Chinese cuisine. Behind several typical dishes of Chinese gastronomy there are stories that involve traditional characters and values.
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- 1 Origins
- 2 The richness of traditional Chinese cuisine
- 3 The Chinese table and its customs
- 1 Cultural curiosities
- 2 Customs
- 4 Soy sauce, the special touch
- 1 A brief historical overview
- 5 Condiments, herbs and spices of Chinese gastronomy
- 6 Desserts and delights of traditional Chinese cuisine
- 7 Legends of Chinese cuisine
- 8 Sources
Since ancient times, the cuisine of the Chinese people was intrinsically linked to their culture and philosophy . Although during the Spring and Autumn period ( 722 BC – 476 BC ), the culinary techniques were not very advanced, the Chinese people had already developed a complete protocol at the table based on the teachings of Confucius . In his book “Classic of Rites”, Confucius, a respected Chinese thinker, wrote that during a meal , wine and soup must be on the rightof the guest, while the dishes should be on the left side . While one eats, one should not eat very quickly, but should chew well and swallow slowly. One should also not make noise while chewing food , or when eating soup.
As many of these rules of protocol are no longer followed by the Chinese people today, very few would guess that these Chinese behaviors were born almost two millennia before the ways or protocols of the Western tables.
As part of their culture, the Chinese people saw food as a way to exchange with nature . Therefore, people in ancient times chose what to eat based on the principles of Tao and harmony with nature.
The richness of traditional Chinese cuisine
There is a myth around Chinese cuisine, according to which its dishes contribute excessive levels of calories and fat . This belief is not exact because if there is something that characterizes Asian cuisine it is for its extreme variety.
The belief that traditional Chinese food is fattening is based mainly on the abundant presence of fried foods on the menus of Chinese restaurants ; a belief with little or no basis, as evidenced by, for example, the fact that these foods are sauteed, not fried. Therefore, the abundance of nutrients in dishes should not be confused with excess fat , since they are two different things. It is a gastronomic style that has to his credit come from successive fusions of traditional styles, with a wide range of dishes, variants and nuances.
Chinese cuisine adapts to the climate and the characteristics of the geographical area in which it is consumed, so that you do not eat the same or in the same way in Spain as, for example, in the United States or China. In fact, tasting traditional Chinese recipes at their place of origin is said to be a unique experience, because it cannot be tasted the same anywhere else in the world .
The specific act of food is surrounded in China by a whole ceremonial that gives it an exclusive and very attractive character for the visitor, a ceremonial that begins with the placement of the utensils on the table: three glasses (one for water or beer). , another for wine and another for liquor ), Chinese chopsticks (which can be ivory or fine woods ) …
The rice -either steam or sauteed with vegetables – and chicken bathed in sesame are delight most demanded of this type of cuisine. In short, we are talking about a culinary style that takes great care in the presentation and energy input of its dishes, without it constituting an excessive source of fat.
Another widespread myth is that of the immobility of Chinese cuisine, considered as strictly traditional, wrongly presupposing that it does not open its cookbook to research or evolution . Precisely adaptability and multiple possibilities of such a wide range of flavors, colors and textures allow, for example, that in recent years has been referred to the predominance of fish , sauces of fruits and flavors acids .
The Chinese table and its customs
Variety of dishes
China is immense, therefore, there converge different customs , dialects , rituals , and a gastronomy as varied as its size and population . Each region has countless dishes, specialties and traditional culinary styles, so many that China can be said to be an inexhaustible source of wisdom in culinary art . Many chefsWorld famous have stated that traditional Chinese gastronomy is very suggestive and attractive, defining it as one of the best in the world, even better than the famous French gastronomy. Today, Chinese cuisine is found anywhere in the world, and those who know the true art of it know that traditional Chinese cuisine is much more than what can be seen with the naked eye in Western Chinese restaurants.
Traditional Chinese gastronomy owes its quality and flavor to the care and dedication with which that people choose the ingredients , condiments , colors , aromas , and even utensils for cooking , serving and decorating, taking care that everything has a total balance and harmony with nature. and the universe .
