The Chinese nation has a civilized history of 5,000 years and Chinese cuisine has evolved over time
Confucius once said: “Eating is the utmost important part of life”. Confucius dreamed about and fussed about food. He emphasized the art of cooking and enjoyment of life. He showed people how they could cultivate their palate and delight their senses. The art of cooking encompassed more than food.
Food is a central part of the Chinese culture. Chinese cuisine is one of the greatest methods of cooking. Many elements have influenced its development. The Chinese people enjoy eating good food at all levels of society, so cooking has developed into a very sophisticated art.
Chinese Cuisine enjoys the reputation for its color,scen,taste,and desing,as well as its variety. The art of cooking Chinese food can include dishes and food preparation techniques which are difficult to develop and may require the expertise of a chef with lots of experience.
Due to the vast territory,abundant resources,varied climate and different living habits in China,people from different places have quite different flavors of food,for instance,southerners like light food while northerners are on the opposite,Sichuan people like spicy food,but Shanxi people like sour foo.As a result,many different cuisines unique to certain areas are formed,among which that of Lu,Chuan,Huaiyang and yue are called the “Grand Four Categories of chinese Cuisine”
The importance of food in Chinese culture and daily life is reflected in greetings. For instance, instead of asking “How are you?” (ni hao ma 你好吗), it is quite normal to ask “Have you eaten?” (chi le me 吃了吗). The logic behind is that people who have just eaten should feel well and happy
Chinese cuisine is noted for the following characteristics
Vegetables are the main ingredients.
This explains why most Chinese women are slim and men free of cardiovascular diseases. This is because in China, an agricultural country, there is a traditional respect for land. As the old saying goes, “Live on the mountain if you live in one and live on water if you live by water”. The Chinese are meticulous about food preparation. Whether it is pastries or vegetables, they always try to make it tasty and flavorful.
The Chinese people like well-prepared food.
Zealous about food absorption and digestion, they are scrupulous about the temperature while cooking. Undercooked food is unacceptable to them. To the Chinese, the sight of Westerners eating undercooked steaks still oozing blood inside is horrible. In addition, warm soup is very important. Wonton, or dumpling soup, and noodles are popular nationwide.
Chinese also like to eat together, a tradition that can be traced back a long time ago.
It reflects the Chinese notion of union versus division—round tables, round dishes, and round bowls all symbolize union and perfection. Dishes are usually placed at the center of the table so that everyone around the table can share them. Despite of hygiene concern, the atmosphere is very lively and the relationship of the people becomes closer due to the sharing. It is why the family reunion meal is so important for every family member. It is not only a time to enjoy delicious and various foods and drinks, but an occasion to unit a family together.
What’s more, friends also have meals together to improve their friendship. Businessmen have meals together to establish new business and preserve old ones. People have meals together on the occasion of the birth of babies, weddings, birthdays, academic or professional promotions and even burial. Eating is much more than physical enjoyment and it is a good way to maintain social harmony.
Eight Culinary Traditions of China
Chinese dishes may be categorized as one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, also called the “Eight Regional Cuisines” and the “Eight Cuisines of China”. They are as follows:
- Hui: Anhui
- Yue (Cantonese): Guangdong
- Min: Fujian
- Xiang: Hunan (Can include Xiangjiang Region, Dongting Lake and Xiangxi styles)
- Su (aka Huaiyang Cuisine): Jiangsu
- Lu: Shandong (Include Jinan, Jiaodong styles, etc.)
- Chuan: Sichuan
- Zhe: Zhejiang (Can include Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing styles
Sichuan (spelled Szechuan in the once common Postal Romanization, is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of the Sichuan peppercorn (花椒, huājiāo) and zhitianjiao(指天椒, zhǐtiānjiāo). Peanuts, sesame paste and ginger are also prominent ingredients in this style.
Anhui cuisine (Chinese: 徽菜 or 安徽菜, Ānhuīcài) is one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China. It is derived from the native cooking styles of the Huangshan Mountains region in China and is similar to Jiangsu cuisine, but with less emphasis on seafood and more on a wide variety of local herbs and vegetables. Anhui province is particularly endowed with fresh bamboo and mushroom crops. Lu (
Shandong Cuisine(鲁菜） is commonly and simply known as Lu cuisine. With a long history, Shandong Cuisine once formed an important part of the imperial cuisine and was widely promoted in North China. However, it isn’t so popular in South China (including the more embracing Shanghai).
Shandong Cuisine is featured by a variety of cooking techniques and seafood. The typical dishes on local menu are braised abalone, braised trepang, sweet and sour carp, Jiuzhuan Dachang and Dezhou Chicken. Various Shandong snacks are also worth trying.
Su (Jiangsu, Huaiyang cuisine)（苏菜）
Jiangsu cuisine, also known as Su (Cai) Cuisine for short, is one of the major components of Chinese cuisine, which consists of the styles of Yangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Zhenjiang dishes. It is very famous all over the world for its distinctive style and taste. It is especially popular in the lower reach of the Yangtze River.
Typical courses of Jiangsu cuisine are Jinling salted dried duck (Nanjing’s most famous dish), crystal meat (pork heels in a bright, brown sauce), clear crab shell meatballs (pork meatballs in crab shell powder, fatty, yet fresh), Yangzhou steamed Jerky strips (dried tofu, chicken, ham and pea leaves), triple combo duck, dried duck, and Farewell My Concubine (soft-shelled turtle stewed with many other ingredients such as chicken, mushrooms and wine).
Yue (Hong Kong and Guangdong)（粤菜）
Dim sum, literally “touch your heart”, is a Cantonese term for small hearty dishes. These bite-sized portions are prepared using traditional cooking methods such as frying, steaming, stewing and baking. It is designed so that one person may taste a variety of different dishes. Some of these may include rice rolls, lotus leaf rice, turnip cakes, buns, shui jiao-style dumplings, stir-fried green vegetables, congee porridge, soups, etc. The Cantonese style of dining, yum cha, combines the variety of dim sum dishes with the drinking of tea. Yum cha literally means ‘drink tea’.Cantonese style is the unique and charm dishes, which enjoy a long history and a good reputation both at home and abroad. It is common with other parts of the diet and cuisine in Chinese food culture. Back in ancient times, and the Central Plains on Lingnan Yue Chu family has close contacts. With the changes of dynasty historically, many people escaped the war and crossed the Central Plains, the increasing integration of the two communities. Central Plains culture gradually moved to the south. As a result, their food production techniques, cookware, utensils and property turned into a rich combination of Agriculture, which is the origin of Cantonese food. Cantonese cuisine originated in the Han.
Hunan cuisine is well known for its hot spicy flavor,fresh aroma and deep color. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, there are varied ingredients for Hunan dishes.
Zhejiang cuisine (Chinese: 浙菜 or 浙江菜, Zhèjiāngcài), one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, derives from the native cooking styles of the Zhejiang region. The dishes are not greasy, having but instead a fresh, soft flavor with a mellow fragrance.
The cuisine consists of at least four styles, each of which originates from different cities in the province:
- Hangzhou style, characterized by rich variations and the use of bamboo shoots
- Shaoxing style, specializing in poultry and freshwater fish
- Ningbo style, specializing in seafood
- Shanghai style, a combination of different Zhe styles, very famous for its dimsum
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