2015-about-chinese-cuisine

History of Chinese Cuisine

Chinese society puts high regard in food and food preparation. Both the rich and the poor understand that nutritious and well-prepared food is part of their basic necessities. Based on the earliest recorded history in China, food came from sacrificial animals like dog, sheep, ox, cattle, and water buffalo. Salt was an important component of the cuisine as it is used to preserve fish and to trade for wheat.

The cuisine developed during the Han Dynasty wherein ginger, soy beans, pears, lotus root, plums, strawberries, red lentils, rice, wheat, and barley were used as ingredients. Fish continued to be a part of the cuisine. But it is during the Han Dynasty when China was divided into two dietary regions, the north consumed more wheat while the south preferred rice as its primary grain.

It is during the Tang and Song dynasties when fungus, vegetables, herbs, roots, and other medicinal, nutritious food became important. Drinking of tea became a habit during the Tang Dynasty. Seafood such as jellyfish, oysters, squid, red crabs and puffer fish are also common in their day to day meals.

The Ming and Qing dynasties brought the introduction of other goods and food crops as global trade set off. The Spanish Empire introduced sweet potatoes, corn and peanuts. Southeast Asia brought shark’s fin and edible bird’s nest into China. And because of the cultural interactions between China and other countries, Chinese cuisine further developed its unique flavors.

Although the trade greatly influenced the diverse dietetic cultures in China, the primary influences remain to be the education, religious belief, culture, and people’s income. China’s regional cooking is basically classified into eight cuisines. These are the:

  • Lu (Northeast China), where dishes are light and commonly soup-based
  • Hui (Anhui), known for the use of herbs in cooking
  • Zhe (Zhejiang), known for fresh, fragrant, non-greasy dishes
  • Su (Jiangsu), where food’s texture is soft
  • Min (Fujian), which is characterized by the use of seafood
  • Xiang (Hunan), known for tangy and spicy dishes with chili and pickles as ingredients
  • Chuan (Sichuan), which commonly makes use of Sichuan pepper and chili as well as garlic, ginger, and sesame paste
  • Yue (Canton or Guangdong), which is considered to be the most sophisticated of Chinese cooking.

It is the Confucian Philosophy that made Chinese cuisine much more refined. The sage is said to be the one responsible for the development of cutting, cooking, and eating principles in China. Confucius emphasized the art of cooking – from cultivating the palate and delighting the senses (with color and texture of food) to social sharing and culinary etiquette.

The diverse food and cooking styles in the regions only made Chinese cuisine more exquisite and intense. And while Confucianism established a more sophisticated gastronomy, Taoism contributed to the development of Chinese medicinal cuisine.

The diverse food and cooking styles in the regions only made Chinese cuisine more exquisite and intense. And while Confucianism established a more sophisticated gastronomy, Taoism contributed to the development of Chinese medicinal cuisine.

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