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The Philosophy of Chinese Cooking

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The following guest article, was submitted by Gail Cole.  

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yin-yangYin and yang dates back to ancient China. The belief that everything in the universe is consigned into two forces that are opposing but harmonious and complementary. The yin and yang philosophy is used in Chinese cooking. The traditional symbol for the forces of yin and yang, are two fish swimming head to tail. The left half is yin and the right half is yang. Taken literally, yin and yang mean the dark side and sunny side of a hill. Yin and yang are not opposing forces. They are complementary pairs. The Chinese believe problems arise when there is an imbalance between them. Earthquakes, floods and fires and etc. all can be attributed to disharmony in the forces of yin and yang.

Yin and Yang Philosophy

This concept of yin and yang relates to food. Opposites are set in balance to create harmony in food and body. If harmony is not achieved the body can be vulnerable to disease. Chinese chefs belief in the importance of following the principles of yin and yang in the diet.  There is always a balance in color, flavors, and textures. In China, live seafood, fresh meat, and seasonal vegetables and fruits are used when preparing meals. Chinese daily meals consist of four food groups: meats, vegetables, fruits and grains. Large amounts of dairy products are not consumed. Dairy products are substituted with soy milk and tofu. Soymilk and tofu contain large amounts of protein and calcium.

Unlike some cultures the Chinese hardly waste any part of the animal. They have found ways to cook nearly every part of an animal. Chinese culture believes that the shape and part of the animal will replenish and strengthen the same part of the human body.

Certain foods have yin properties, while others have yang properties. We think in yin and yang terms everyday hot or cold, fat or no-fat, high-calorie or low-calorie, sugar or sugar free, gluten or gluten-free, yeast and yeast-free, etc. But do not apply these trains of thought to cooking. Chinese yin properties: steaming, poaching and boiling and yang properties: stir-frying, pan frying and roasting. Balance is achieved by using both yin and yang methods. The yin and yang ingredients can be cooked separately or together.

Each province in China has its’ own cuisine. There are the Beijing, Hunan, Shanghai, Szechuan and Cantonese cuisines. The most well known are the Szechuan and Cantonese.

Yin and yang cooking methods are used in all Chinese cuisines. Few foodstuff is purely yin or yang – it’s more that one characteristic tends to dominate. Some yin will have a little yang and some yang will have a little yin. Chinese cooking reinforces that it is not so much the individual ingredients, as the balance and contrast between the recipe ingredients in each dish, that is important.

Chinese food is a worldwide favorite. Chinese cooking offers artful harmony and balance beneficial to your health and well being. The Chinese believe balanced and healthy foods brings harmony and closeness to the family and relationships.

By Gail Cole

Website: Favorite Recipes

Article Source: The Philosophy of Chinese Cooking

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One comment

  1. I think we tend to forget why our good is the way it is, and why we consume it in the way we do.
    I’m Italian, and for my people is the same as you described above: cooking and eating isn’t simply cooking and eating. I think this is the same for all people, we just don’t think about it too often. While I think we should, because after all, we are what we eat 😉

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