Photographs are my preferred travel souvenirs, and there are times when my most vivid memories of a city are of its food. One such trip was my stay in Wuhan, central China, where the variety of regional cuisines made a mark on my palate as much as the city’s own specialties did on my camera.
Words & Images: Abby Yao
Wuhan is a city of culture and history in the heart of China, and a melting pot of the country’s culinary offerings. Being half-way between Chongqing to the west and Shanghai to the east, Beijing to the north and Hong Kong to the south, Wuhan’s cuisine has influences from all over. It’s an advantage for visitors who want to sample something new with every meal.
Or at least much of it looked new to me. During sit-down lunches at the extravagant dining halls and on crowded snack streets, my camera clicked away before the first bite was taken to taste everything on the table. A filling task at the very least, with the usual dozen (at least) dishes to try.
There are two rivers and over a hundred lakes in the area, so every Wuhan trip must include at least a cruise. On the serene East Lake, the largest city lake in China, a strange calm overcame me as the pleasure boat entered what seemed like a vast pond fringed by tiny trees.
The abundance of waterways give rise to the much-loved dish called Wuchang fish. Steamed bream from the Yangtze River was praised by Chairman Mao and has been widely enjoyed since. I found the fish very fresh, without that fishy aftertaste. Just watch out for the tiny bones!
Crustaceans aren’t that common but if you’re lucky, you might find shellfish or crispy crablets on the menu.
I missed the city’s most famous dish – hot dry noodles with sesame paste — because the chef lost me in translation. I ended up with noodle soup instead. Fortunately Wuhan had more breakfast staples, so there was no room in my tummy for disappointment. It did, however, have space for delicate soups such as lotus root in broth. It’s warming and filling, just right for the chilly autumn weather.
If you’re an urbanite and love shopping, Han Street would be right up your alley. At over a kilometre long, it is one of the longest shopping streets in China. I came away empty-handed because I was awed by the architecture. Aside from the international brands, there are cafes and snack chains along the way where you can rest your tired feet.
Yellow Crane Tower is the icon of Wuhan and a must for every visitor. The uphill climb and the StairMaster challenge up the tower will reward you with good views of the city even on a foggy rainy day like this.
I came across this lamb ‘satay’ stall just outside Yellow Crane Tower. The meat is mildly spicy, quite a tasty appetizer before heading off to a sit-down lunch.
Rice crispies with sweet and sour sauce? Why not? I was surprised at how good the combination was.