The Features of Chinese Cooking


There is more to Chinese food than just Chinese dumplings, wantons and fried rice. Chinese cooking and cuisine goes a long way back in history. Chinese cooking places much emphasis on the exquisite taste, aroma as well as the color of the food. Disregarding these features of Chinese cooking will make Chinese cuisine lose its unique authenticness.
The Chinese regard their food as great masterpieces of art. The foods that they cook are not only delicious, they have great aromatic flavor to them. Common ingredients such as ginger, chili, garlic or other spices are added to the food to make the food more fragrant and tasty.
The taste of Chinese food can be divided into five categories. They are sweet, sour, bitter, hot and salty.
Different provinces of the country have different eating preferences. For example, the Sichuan people add a lot of chili in their food as they love their dishes spicy while interestingly, those in the Southern part of China add more sugar into their cooking than other parts of China. But in general, seasoning such as vinegar, salt and soy sauce are used to contribute to the delicious tasty of Chinese food.

From Wikipedia

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)

Regional cuisines

A number of different styles contribute to Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential are Cantonese cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine and Szechuan cuisine.[1][2][3] These styles are distinctive from one another due to factors such as available resources, climate, geography, history, cooking techniques and lifestyle. One style may favour the use of lots of garlic and shallots over lots of chilli and spices, while another may favour preparing seafood over other meats and fowl. Jiangsu cuisine favours cooking techniques such as braising and stewing, while Sichuan cuisine employs baking, just to name a few.[1] Hairy crab is a highly sought after local delicacy in Shanghai, as it can be found in lakes within the region. Peking Duck is another popular dish well known outside of China.[1] Based on the raw materials and ingredients used, the method of preparation and cultural differences, a variety of foods with different flavours and textures are prepared in different regions of the country. Many traditional regional cuisines rely on basic methods of preservation such as drying, salting, pickling and fermentation.[4]

Chuan (Szechuan)

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 (huājiāo) and Facing heaven pepper (cháotiānjiāo). Peanuts, sesame paste and ginger are also prominent ingredients in this style.

Hui (Anhui)

Anhui cuisine (Chinese, 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)

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.

Min (Fujian)

Fujian cuisine is a Fujian coastal region.[5] Woodland delicacies such as edible mushrooms and bamboo shoots are also utilized.[5] Slicing techniques are valued in the cuisine and utilized to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of seafood and other foods.[5] Fujian cuisine is often served in a broth or soup, with cooking techniques including braising, stewing, steaming and boiling.[5]

Su (Jiangsu, Huaiyang cuisine)

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)

Dim sum, literally “touch your heart”, is a Cantonese term for small hearty dishes.[1] 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, congeeporridge, 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’.[1] 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.

Xiang (Hunan)

Hunan cuisine is well known for its hot spicy flavor,[6] 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.

Zhe (Zhejiang)

Zhejiang cuisine (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
The Chinese believe that foods that are rich in color will greatly increase one’s appetite. Therefore, since ancient history, they paid a great deal of attention to the aesthetic appearance of the final product. You seldom see a plate of Chinese food with a boring or dull appearance. In Chinese restaurants, they would place a dragon or flower carving from carrots or watermelons to spice up the presentation.
They also try to achieve a harmonious color scheme for their dishes by adding ingredients of different colors to complement the main course. For example they will add green pepper, carrots and ginger to complement chicken so that the dish will turn out to be rich in color.

About LindaS

Love to cook and share my culinary experiences. This blog is filled with recipes that were used by my mother and grandmother for 60 years or more. Lived in Dallas, Texas my entire life.
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