Northeast ethnic barbecue culture, flavor embraced across China

(Xinhua) 08:52, August 01, 2023

This photo taken on June 19, 2023 with a mobile phone shows traditional barbecue food of China's Daur ethnic group in Hala New Village, Qiqihar City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Yue)

HARBIN, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Kang Yan, a member of China's Daur ethnic group in the northeast Heilongjiang Province, cannot remember when she first tried their traditional barbecue as a child, because in her memory the dish has always been part of the Daur's ethnic culture.

Now a waitress in a cafe at the entrance of her home village named Hala New Village in Qiqihar City, the 43-year-old woman talks about traditional barbecue culture every day to tourists who see barbecue as a calling card for the city.

"Barbecued beef mixed with Artemisia willow buds was once unique to the Daur ethnic group, but was gradually accepted by other ethnic groups and so became a traditional dish here," she said. The campsite and cafe outside the village are both new, but it is an old dish that brings tourists from across China to Qiqihar to enjoy these new facilities.

Born in Hala New Village, Kang moved to another county after marriage, but as her parents grew older, so her desire to return to the village to work and take care of her parents also grew.

An opportunity came last year, when, to develop its tourism industry, the village built a campsite, a cafe, homestays and pubs. Kang managed to land a job in the cafe, which sells barbecue meals along with fried chicken and potato chips.

The cafe, named Great Journey Camp Coffee, was so popular in the tourism season that visitors had to make reservations two weeks to a month in advance. This allowed Kang to earn more than 6,000 yuan (about 840 U.S. dollars) a month.

She is not the only one to benefit from the iconic barbecue culture in Qiqihar. When walking in the streets of the city, one can easily find barbecue restaurants of various styles.

Guo Xu, executive president of Qiqihar's barbecue industry society, told Xinhua that like the cafe in Hala New Village, many restaurants are exploring the possibilities and potentials of combining barbecue with coffee and camping, so as to effectively promote this traditional dish.

In fact, this form of barbecue has spread beyond the province to other parts of China.

According to Zhou Tao, vice head with the commerce bureau of Qiqihar, there are currently about 21,000 Qiqihar barbecue restaurants in China, while e-commerce enterprises based on this form of barbecue have grown to 50. It is estimated that the combined revenue of the Qiqihar barbecue industry this year could reach 30 billion yuan (about 4.2 billion U.S. dollars).

Zhou further noted that Qiqihar barbecue, which originated in about 900 A.D., also helped spread the culture of once nomadic ethnic groups. Qiqihar, which means natural pasture in the Daur language, is home to Mongolian, Daur, Ewenki and Oroqen ethnic groups.

An exhibition at the barbecue museum in the city shows that in ancient times people had used stones for the dish, before later replacing them with iron pans. These days, baking trays especially designed for barbecue have been created and are being improved, with even the curves and grooves meticulously crafted.

After China optimized its COVID-19 response measures, the barbecue culture in Zibo catapulted the old industrial city in east China's Shandong Province to internet stardom and attracted nationwide food lovers to Zibo for the spring break.

Kang Yan hopes that Qiqihar barbecue will achieve similar glory.

"The phenomenon of Qiqihar barbecue becoming increasingly popular showed, to some extent, the inheritance of ethnic culture," said Kang. "I hope that more people will love the dish."

This photo taken on June 28, 2023 with a mobile phone shows the exterior view of a barbecue restaurant in Hala New Village, Qiqihar City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Yue)

This photo taken on June 19, 2023 with a mobile phone shows a view of the Great Journey Camp Coffee in Hala New Village, Qiqihar City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Yue)

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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