112 - Dining The North Chinese Way

By Mary Luz Mejia

Most of us have had southern Chinese food at least once in our lives, but few of us have likely paid much attention to the differences between the north and the south's culinary variations. The differences are as fascinating as they are flavourful. The hotter south looks towards its lush rice fields to feed its populace, while the colder north relies upon wheat as its grain of choice. Hot, hearty soups and skewered meats also comprise the north's repertoire and fit the bill for their blustery weather.

MY Chafing Dish in the heart of downtown Chinatown offers up some of the most authentic northern Chinese fare in the city. Zi Xuan Huang and her husband painstakingly prepare Chinese Hot Pot soups and numerous skewers, replicating the flavours of their homeland.

The hot pots come in a variety of broth flavours, from beef or chicken, to a spicy, roasted chilli Szechuan. You can add a ton of different ingredients to cook in your soup at your table, including dumplings, fried tofu cubes, chicken, and for the more adventurous, blood sausage.

Two of the most authentic skewers are lamb and chicken heart. A liberal sprinkling of northern Chinese spices coats all of the skewers, a savoury blend of cumin seeds, black sesame, and hot pepper flakes.

A bowl of ziran (a Xinjiang spice medley) sits next to the skewers in case you'd like to up the savoury heat. You can wash this all down with soya milk, a very northern Chinese beverage, as you sit atop the restaurant's kung, or raised dais, that transports diners to a cold, mountainous northern Chinese home where sitting on the ground atop warm skins, eating your hot pot is the preferred way to dine.

MY Chafing Dish
57 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, Ontario