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Chinese Cuisine
Chinese cuisine is known for its taste and philosophical and aesthetic qualities. It is closely tied to the development of the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization. It is also related to the development of tourism in China--- well-known scenic spots are associated with well-known famous dishes named after the spots.

There is, for example, "fried Yellow River carp with sweet and sour sauce" of Shandong, and "Hupao vegetarian ham" and "West Lake water shield soup" of Hangzhou.

Chinese cuisine devotes meticulous attention to the color, smell, taste, shape, sound and vessel of food. "Sound" refers to the crispiness of food, especially for such dishes as Sichuan's "sizzling rice crust with three delicacies." When a steaming hot sauce made of shrimp and other delicacies is poured on freshly fried rice crust, a sizzling sound will be heard which signals happiness to the Chinese. "Vessel" refers to the different kinds of containers, such as porcelain, pottery and silverware, for different tables and dishes.

Chinese food can be classified into six categories:

1. Local dishes

This refers to a class of dishes with very strong local flavors that came into existence in line with local produce, climate and customs. Among the most well known local dishes are "sea cucumber braised with scallion" of Shandong, "hot and spicy hot pot" and "peppery hot bean curd" of Sichuan.

2. Royal dishes

These used to be prepared by the imperial Kitchen for emperors and empresses. Usually, they are fancifully named and exquisitely prepared with the best ingredients. Among the most famous are "all birds pay court to the phoenix," "swastika-shaped braised pork slices," "puree of pea cake," and steamed tiny corn bread.

3. Family dishes

These used to be reserved for high-ranking bureaucrats and celebrities. But they were subsequently adopted by ordinary people. Among the most famous family dishes are Confucian-style and Tan-family style. In addition, "Dongpo Pork," "diced chicken stir-fried with chili and peanuts" are also popular dishes.

4. Ethnic food

These originated in minority-inhabited areas, and became popular nationwide. Famous ethnic dishes include roast beef, "sliced mutton hot pot" and shashliks.

5. Vegetarian food

Because most monks eat vegetarian food, it is also known as "monastery dishes." There are a wide variety of flavors. These dishes are often cooked in such a way as to look and taste exactly like meat and fish.

6. Medicinal dishes, or food therapy

The Chinese believe that mixing tonics with food adds flavor to the food and is good for health. Famed medicinal dishes include "lily decoction with chicken," "ginseng decoction with ribs," and "porridge with lotus seeds and lily."

The late Chairman Mao once remarked that China's greatest contributions to the world are traditional Chinese medicines and Chinese food. To testify to the popularity of Chinese food, a piece of Western humor has it that the happiest man in the world is one who earns an American salary, lives in an English house, is married to a Japanese woman and eats Chinese food!

Gourmets agree that although every ancient civilization had its own cuisine, Chinese cuisine is the only one that has it all. Some say French food is good for the flavor, Greek food for the smell, and Japanese for the ritual. But Chinese food has all these qualities and more.

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 be pastries or vegetables, they always try to make it tasty and flavorful. For example, beans, a common vegetable, are exquisitely prepared into such delicious dishes as bean sprouts and bean curd.

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. Other hot soups include jellied bean curd, rice porridge and corn porridge.

Chinese also like to eat together, a tradition that can be traced back a long time

This 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. A hot pot, in particular, adds to the atmosphere of harmony and union. Friends eat and live together. A recent book by an American Sinologist held that the Chinese collective tradition developed out of the practice of eating together.

There are, of course, table manners and status associated with food. By no means did the royal family eat the same food as commoners!

Date: 29 Jan 07    Views: 157    Comments: 0          

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