A singularity of the Chinese gastronomics is the respect, care and importance that they give when naming the dishes, and in turn they must have a wide knowledge of selection of dishes, since each dish is related to the season of the year, with festivities and, in some places, even with the days of the week.
The Chinese, when measuring the quality of food, are guided by the variety of dishes served at the table, which is why it is common to find in the menus of the famous Chinese restaurants, a list with more than a thousand different dishes and suggestions.
A popular Chinese table usually consists of at least the following dishes: three or four cold appetizers, served separately, which are served before diners arrive, the typical bowl of rice, and four hot dishes.
An important fact is that rice is not used to accompany the hot dish, but vice versa, hot dishes are used to accompany the rice. The broths and soups, unlike the West, are served several times as they eat other foods , and it is common to hear the sounds produced by diners sipping soup , since this is not considered bad education and West.
Usually the soup is accompanied with fruit. Something curious is also that desserts are not served at the end of lunch or dinner, but are always present at the table, and one can enjoy them at any time.
On the table there should be 3 glasses of different sizes, the big one is used to drink water, the medium one for rice wine, and the small one for liquor. The basic cutlery consists of a bowl, a small plate, a pair of chopsticks, a green tea cup and a porcelain spoon .
There are two items that are rarely found on a Chinese table: milk and wine. Milk is considered unworthy in Chinese cuisine, it is not drunk and they do not make cheeses with it, so they use soy. Wine is the most absent, since no wine is produced in China, rice wine is used there, or also known as “yellow wine”, which is actually made with a process similar to that of beer and has a graduation higher alcoholic than western wines. This is used in certain dishes and sauces, as well as for festivities and social ceremonies. Another alcoholic drink is Mei Kue Lu , made from sorghum and fresh roses .
There are things that should not be done at a Chinese table, since they are considered disrespectful, such as stirring the rice in the bowl, overfilling the dishes, returning a tray with already proven food and serving us another dish, throwing Leftover food to dogs or other animals, choose chunks or portions of food while eating, spread rice to cool, and add seasoning to food source.
There is also a traditional protocol about the places that are occupied at the family table. For example, the place of honor is reserved in front of the entrance door, thus avoiding suspicions or fears of being attacked from behind, this is so because in the past it was customary to kill during entertainments. The host should always turn his back on the door, usually houses in China are always facing the sun. The guest of honor should be the first to pick up the chopsticks, but the first woman to start eating is the woman who owns the house. Before the main course, the host should lift his thimble of Mei Kuei Lu or rice wine, and drink to the health of his guests, and they should thank him for his hospitality.
Soy sauce, the special touch
The best known sauce of traditional Chinese gastronomy is soy sauce. This is traditionally made by the fermentation of grains of soybean with wheat toasted party accommodated in blocks where they are immersed and removed several times in cold water and broth salt , this process lasted about one year. Obviously the soy sauce that you buy in a supermarket does not have this process, that is the traditional recipe, which achieves a less salty and more intense flavor.
Soy sauce is also known by the name of Sillaó (Cantonese), Tamari and as Shoyu in Japanese . But unlike China, in Japan it is illegal to produce or import artificial soy sauce, which is why in Japan soy sauce is only made in the traditional way. Chinese artificial production is a modern invention. It is the one that we can usually find in all supermarkets and is made in a much faster and lower cost process compared to traditional soy sauce. In artificial production, its manufacturing process is far from the original, it is produced by chemical hydrolysis based on defatted soybean flour,candy , syrup of corn or other sweeteners, extract of malt and sometimes monosodium glutamate without any fermentation process.
It is necessary to clarify that, despite the fact that soy sauce can be known with this variety of names, these are not the same, but each one is a variety and its production and ingredients are different. Tamari is a sauce made from soy, water and salt, without any other ingredient. Soy sauce or shouyu is a sauce based on soy, water, salt and wheat, some may also include gluten.
