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Chinese Cuisine

The grand oriental cuisine and its variations, all has its roots in China. The cuisine of China, land of the dragon, is essentially a medley of the flavors of China’s eight main regional cuisines- Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang.

Out of these the flavors of Sichuan from Western China, Cantonese from Southern China, Shandong from Northern China, as well as Huaiyang Cuisine or Jiangsu cuisine from Eastern China, have gained a world wide popularity and are often featured on the menus of popular Chinese restaurants in America.

The grand Chinese cuisine, as it is widely known, was developed during the rule of the Chou Dynasty; 1122-249 B.C. The philosophies of both Confucianism and Taoism have widely affected Chinese cuisine from the very start. The art of preparation, cutting and dicing of food to bite size pieces, the use of chopsticks and the ingredients used in Chinese cooking have all precipitated from the school of thought of Confucius and Lao Tzu (the father of Taoism).

The traditional Chinese food is very healthy and even considered medicinal to a degree.

Authentic Chinese food is prepared with a minimum use of poly-unsaturated oils, and milk, cream, butter and cheese and is thus quite low in calories and fat. Ginger and garlic, two of the most used and essential Chinese cooking ingredients have medicinal properties of their own. Together ginger and garlic are known to have curative properties for indigestion, colds, stomach problems, bowel problems, aches, acnes and reducing cholesterol. Ginger especially is also known to be an aphrodisiac.

Other ingredients widely used in Chinese cuisines are peanut oil, soy oil, sunflower oil, red onions, green onions, orange peels or tangerine peels, oyster sauce and mushrooms (especially shiitake and oyster mushrooms).

The Chinese meal is always incomplete without a refreshing cup of tea. Legend has it that tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a Camellia sinensis tree fell into boiling water and gave out an aroma that captured the attention of the emperor while he was out for a walk. Tea is deeply woven into the history and culture of China and is considered one of the seven necessities of traditional Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauces and vinegar.

The discussion on Chinese cuisine is incomplete without the history and purpose of chopsticks. Chopsticks are originated in China during the Shang Dynasty; 1766-1122 BC. The purpose of chopsticks at that time was to substitute knives at the table. According to Confucius, knives were treated as instruments associated with acts of aggression or hostile behavior. Therefore, knives were done away with at the table starting with the royal family. Even today, the use of knives at a traditional Chinese meal or gathering is considered to be rude and bad table manner.

This article was contributed by content editors at ifood.tv. For more Chinese recipes, visit ifood.tv.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.