Chatang is a dish made with cooked flour from the Beijing and Tianjin cuisine. It is prepared by cooking sorghum or millet flour in advance, and then serving it with boiling water at the time of eating. It was traditionally served in China as a street snack, and Chatang vendors carried a special copper kettle with a dragon shaped spout to pour the boiling water.
The word 'Chatang' literally translates into 'tea soup', but it is neither a tea nor a soup.
Ingredients and Preparation
The Chatang recipe suggests the use of sorghum or millet flour and water. Broomcorn millet, porso millet and glutinous millet flours can be used separately or in combination with each other or with sorghum flour.
The dish is typically prepared by cooking the flour by stir frying, to which hot water is added at the time of serving. It is then mixed with hot water to make a paste before consumption.
Chatang is served in bowls, into which hot water is poured, traditionally with a special copper kettle which had a dragon shaped spout. It required some extra skill on the part of the person serving the dish to prevent the hot water from spilling out of the bowl when serving, and also to make the Chatang fluid yet so thick so that a chopstick, when inserted in it, stands in vertical position.
Chatang and hot water are then stirred in the bowl and eaten with a spoon.
White or brown sugar and Sweet Osmanthus sauce are served with Chatang. Sweet Osmanthus is a shrub whose fragrant flowers are used to prepare this sauce.
The manner in which hot water was traditionally poured from the kettle varies in Beijing and Tianjin cuisine. In Beijing cuisine, the server stood in front of the bowl and leaned towards it to pour the water, while in Tianjin cuisine, the server sat in a semi squatting position to pour the water. These methods of serving are now no longer continued.
Chatang as a Street Snack
Chatang is traditionally sold as a street snack in China. Chatang vendors were easily identifiable by their large copper kettle, which was up to four feet in height and more than one foot in diameter. These kettles carrying boiling water for the dish were double layered- they contained an inner layer for fuel and an outer one to hold the water, so that a separate heating arrangement for the water was not required. Additionally, windy weather of Northern China would not put off the burning fuel in such a case. Chinese restaurants have similar kettles for pouring the boiling water minus their internal heating technique which is not required inside a restaurant.