A brief historical overview
China has an enormous quantity of exotic and ancient spices and sauces when it comes to cooking, and soy sauce is one of them. It is one of the oldest in the world and obviously originates from China. Its historical origin dates back to the end of the Chou dynasty. In the past, before being used as a sauce, it used to be used for preserving meats for its salting properties, and the liquid by-product obtained from this process was used as a condiment. The story goes that when Buddhism spread to eastern China, Buddhist monks also spread vegetarianism as a form of food, prompting the population to seek plant substitutes for old seasonings that contained meat.
One of these substitutes created was a salty and fermented paste of soy beans, which later became, throughout history, the soy sauce that is known worldwide. First it spread to other nearby Asian countries, such as Japan, the Philippines , Malaysia , Indonesia , until it conquered all the gastronomies of the planet, from the ancient East to the West. Today it can be found in any warehouse or supermarket in the neighborhood, in every home and kitchen in the world, and in any dish, whether oriental or not. Generally, when we venture to buy soy sauce in supermarkets, then the question arises, and what do I use it for? One thinks that it can only be used in exclusively oriental dishes, but this is no longer the case. Globally, many foodies and chefs ventured to use the famous soy sauce in many of their traditional dishes, adding a touch of oriental distinction.
It is ideal to accompany meals that contain fried vegetables, rice, breaded, soups, it is great for salad dressings, in dishes with poultry , beef or pork , and even fish, especially for delicious marinated or fried.
In addition to being fabulous for making delicious dishes, it is fabulous for replacing salt in preparations. It is great for those who suffer from cholesterol, diabetes, or those who have a strict diet, such as celiacs. Soy sauce can make a boring dish, a delicacy on the palate and unlimited ingenuity in creating new flavors.
Let’s remember that a few drops are enough for this. Soy sauce or Shouyu, as it contains wheat, has a milder flavor than Tamari, and is ideal for cooking vegetables, vegetables, soups, stews and making sauce. Instead, the Tamari goes better with meat and fish dishes. The Tamari has some other properties besides the culinary ones. In China, many people use it as a medicinal remedy adding four or five drops to tea, especially Bancha Tea. It is good to combat body fatigue, since it has a remineralizing effect. It favors the elimination of many harmful microorganisms that may be in food and also favors the absorption of nutrients and good digestion
Condiments, herbs and spices of Chinese gastronomy
Why is Chinese gastronomy so well known worldwide? Generally, most of the dishes served in Chinese restaurants are festive dishes that do not represent the usual diet. But what makes Chinese food so tasty? Why does its popularity last through so many years? And why don’t the types of food, its dishes, preparation methods, and techniques change much over hundreds of years?
A healthy Chinese diet is based on much more than nutrients, it takes into account the quality of the ingredients, their color, the season of the year, and, above all, the energy it gives the body. Food and ingredients in China are part of their culture, they are part of their heritage, and they are very close to oriental medicine and even with traditional art and ancestral politics. Legend has it that Lao Zi once said, “Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish”: the exact amount of ingredients and spices is needed for a successful outcome.
Next, we will present some ingredients and spices that should not be missing from your spice rack when preparing delicious Chinese dishes.
One of the spices typical of China is star anise , with its eight-pointed star shape that contains light brown grains and seeds inside. It has a very penetrating aroma and flavor, similar to anise and a bit also of licorice. This spice can usually be found in two forms, whole or ground. It is recommended to use a small amount, and another recommendation or advice is that it combines very well with fennel. In traditional Chinese cuisine, star anise is used to season meats and sauces, and is rarely used to perfume tea.
Another species found only in Chinese cuisine is the famed Five Spice Powder, which is a spice that contains star anise, pepper , cloves , cinnamon, and fennel . It only takes a pinch to season all kinds of meat and poultry. This seasoning can be found ready to use, or the ingredients are purchased separately and prepared by mixing them to personal taste.
The ginger is a tuber widely used throughout Asia , but especially in China, when cooking. It is fresh or dry in any greengrocer. It is usually mixed together with the garlic , onion and green onion. Only the root is used and it is cut into slices or strips to add to meats, soups, stews and seafood (with seafood, Abalone with Mushrooms is very popular in China). Ginger was highly appreciated in the Middle Ages , specifically in Europe , as it provided “gingiberin powders” with which Taillavent perfumed soups, boiled meats and sauces.
