Chinese food originates from all the different regions in China, as well as from Chinese people who live in other parts of the world, and stretches back thousands of years. In China, Chinese food differs from region to region, according to local preferences, the climate and imperial fashion. Over the years, Chinese cuisine was influenced by the ingredients and techniques of other cultures, due to trade with other nations and imperial expansion, eventually being integrated into Chinese cuisine. Styles of cooking vary by region, class and ethnic background leading to a vast range of techniques, cooking and eating styles. Chinese pride themselves on remaining true to the traditions and spirit of Chinese food and cooking, while having a wide variety of ingredients from other cultures to choose from.
The diverse delights of Chinese cuisine represents China’s long history with new dishes being created for each new dynasty, The art of Chinese food preparation reached its peak during the period of the Qing Dynast from 1644 – 1911. The Man Han Quan Xi dinner, incorporating the best of Man and Han cuisine, is held in very high esteem by Chinese people all over the world. Involving countless dishes, each one having its own distinctive flavour, it is a veritable banquet of presentation and preparation, typifying all the culinary arts and culture of Chinese cuisine perfected over centuries, combined with a comprehensive amalgam of manners and instruments and taste.
The geographic diversity of China, its costumes, climate and products, led to the evolution of the so-called ‘Eight Cuisines” and ‘Four Flavors” of Chinese food. The art of Chinese cuisine is a harmonious integration of shape, color, and taste, using fine instruments in complicated and unparalleled skills, handed down from generation to generation, and aspiring to perfection, ultimately to satisfy the senses. These masterpieces are arranged on a variety of fine china plates, wooden or bamboo receptacles to further enhance the pleasures of sight and smell.
The 8 Cullinary traditions of China are:
Fujian, Cantonese, Shandong, Hunan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Szechuan and Jiangsu
Other prominent styles outside China includes:
Indonesian, Singaporean, Indian, Malaysian and American.
Chinese cuisine can be found wherever there are Chinese people.
Chinese believe that good food can have the effect of sustaining and prolonging life by promoting energy for the body to heal itself, bearing a relationship to traditional Chinese medicine.
Presentation and ingredients are very important in Chinese cooking, as are table manners and strict courtesy towards others, forming part of the traditional Chinese culture. The instruments used to partake of Chinese cuisine are the distinctive chopsticks. Many foreigners are amazed and delighted to watch even the smallest child using chopsticks with such skill and dexterity. The use of chopsticks is an art in itself determining the presentation of the dishes that are presented. Enjoying the art of Chinese cuisine includes the enjoyment of excellent dishes, prepared from the freshest ingredients, presented in a visual delight, combined with good manners and courtesy.
The staple foods of Chinese cuisine include:
• Chinese Noodles, dry or fresh, come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as textures and made from wheat flour or rice flour as well as soybean flour. Often served in soup or as fried toppings for other dishes. Noodles are a symbol of good health and long life to the Chinese.
• Rice, a staple food of people from Southern China with rice farms. Steamed white rice is the most common type eaten and also to produce wine, beer and vinegar. Glutinous or sticky rice is used in many speciality dishes.
• Soybeans – Tofu , made from soybeans, is popular product in Chinese cuisine that supplies protein. Other products from soybeans are soy paste, soy oil, soy milk, and soy sauce made from fermented soy beans.
• Vegetables – the most common vegetables found in Chinese cuisine are: Bok Choy (cabbage), Chinese leaves, Chinese broccoli (guy-lahn), Chinese spinach, bitter melon, yu choy and on choy. Bean sprouts, watercress, carrots, mustard greens, pea vine tips and celery are also very important in Chinese cuisine. A variety of pickled and dried vegetables are also used in Chinese cuisine as side dishes.
• Wheat – wheat-farming areas are in Northern China, where people rely on flour-based foods, such as bread, noodles, mantou (steamed buns) and jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)
• Fish – seafood is a major ingredient in Chinese cuisine and also used for making raw fish dishes.
• Herbs and Seasonings – fresh herbs are used as well as dried herbs. Seasonings and spices such as ginger root, white pepper, scallion sesame oil, garlic are the main used in most Chinese food, as well as cloves, cilantro, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon and fennel. For extra flavour many dishes contain dried mushrooms, dried tangerine, Sichuan chillies and dried baby shrimps.
• Soy based sauces – made from fermented soy beens, as well as Oyster sauce, black rice vinegar, chilli sauce and Hoisin sauce are all staples in Chinese cooking.
• Herbal drinks
• Chinese sausage
• Various Chinese snacks
• Chinese pickles.
• Cold dishes – jellies, ice cream, crackers and cold soups are all eaten as cold dishes in Chinese food.
Enjoy the many delights of Chinese food, whatever your preference, and don’t forget your manners and courtesy to other guests.
Americanized Chinese Food
Some people do not consider restaurants like Panda Express Chinese but as they claim “Gourmet Chinese Food” on their site. I actually absolutely love their food so I am including them here.