A Taste Of History At Ji Qing Street

With multiple time-honoured Chinese food delicacies within its walls, Ji Qing Street is a must-visit location for first-time tourists like Bibiana Low, who was on an Overseas Immersion Programme to Wuhan.

The main entrance of Ji Qing Street in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province, boasts the culture of the Wuhan residents.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY
BIBIANA LOW

Published on
July 7, 2020

Nothing can detract from Wuhan’s treasure trove of local delicacies, not even a global pandemic.

Its reputation marred by being unceremoniously dubbed as the epicentre of the Covid-19 virus, Wuhan has recovered in leaps and bounds since then. According to a Jun 29, 2020 article by CGTN, Ji Qing Street, the city’s famous food street, reignited its bustling spark as visitors swarmed the area during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday held between Jun 25 and Jun 27, 2020.

Join me as I reminisce about the time when I was fortunate enough to savour Wuhan’s iconic dishes in this famed food street prior to the Covid-19 catastrophe.

Lao Tong Cheng: Right Royal Delight

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The highly recommended Tri-delicacy doupi (7 yuan, S$1.40) from Lao Tong Cheng, established in 1929.

Making my first stop at the 90-year-old “King of Doupi”, Lao Tong Cheng, I am welcomed by the sight of satisfied locals and foreigners leaving the shop. A quick glance at the number of patrons who are dining-in shows the popularity of the Tri-delicacy doupi. The dish contains glutinous rice, mushrooms, roast meat, bamboo shoots and its pièce de résistance is a thin golden crepe which encases the rich glutinous rice filling.

Xiao En, a fellow patron from Guangzhou, says in Mandarin: “The doupi reminds me of the warmth of my home, and I will definitely recommend it to my friends.”

Illustrations of Lao Tong Cheng’s rich history and milestones are plastered around the shop’s interior, where patrons are able to learn more about the brand and have a newfound appreciation for the doupi.

Si Ji Mei: An Explosion of Flavour

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The Si Xi Tang Bao (18 yuan, S$3.60) to-go from Si Ji Mei, established in 1922.

Turning round the corner after Lao Tong Cheng, I join the queue outside Si Ji Mei, the longest queue at Ji Qing Street that day. 

Pai dui (queue)! Pai dui!” commands a fellow patron, as he pushes his companions to the queue at the renowned soup dumpling shop. The sweltering hot weather has not stopped the queue at Si Ji Mei from forming behind me.

The 25-minute wait felt torturous, but all signs of fatigue disintegrated the moment the soup from the dumpling oozed in my mouth.

Food brands such as Si Ji Mei have come a long way since their establishment in the early 1900s and are known for their historical contributions to the Chinese food heritage.

In the queue with me is a Wuhan local, Zhang Geng, who is also waiting patiently under the sun with his girlfriend. “Compared to other soup dumpling shops I have tried in Wuhan, Si Ji Mei produces the freshest and most fragrant soup dumplings and is definitely worth the wait,” he says, adding that he frequents the shop.

The soup dumplings are prepared upon order, which causes the long wait. However, I find the wait worth every second, thanks to the soup dumplings’ paper-thin skin and perfect skin-to-filling ratio.

Cai Lin Ji: Regality in a Bowl of Noodles

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The best-selling bowl of beef reganmian (15 yuan, S$3) from Cai Lin Ji, established in 1928.

Making my way further into Ji Qing Street, I am greeted by the iconic entrance of Cai Lin Ji, a 97-year-old reganmian (hot dry noodles in a potent sesame sauce) brand. Entering Cai Lin Ji is like entering a time machine as patrons find themselves immersed in the oriental layout of the shop, with furniture inspired by the ancient Chinese periods.

The shop employee recommends that I order the beef reganmian, which comes with a generous amount of tender beef slices and noodles.

I take a seat before the entrance of the shop, and I am joined by other patrons who will not stop singing praises for the noodles as they dig in.

As the sun sets and the weather cools, I walk out of Ji Qing Street, witnessing it light up. My appetite is sated for the time being, but I know a return visit is on the cards as a crowd forms and street vendors roll their carts out in preparation for the night market.

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