From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

For the Beginner - Chinese Food in a Teacup

China cuisine culture, also called Chinese food culture is an important part of China culture in the aspect of cooking and leisure. Chinese food has a long history. Chinese cuisine was largely shaped through the early periods such as Xia, Shang and Zhou periods. Peng Zu, the immortal figure of Taoism, was a famous cooking master. He was specially treated by King Yao, one of Three Kings before Three Periods due to his special talents in cooking and delicacies he presented. Peng Zu was one of the founders of China's cultural cuisine. Yi Ya was the second figure of Chinese cuisine culture. Yi Ya origianlly was a slave, and King Shang Tang prefered his dishes. During one meeting between the two, Yi Ya expressed his political opinions via cooking, and his famous words describe the relations between cooking and politics. Chinese cuisine culture is as sophisticated as the history of China. In the Qing and Han Dynasties, Palace cuisine became the excellent show of Chinese cuisine culture. In Tang and Song Dynasties, Cuisine was an important part of Chinese elitist culture. It was the must-have element of palace banquet, national rites and imperial parties, even the preconditions of the literary creations. Many famous talented figures like Su Dongpo and Yuan Mei were all the first-class gastronomists. In many famous classics of ancient China, many poems, essay amd stories are closely connected or themed with cuisine. In Hong Lou Meng, The Dream of Read Mansion vividly shows the traditional culture of cuisine in different chapters. The related party tradition and rituals embody the culture of China cuisine.

China food also has a worldwide reputation due to its wide-spread exposure from China to the other regions of the world. The most well known China provinces in different countries are primarily known by their special service of Chinese food. Some famous western foods originated from Chinese food in the process of the spread of China food. Currently, Chinese food is easily found in every corner of the world, and it has become an impressive and influential symbol of Chinese culture. Many westerners similarly say the direct impression on China is Kung Fu and Chinese Cuisine when asked about China.

Main Styles of China Cuisine

Chinese food, in general, is healthy and nutritious. Chinese people often have soy-bean milk
(豆浆), deep-fried dough sticksYou Tiao, 油条), steamed bunsMan Tou, 馒头) or congee(粥) as breakfast.

In most of 3 star, 4 star and 5 star hotels, you will be offered with both western and Chinese breakfast for you to choose from. For lunch and dinner, rice, noodles, vegetable, meat (mainly pork, chicken, duck, beef and mutton), eggs, fish and soup are the main choices.

Food varies within China. Traditionally there are eight main streams of Chinese cuisines, which are known as Anhui Cuisine
(徽菜), Canton Cuisine(粤菜), Fujian Cuisine闽菜), Hunan Cuisine(湘菜), Jiangsu Cuisine苏菜), Shandong Cuisine鲁菜), Sichuan Cuisine(川菜) and Zhejiang Cuisine(浙菜).

One important thing to take note of, even for people who eat a lot of Chinese food back home, is that in China most Chinese dishes are served in a boiling soup to keep the contents hot for longer, which alters the consistency and the flavor of their meals. Below are four main cuisine categories :

Cantonese Cuisine

Canton (Guangzhou) is the provincial capital of Guangdong in southern China, bordering Hong Kong and Macao, the Cantonese cuisine is actually a great combination of north and south. Originated from northern China, wonton noodle is a dish of small dumplings that shrimp and pork with vegetable wrapped in thin flour skin, and then cooked in soup with noodles.

Dim sum (literally "touch of heart") is another specialty in Guangdong Province, it is actually a kind of Chinese snacks : shrimp dumplings, wo tip (pot-sticker), siu maai (small steamed dumplings with pork inside a thin flour wrapper) and then baked or steamed buns filled with preserved meat (cha siu bau). Some Chinese restaurants there start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning.
Steamed beef balls and Chinese spare rib are delicious dim sum meat dishes, turnip cake and lotus leaf rice can be eaten in breakfast and at dinner respectively. Moreover, sweet dishes such as jin duei (a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds and deep fried), sweet creamed buns and Malay steamed sponge cake are very attractive. There are some other Cantonese varieties such as roast suckling pig, dog meat pot and preserved pork with taros.

Beijing Cuisine

has been the nation's capital in many dynasties and is the center of politics, economy and culture, so Beijing Cuisine traditionally represents the flavor of the ancient imperial court. Due to its special stature in history, many ethnic minorities from northern China lived in the city.  As a result Beijing cuisine has absorbed their specialties into local cooking technique. By this combination, Beijing cuisine becomes a specialty that is very different from other styles, it has always been loved by gourmets throughout the world. Beijing cuisine mainly consists of the cooking styles of Muslim, imperial recipes from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, seafood from the Tan family cuisine and specialties from some northern provinces.

Muslim cuisine is quite popular in Beijing, with its main ingredients of beef and mutton. The famous "Lamb Feast" uses almost all parts on a lamb that can make about a hundred kinds of recipes. Roast and stew mutton are the delicious Muslim dishes in Beijing as well. Imperial recipes of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are having great importance in Beijing cuisine, the notable dishes are fried fish pieces and yellow fish with dried meat pieces. Peking roast duck is loved by gourmets at home and abroad. The dish is prepared by crispy fat duck and chufa and served with steamed buns. Local family style noodle dishes are excellent also, because noodles are more popular than rice in Beijing.

Shanghai Cuisine

Sweet taste, rich in sauces and blending of styles are the primary elements of the Shanghai cuisine's characteristics. The cuisine is mainly derived from the rural cooking methods in neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces with a little bit influence of the Western style. The outstanding features in Shanghai cuisine are the methods of braising and stewing, with rich sauces and cured meat used also. The good taste and the beautiful color of the dish is done by controlling the cooking time and the intensity of the fire, "Shanghainese braise fish" is an excellent example of this. Shao Xing Yellow Wine is a produce in Shao Xing County in Zhejiang Province. Its aromatic taste adds much fragrance to many dishes, especially fish. Use of brown vinegar is very popular also.

Sichuan Cuisine
Sichuan cuisine has a long history and it is very famous throughout the world. The cuisine originated in ancient Ba and Shu states, and then became widely developed during the Tang and Song Dynasties. Sichuan style includes the tastes of Chengdu, Chongqing and some other places in the province. The typical characteristics of the style are hot, spicy and sour, thus giving the tastes of dishes that are very strong.
The strong chili taste is to stimulate the taste buds and appetite in hot and humid weather during summer, as well as to make people feel warmer during miserable winter in Sichuan Province. Well known Sichuan recipes are Sichuan beef and re-cooked pork, which is a dish of pork, cooked in boiled water, and then stir-fried in a very hot pan with cooking oil and sauces added last. Cold noodles mixed with peanut sauce is a favorite snack in Chengdu and Chongqing. It can be served either spicy or not. Ma-Po bean curd is very mouth-watering that is commonly eaten with rice. It is mainly made of fine bean curd cut to small pieces and cooked with slices of pork and peppers and chilies. The taste of the dishes, of course, is very hot.

Apart from these four categories, there are some specialties in the northwest, e.g. the kebab and beef noodles in Gansu Province, dumpling banquet and rou jia mo (a kind of Chinese style sandwich that looks like a hamburger) in Xi'an and Xinjiang's lamb grill.

There is so much more to tell.  I get over-excited when I think about it all!!
So for now, Good Eating, Friends...


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