One of our neighbouring countries has had a massive impact on the food world. We have shared healthy relations with this country for more than 2,000 years. Like us, it is an ancient civilisation and we have, for the large part, co-existed peacefully. Another common thing is that this country is fast emerging as one of the fastest growing economies of the world.
Yes, I am talking about China. Today we will explore the myriad options that Chinese cuisine offers. The Chinese attach immense importance to their food. A very simple philosophy of not wanting to waste food is practised in almost every household. The Chinese give importance to the remedial quality of food and this is part of their traditional knowledge.
China is a country that boasts of regions with different topographies and people, so the cuisine of every region is different owing to different agriculture produce, climate and geography. China is one country that has openly integrated the flavours and influences of other cultures. This has given rise to the use of a wide variety of ingredients, dishes and eating styles, techniques and methods.
There are mainly eight different culinary delights that China offers. Rice, noodles, vegetables, spices and seasonings continue to be at the core of all the cuisines. Wheat arrived in China from western Asia. It was initially used to make noodles, served in a warm soup rather than to bake bread as was done in Europe. Here is a peek at three of the most famous cuisines:
- Cantonese: Dim sums, bite- sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets, have gained recognition all over the world. These often include steamed buns, rice noodles, dumplings, soups, roasted meat and steamed green vegetables. Wikipedia informs us that dim sum is the Cantonese term for small hearty dishes. A variety of traditional methods such as steaming, frying, stewing and baking are used to prepare dim sums. Tea is often served alongside as tradition has it that dim sums originated out of the need of travellers for a resting place for short periods of time.
- Hunan: This cuisine is known far and wide for its hot and spicy flavours, fresh aroma and deep colours. This type of cuisine uses smoked and cured items in the dishes. The menu changes with every season.
- Szechuan: This originated in the Sichuan province of southwestern China and is known for its bold flavours, marked pungency and spiciness owing to extensive use of garlic, chilli, pepper and peppercorns. Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, was declared a city of gastronomy in 2011 by Unesco in recognition of the sophistication of its cooking. Kung pao chicken and tea smoked duck have brought worldwide recognition to this regional cuisine. Pork is the meat that is used majorly.
Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian and Anhui are the other five types of regional cuisines. Chinese attach a great deal of importance to the etiquette of dining. Older people are served before younger ones and they are expected to eat first. Chinese table manners urge you to be considerate towards others. Filling or refilling others’ bowls of rice before your own is considered good manners.
There are many rules to be followed regarding the usage of chopsticks that is the elementary Chinese eating utensil, the use of which needs quite a bit of practice.