Wokipedia is a regular magazine column in which we introduce aspects of Chinese gastronomy, one letter at a time. This issue, 'W' gets the treatment.

… Wenchang chicken 文昌鸡 wenchang ji

The progenitor of the Hainan chicken rice served throughout Southeast Asia, Wenchang chicken is both a type of chicken and a chicken dish, both of which hail from the area around the city of Wenchang in Hainan Province. The bird is poached whole in a fragrant broth, leaving the skin luscious and gelatinous, and the meat juicy.

… wood ear 木耳 mu'er

It might sound like a debilitating skin condition, but wood ear mushrooms – auricularia auricula-judae – are actually a type of fungus. Wood ear mushrooms are popular in Chinese cuisine for their crunchy, jelly-like texture (which admittedly makes them rather an acquired taste). Having little flavor of their own, they are usually paired with strident flavors such as vinegar and chili. They are also a key ingredient in hot and sour soup.

… wosun 莴笋

Better known as celtuce (a portmanteau of celery and lettuce) in English, wosun is a type of lettuce primarily grown for its thick stem rather than its leaves. The stem is sliced and used in light stir fries or liangban (cold tossed) dishes. The fresh, slightly bitter taste of wosun is thought to stimulate the appetite.

wotou 窝头

If you’ve got a hankering for classic American cornbread, you can try and ease your cravings with one of these. A staple of northern Chinese cuisine, wotou are made with rough cornmeal mixed to a dough with a little water, which is then shaped into a cone shape (hence the name, which literally translates as “nest head”) and steamed. Although traditionally a peasant dish, it is said that Empress Dowager Cixi developed a taste for them when they were given to her for sustenance while she was fleeing from the Battle of Peking in 1900.

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