Another spice used to sensitize taste buds is Monosodium Glutamate, a white powder that can be added to all savory dishes to enhance its flavor. This white powder must be used in a very small amount, as it can have harmful effects if it is constantly consumed in large quantities. This spice is usually found in soy sauce. Glutamate is obtained from glutamic acid, which is present in a wide range of vegetables. This ingredient has very little flavor, but it has the quality of intensifying the flavor of other foods.
The pepper of Szechuan is another spice commonly used in Chinese cooking, because its grains are very strong and fragrant. Actually, Szechuan pepper is not a pepper, but rather dried berries of the prickly ash tree, indigenous to Szechuan. To make the pepper, the beans must first be dried in a wok until they turn brown and release their aroma. Then they must be ground with a mortar and pestle.
To finish, one of the most characteristic and easy to detect flavors in a Chinese dish is the famous Sesame Oil . With a few drops of this amber colored oil, you can give any dish an exquisite nutty flavor. This oil is obtained from the cold pressing of roasted sesame seeds.
Another exotic ingredient from China is called Algae Hair , and it is a filamentous type algae that, once dry and fermented, acquires a black tone and a hair-like appearance. It is generally used to flavor soups and vegetarian dishes. Its name in Chinese means ‘prosperity’.
As we have seen, ingredients and spices are a fundamental part of traditional Chinese gastronomy, since they use condiments and herbs a lot to make canned, smoked, pickled and air-dried foods, among others. Dare to try these new, aromatic and delicious spices, to give a taste of the art of Chinese cuisine to your everyday and family dishes.
Desserts and delights of traditional Chinese cuisine
Usually when we talk about Western cuisine dessert, we imagine an endless number of different delicious dishes, sweet and colorful recipes million different ways to prepare cakes, chocolates different chocolate , ice cream , puddings , sweets , etc. The list and recipes for western desserts seems to be endless! But when we think of desserts from the Eastern gastronomy, more precisely desserts from the Chinese gastronomy, the list does not seem to be very long, until perhaps it takes some time to remember or find the name of some famous or popular dessert from China. This is so, because the customs of traditional Chinese gastronomy at the table are very different from ours.
In our western culture we are used to taste deliciously sweet dishes at the end of each meal, as a dessert. On the contrary, at an oriental table one can taste a sweet or sweet and sour dish at any time of dinner or lunch. The sweet dish can be precisely the main dish. This is why sometimes at the table of traditional Chinese gastronomy it is not customary to eat a dish specifically as a dessert. This is perhaps the reason why our mind is empty regarding oriental desserts. But the truth is that there are several oriental desserts. You just have to search well and dare to prepare them! One can find delicious Chinese desserts, there are both sweet and savory desserts.
But it is necessary to clarify that the desserts of China are very different from those of the rest of the world, since these are generally not prepared with milk or cream. In addition, Chinese sweets depend a lot on the region of origin. As explained previously, the Chinese continent is very vast, therefore it has different cultures and customs, different climates, different crops, etc. For this reason, each region has a distinctive way of preparing its dishes and delicacies and the desserts of each province or region also differ, for example: the South China region, more specifically the Guangdong province, is known and stands out for its have the most exquisite desserts in the country, and the northern region is known for its delicious desserts prepared with common flour or corn.
Obviously there are several Chinese desserts, prepared from rice, grain that cannot be absent at any celebration, or at any business table! One of the most famous desserts made with rice is the well-known Tom Yuen, a very popular dessert in Hong Kong. This dessert basically consists of mango filled glutem rice balls dipped in fruit juice. It is a very colorful and vivid dessert. Usually served with coconut milk and fresh fruit to accompany.
Another famous dessert made from rice is rice pudding. Which, is pronounced as the word promotion, and that is why it is unavoidable at important parties and at the tables of superstitious people who seek to progress in business.
A very sweet dessert that you can not stop trying are the fried bananas with caramel! And the inevitable dessert, well known in some Chinese restaurants, are the famous Chinese fortune cookies! Which are very easy to prepare. And the most important thing is that if you prepare them, you can write all you want, so after eating, you can break your fortune cookie!
