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Chinese Food

The Chinese regard eating as an art, which is a comprehensive combination of sight, smell, touch, taste and even sound. Chinese cuisine is a dominant branch from the Chinese culture - the core is taste while the purpose is to preserve health. It is a perfect fusion of color, shape, appearance and flavor. Delicious and nutritious food has been regarded the basics of ordinary life. In a nutshell, there are eight schools of cuisine, which are popularly known as the 'ninth art'. These include food from Beijing, Guangdong, Szechuan, Jiangxu, Zhejiang, Hunan, Anhui and Fujian. Chinese cuisine has a long history and is famous worldwide for its rich flavor and delightful colors. The difference in local climate, history and eating customs in each region has produced local dishes and snacks with their own characteristics and specialty.


In China, eating is the psychological motor for everything. The Chinese possess enormous powers of concentration as long as the stomach is full, for when the digestive process has done its work, all ability to concentrate disappears. The variety of styles and ingredients involved in Chinese cooking is a marvel. There are three principal regional cuisine familiar to experienced visitors. Firstly, there are the hot and spicy chili dishes from Szechuan. Then comes the northern style cuisine, which uses steamed bread and pancakes in lieu of rice, and preserved vegetables such as salted, pickled cabbage for freezing winters. And finally, there is the southern style cooking, which involves light stir-fry dishes made from a vast array of ingredients that include pork, seafood and chicken.


It is essential to use food as fresh as possible for Chinese cuisine and they have developed a style of cooking that obviates refrigeration despite the rigors of the climate. Blessed with an abundance of good ingredients in the most fertile areas of the country, the Chinese have become expert at extracting the essence of flavor.


A gourmet appreciation can be traced back to several centuries BC, as poetry of the period listed dishes to tempt the departing soul back to the body. During the Han dynasty, a scientific approach had been formulated for cooking and the basic rule was that the five flavors (sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and hotness) must be combined in a meal to achieve balance and harmony. Minced and thinly sliced meat and fish are also highly regarded to release the full flavor. True Chinese cooking developed only after the expansion of its frontiers southwards and westwards. New ingredients were discovered although the basic tenets were still held. The five-flavor cooking vocabulary is presently used but is actually inadequate to describe the full kaleidoscope of the Chinese cuisine.


Cooking methods are vital to the craft of the Chinese chefs. The skill of being able to control the precise heat is considered crucial to yield the best results. Although all methods of cooking are used, from braising and baking to boiling, steaming and roasting over a spit, there is one that is native to China - stir-frying. This method involves cutting the ingredients finely and rapidly cooking them in a small amount of oil in a preheated wok so that they are quickly and evenly cooked. It is advised that stir-fried dishes be eaten immediately to benefit from their huoqi or vital essence.

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