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Attendees bring appetites to intl guobaorou contest

By LIU MINGTAI in Changchun and ZHOU HUIYING | China Daily Global | Updated: July 1, 2024
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Guobaorou dishes cooked by contestants in the World Guobaorou Contest on display in Jilin city, Jilin province, on Sunday. ZHU WANCHANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Jilin city in Northeast China's Jilin province is sizzling with activity thanks to the World Guobaorou Contest, a unique event celebrating the region's signature sweet-and-sour pork or beef dish.

The competition, on Saturday and Sunday, attracted hundreds of participants and highlighted the culinary creativity of the chefs.

For many Chinese, particularly those from the northeast, guobaorou is a dish synonymous with the region. Made with marinated and battered pork or beef slices, then stir-fried in a sweet-and-sour sauce, it offers a delightful combination of textures and flavors.

The contest, featuring 286 participants from across China and five from India, showcased both traditional takes on guobaorou and innovative flavor profiles.

A panel of 17 judges evaluated the dishes prepared by the contestants. Residents and tourists were also invited to taste and vote on the dishes. Song Diange, one of the judges, said they were looking for dishes that were sweet, sour, salty and fragrant; proper yellow and red coloring; meat that was crispy on the outside and tender inside; and uniform thickness in cutting.

While the competition featured classic guobaorou recipes, there were also a number of unexpected flavor variations. Dishes incorporating curry and even durian flavors piqued the curiosity of attendees.

For example, Wei Lizai, a chef at a hotel in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, crafted a guobaorou dish with suanye, a pickled and sliced fruit and vegetable snack from his region.

"I had never made the dish before when I received information about the contest in mid-June," said Wei, 44. "My assistants and I spent two weeks learning the dish and practicing repeatedly. After the contest, I hope to bring it to our hotel and make it a popular dish on our menu."

Sun Zhigang, one of the five gold medal winners, expressed pride in his dish and warmly welcomed tourists from across the world to Jilin to taste the delicacy.

"Guobaorou is very popular among local residents," said Sun, executive chef of the State-owned Xinxingyuan Restaurant in Jilin. "Every day, we sell 180 to 200 dishes of guobaorou in our restaurant. We hope the dish will become a favorite among both guests and locals."

Local authorities see guobaorou as a potential driver for tourism growth, not just within China but internationally. Early data suggests a significant rise in guobaorou sales at restaurants and hotel occupancy rates since the contest's announcement in June. The event has also garnered substantial online attention.

Jilin city is capitalizing on the momentum by hosting a "Guobaorou Carnival" alongside the competition. The carnival features citywide activities such as lucky draws, food tastings and entertainment, further enriching the visitor experience.

Throughout the summer, the city has planned over 20 cultural, commercial and tourism events, offering a vibrant experience for residents and tourists alike. The events, ranging from exciting performances to light shows and river cruises, will allow visitors to immerse themselves in Jilin's culture and indulge in its culinary offerings, including the now-famous guobaorou.

Contact the writers at zhouhuiying@chinadaily.com.cn