Experience distinctive culinary charm in Zifu Town
In the minds of numerous citizens, particularly backpackers, a town of historical significance often encompasses a wealth of diverse culture and exudes a distinctive culinary charm. Zifu Town perfectly embodies these qualities.
Nestling in the heartland of Ningxiang, Zifu Town enjoys a strategic location within a mere 20-kilometer radius of Changzhi Expressway and the city center. It finds itself at the epicenter of the "Golden Tourism Triangle", formed by the magnificent Huaminglou Scenic Area, Huitang Hot Spring, and Weishan Scenic Area. Zifu emerges as an idyllic haven, boasting a picturesque ecological environment and a welcoming populace renowned for their warm hospitality.
The allure of Zifu lies not only in its bucolic landscapes and the rejuvenation of its industries but also in the abundant natural treasures that tantalize the taste buds. In recent years, Zifu Town has harnessed its existing resources with the aim of enhancing the well-being of its inhabitants and fortifying the town's foundations.
Its ambitious endeavors have led to the creation of the "Land of Sun-Dried Tobacco", the "Land of Tea Oil", and a thriving "Cultural Tourism Town". Furthermore, Zifu has gained renown in Ningxiang for its delectable cuisine, including the delectably roasted chicken with fragrant lotus leaves and the tantalizingly crispy-skinned beef, both of which have earned esteemed positions among Ningxiang's top 10 signature dishes. These culinary delights undoubtedly leave an indelible impression on visitors.
Along County Road S326 in Zifu, an inconspicuous storefront hums with activity, drawing in food enthusiasts. This is the renowned Zifu Beef Farm, where the legacy of this culinary masterpiece has been meticulously preserved across generations and now resides in the hands of Yu Zhonghua, a seasoned craftsman in his 60s. His son, Yu Feng, has also attained mastery in the art of preparing this delicacy.
According to Yu Zhonghua, conventionally, when cattle are slaughtered, the hide is usually discarded due to its high economic value as leather. However, during the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty, his ancestor, Yu Maosheng, dared to challenge the norm.
Opting to process the beef while retaining the skin, he combined it with homemade seasonings, resulting in a beef hotpot dish unlike any other. Astonishingly, this ingenious creation, with its novel flavors and distinctive taste, gained immense popularity, leaving patrons eager to spread the word and luring them back time and again.
In the 1980s, Yu Zhonghua further refined the recipe by incorporating exclusive seasonings and selecting robust yellow cattle that graze upon mountainous pastures. Through hours of gentle simmering over a low flame, the beef metamorphosed into Zifu's signature masterpiece: crispy-skinned beef. Diners acclaim its opulent yet non-greasy nature, praising its refreshing and gratifying taste.
The supple and velvety beef skin, in particular, offers not only a sensorial delight but also various health benefits, such as invigorating the spleen, fortifying the stomach, replenishing vital energy and blood, and strengthening bones and tendons. Presently, Zifu's crispy-skinned beef has transcended local acclaim, beckoning foodies from adjacent regions and even distant provinces who cannot resist its alluring aroma.
In contrast to the widespread fame of the crispy-skinned beef that permeates every nook and cranny of Zifu, the revered braised chicken in lotus leaves demands advance reservations and is deemed a culinary treasure that is difficult to obtain. Following the guidance of local authorities, the journalist embarked on a formidable journey through the undulating landscapes, finally arriving at the prestigious restaurant in Hongqi Village.
"The chickens under my care roam freely in the mountains. Without a prior reservation, one would be unable to secure them on short notice!" declared Yuan Dingming, the genial owner of the esteemed establishment, emanating the straightforwardness of Ningxiang's men.
He noted that this gastronomic tradition had been handed down from his great-grandfather, the herbalist Yuan Jineng. Originally conceived as a medicinal remedy, Yuan Dingming, as the fourth-generation heir, ingeniously transformed it into a culinary masterpiece to be savored by a broader audience.
Braised chicken in lotus leaf, originally conceived as a therapeutic dish, is renowned for its efficacy in addressing ailments such as debility, as well as spleen and stomach weaknesses. The reporter had the privilege of observing Yuan Dingming skillfully employ ingredients like garlic, ginger, lard, and chili, harmoniously blended with a time-honored marinade.
The chicken was then meticulously ensconced within layers of aromatic lotus leaves and cocooned in straw and clay. Following a slow-cooking process adhering to age-old techniques, lasting for a duration exceeding two hours, the dish emerged with a tantalizingly crisp exterior, tender and succulent meat, and an alluring fragrance that lingers within one's reminiscence.
In conjunction with the official inauguration of Zifu Kiln Scenic Area, Ningxiang has prioritized the promotion of four meticulously curated educational tour routes, including one that comprises Huaminglou Scenic Area, Tanhe Ancient Town, Huitang Hot Spring, and Zifu Kiln. An increasing number of intrepid tourists are embarking on ventures to explore the captivating realm of Zifu.
The unique local gastronomic delights, exemplified by the braised chicken in lotus leaf and crispy-skinned beef, etch indelible flavors of their native roots onto the palates of visitors, leaving an enduring impression on them in their sojourns and memories.
These culinary treasures significantly contribute to the development of Zifu Kiln Scenic Area, transforming it into an encompassing cultural tourism complex that seamlessly integrates educational tours, gastronomy, lodging, cultural creativity, and entertainment. This propels the ancient town of Zifu confidently towards a path of rural rejuvenation.