The culinary art of China has been perfected over the centuries. For 3 thousand years of its existence, it has acquired and, importantly, preserved all the valuable knowledge and skills that allow Chinese dishes to be considered one of the most useful and delicious. The famous gourmet Briya-Savarin recognized only 3 cuisines, including Chinese (as well as French and Russian).
The most ancient archaeological finds, indicating a fairly high gastronomic level of the Chinese, were found in the city of Anyang, Henan province. They were bronze pots, knives, kitchen boards, spatulas, ladles, and other utensils. Back in 770-221 BC – the period of Chunqiu (“Spring and Autumn”) and Zhanguo (“Warring States”) in China, there were public restaurants, and about 1500 years ago, a detailed cookbook was compiled. Even at that time, the culinary art was the subject of serious study, which is partly due to the special attitude of the Chinese to cooking.
Despite the regional diversity of Chinese cuisine, some cooking rules remain common to all chefs. The culinary canons of China require the cook to make the food not only delicious, but also useful, and sometimes therapeutic. Some South Chinese dishes, which are particularly spicy, are considered as strong aphrodisiacs that improve mood. It is also believed that rice tinctures on South Chinese snakes not only strengthen male strength, but also help with many ailments, such as coughs or headaches.
The recipe of almost all dishes includes a variety of herbs (and in a certain set and ratio), most of which are both medicinal. It is not surprising that in ancient times the professions of cook, doctor and pharmacist were usually combined, and dietary Chinese cuisine is rooted in the same hoary antiquity as the usual one.
In China, it is believed that food is given to people by the sky, so the Chinese are not familiar with the concept of “snack”. Eating is always regarded as a moment of familiarization with the culture of the nation. Dishes for the meal are selected so that liquid and soft dishes predominate among them. The meal begins with laying out the ingredients on plates. So, at a large formal dinner, up to 40 different dishes are served, while everyone sitting at the table, usually round, receives a bowl of unleavened boiled rice and chopsticks. Common dishes are placed in the center of the table.
First, they drink green tea, without sugar and milk, then serve bowls with cold snacks, usually cut into small pieces of liver, meat, fish or vegetables. The Chinese eat slowly and slowly, enjoying the process. As a sign of special attention, the highest care and respect, it is customary for a guest to put a treat in a bowl with their chopsticks. Then they move on to the rice, which is eaten by mixing the top layer in a bowl with the sauce. This is followed by warmed rice wine or matan. At the end of the meal, broth and tea are served again, but a little oil is added to it. It is this composition and order that is considered the most favorable for digestion.
Table setting is also a very important point of traditional Chinese cuisine: it is customary to maintain an even color scheme (often white and blue), avoiding sharp color contrasts. The dishes themselves consist of masterfully sliced products (in the form of grains, straws, in the form of wheat spikelets, chrysanthemum petals), forming as a whole elegant figures of birds, fish, flowers, fruits, dragons or landscapes.
In most cases, the originality of Chinese cuisine is achieved by skilful processing of raw materials, and not by the raw materials themselves. So, one of the basic principles is that the dish should consist of small pieces, so that during the meal no additional effort is required to cut the finished dish on the plate. Hence the two main culinary secrets in Chinese: properly cut and properly fry. Small, identical in shape and size pieces are cooked very quickly (literally one to two minutes) over high heat in hot oil, while often allspice and ginger are first fried in the oil, which gives a special flavor to the finished dish. Very often, when cooking, a batter made of dough or starch is used, because this method allows you to preserve the juiciness of the original product. In the batter, pieces of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and generally everything edible are prepared (compare with Japanese cuisine). It is extremely rare to prepare a whole product, but at the same time, without violating its integrity, i.e. all the bones are removed so that the external shape does not change.
Chinese dishes are distinguished by a large number of components, and the ingredients for the same dish are prepared separately, in a certain temperature regime. Heat treatment usually does not take much time. In addition, the chef is extremely careful to select the ingredients, requiring the products to be quite specific qualities. For example, a duck or chicken must be of a certain age, fattened with a certain feed.
The apparent incompatibility of components, flavors and aromas is another feature of Chinese cuisine. Examples of this are numerous: “pork with fish flavor”, “beef with fruit flavor”, sweet and sour cucumbers, etc. Properly cooked fish can not have the taste of fish, otherwise it is not clear why something was done with it.
Within a small overview of all the subtleties of the Chinese art of cooking can not be described. But since Chinese restaurants are extremely popular all over the world, the question arises: what does Chinese cuisine have in common in China and abroad? There are probably some similarities, but there are more differences. So, one of the signs of” wrong ” Chinese food-the dishes are too greasy, and secondly-too bland. Although, some adaptation of individual recipes to the European stomach (for example, the sharpest Sichuan) is extremely prudent, because even the Chinese themselves try them with a fair amount of fear. But does this not lose the very meaning of visiting a national restaurant? It’s Up to You.