The list of Chinese desserts continues, they are many and the varieties are many. It is a matter of venturing and finding out the most typical desserts of each region of China. Now you know if you want to finish a dinner or lunch in a really original or special way, what better than to treat your guests with an oriental dessert.
Legends of Chinese cuisine
Chinese food legend.jpg
Already in the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history, approximately between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, the eating habits of the Chinese were deeply influenced by “the ways” or terms of Confucianism. In a classic Confucius school book, the Code of Habits, it states that: “During meals, wine and soup should be placed to the right of the guests, while main courses should be placed to the left; food should not be eaten in one bite, but should be eaten in small portions and chewed well before swallowing; In addition, while consuming or drinking soup or food, no noise should be made. ” In China, such ways were recommended two thousand years earlier than in the West. When culinary methods developed over time, people began to pay attention to the taste of food. Scholars redefined cooking into two main categories: mastery of fire control and the ability to mix and match different flavors. Even they participated in the kitchen themselves and created many wonderful dishes.
Sun Simiao, a renowned and famous herbalist and physician in the Tang Dynasty, is recognized as “the King of Medicine” in Chinese medical history. But in addition to being a great doctor, he was also excellent in the art of cooking. One day he arrived in Chang An, a city in ancient China that is now known as Xi An, and decided to eat at a restaurant that specialized in pork intestines. When the plate was served to him, the smell from his intestines was too strong to bear, let alone eat them. Sun Simiao reflected for a minute. He took out some seasoning herbs, such as Chinese pepper, fennel, and cinnamon, and told the owner to cook the intestines with them. As a consequence, the intestines were no longer oily or odorous, and they were very delicious. The owner was very happy and insisted on not charging the great doctor for food. Upon returning, Sun Simiao gave the owner his herb gourd as a gift. From then on the restaurant was very successful as the townspeople offered high praise for the bowel dish. When the owner was asked the name of the dish, the owner was puzzled. Then he showed the pumpkin that Sun Simiao had given him and answered without hesitation, “Pumpkin Head.” Later he hung the pumpkin directly over the entrance to his business. Over time, the pumpkin head increased in popularity and is now a famous Xi An snack. Later he hung the pumpkin directly over the entrance to his business. Over time, the pumpkin head increased in popularity and is now a famous Xi An snack. Later he hung the pumpkin directly over the entrance to his business. Over time, the pumpkin head increased in popularity and is now a famous Xi An snack.
Prime Minister Wei Zheng of the Tang Dynasty was famous for his sincere advice to the Emperor. One day Emperor Tang Taizong heard that Wei Zheng loved pickled celery. At a banquet, Wei Zheng was especially asked for that dish. Wei Zheng finished it at once, almost in one bite. The Emperor laughed at him and said, “You said you had no indulgence. Have I not seen one today? ” Wei Zheng immediately thanked the Emperor. “If the emperors have nothing better to do than inquire into this kind of unimportant matter, then as vassals we can only say that we really like banal things, like eating celery in marinade.” Zheng Wei’s attitude was humble, even though his words were harsh. His words were an answer, even if they sounded like a complaint.
During the Song Dynasty Yuan You period, the scholar Su Dog-po was a designated official from Hangzhou. He led the Hangzhou people to work on the flood in the West Lake. As a result, a dam was built, which not only solved the problem, but also beautified the lake. To show his gratitude, the villagers sent him pork, so that he could roast the meat for his beloved. Receiving so much pork, Dongpo wanted to share it with the workers who helped complete the lake project. He told his family to cut the meat into squares and cook it using a method he developed – low water, low heat, and long cooking. In this way, the meat is more aromatic, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, but not oily. The workers loved it and gave it the name “Dongpo Pork.” Then the custom of cooking Dongpo pork was formed on the eve of Lunar New Year to express his admiration and respect for Su Dongpo.
There are many, many more dishes created by scholars of various periods. Some recipes have not been passed or written, but their essences have been adapted by various chefs in history, who created more accepted dishes according to the different tastes of people from different regions and times.