The following guest article was submitted by Judi Gamble of “Chinese Traditions and Culture.com”.
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My friends and family always ask me how to cook “real” Chinese food. It is amazingly quick and easy to prepare at home and you will find that because most dishes are cooked quickly over high heat, the ingredients retain a freshness and texture that can’t be beaten.
About Chinese Food
Most people enjoy good Chinese food. Cooking is considered to be an art and Chinese dishes can be as beautiful to look at, as they are delicious to eat. Traditionally in China, there has always been an important relationship between food and health. So you will find that the combination of foods in a meal will take into account a balance between carbs, meat and vegetables, yin and yang food groups (hot and cold), and the diners’ state of health, age, gender and the weather!
Chinese food is nutritious and easy to cook. Generally speaking, Chinese cooking lays emphasis on color, aroma and taste. In China, rice is usually served at the end of the meal, sort of like a filler. If you haven’t had enough to eat, then you fill up on the rice. In western countries, we tend to like it served along side the other dishes.
4 Main Types of Chinese Food
China is such a huge country with 53 different ethnic minorities, all of which have have contributed to the huge variety and styles of cooking. I have listed the most common types here.
Guangdong, or Catonese, cuisine is characterized by their cooking methods of mostly steaming, boiling, sauté and stir-frying with thick gravy. Dishes are lightly cooked and not as spicy and hot as the other 3 groups. Due to the long duration of summer, they prefer light and refreshing foods and seafood. Only in the winter do they eat fatty foods and strongly flavoured foods.
The second major Chinese cuisine is Sichuan (or Szechuan). World famous Chan cuisine traces back to the ancient Ba Kingdom (modern day Chongqing) and Shu Kingdom (modern day Chengdu) and is known for it’s oily, hot and spicy taste. The uniquely hot, pungent flavor is created with a mixture of red pepper, garlic and ginger.
The third major Chinese cuisine is Shandong cuisine – also known as Lu cuisine. It has a long history and wide popularity and was developed from the Qi and Lu culture of ancient China. It is said to have traces of palatial cuisine. Dishes are strongly flavored and made of costly ingredients such as shark fin, abalone, sea cucumber, deer meat, white fungus and others. Due to the long duration of the cold winter in north China and a shortage of vegetables, Shandong cooks are skilled at making high-calorie and high-protein dishes.
The fourth major Chinese cuisine originated from Shuzhou, Yangzhou and Hangzhou area and is known as Su cuisine. It is an exchange of northern and southern cuisines, dating back to the time the region was the home of Emperors during the Six Dynasties and the Southern Song Dynasty. It is a combination of high-heat and high-protein dishes, plenty of lake fish and seafood, and exquisite refreshments and snacks such as pine nut crystalline meat sweet cake, crab yellow soup bun, crab yellow steamed dumpling and Ningbo dumpling, all of which are famous throughout China.