Dark, light and white brews

One of the best known methods of Chinese cooking is to slowly simmer poultry and meats in a saucy, spiced brew.

This style of braising is known as lu, after the flavorful brew the food is cooked in. All over China from region to region, there is always a recipe for braising, a version of lu.

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In the north, the braising brew is dark and redolent of strong spices, notably that of star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns. The heavy dark soy sauce colors the braising liquid and hence, the goods.

Duck gizzards, beef shins, pig trotters, tongues, pieces of liver, sometimes even whole spring chickens will go into the constantly simmering pot.

In a separate pot, pieces of hard and soft tofu, bean curd skins and other tofu products will also cook. These are never mixed with the meats because the tofu may start off an unwanted fermenting.

One thing that differentiates the northeastern brews from the other regions. The meats are lifted from the pot and drained, then cooled. They are then displayed, and sliced and packed off only when an order comes in. The braising liquid is almost never seen.

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