of temperature so that it comes out with a crisp surface but soft stuffing and much oil but no oily taste. Three delicacies refer to meat, egg and shelled shrimp, while stuffed skin of bean milk of Laotongcheng Restaurant, enjoying a widespread reputation, is made not only with the above-mentioned delicacies, but also some other special ones, such as pig’s heart, pig’s stomach, dried mushroom, sliced and dried yulan, barbecued pork, etc. Stressing the choice of different delicacies and meticulous panbroiling work, the finished food will have a shiny appearance with oil and a delightfully yellow color with an appetizing smell. In addition, mianwo,a round and thin fried dough with a crispy center, is also a frequently eaten breakfast food that uses rice flour as its main content added with chopped scallions. It’s said that it was created by vendors selling sesame seed cake in Hanzheng Street during Guangxu period of Qing Dynasty. People especially like mianwo as it takes on a delightfully golden color on both sides after being fried, crisp outside but soft inside with a crispy center.


Hubu Alley: Located on Ziyou Road of Wuchang, Hubu Alley, 150-meter long, has been well known for the stalls and stands serving a variety of breakfast foods and snacks for more than 20 years. The alley derives its name from its location near Pantai Yamun (the Governor’s Office Building) during Qing Dynasty. Over 30 different kinds of breakfast foods and snacks are served here, such as hot braised noodles of Grandma Shi’s style, fish noodles in fresh and thick soup of Madame Xu’s style, beef noodles of Chen’s style, gruel and pancake of the Gangs’ style and rice wine of the Wans’ style, etc. The characteristics of local food culture have been properly preserved.


After 2-month renovation, Hubu Alley was opened again to serve breakfast in September 19, 2003.