Chinese cuisine, one of the oldest in the world (French cuisine being another), is known for its harmony of taste. Read on for tasty tidbits on the history of Chinese cuisine.
"Heaven loves the man who eats well" - who else can say this than the Chinese, true epicureans who live to eat by giving due respect and love to food? Besides a rich cultural heritage, cuisine is also very much an integral part of China. This intricate cuisine filled with aromatic seasonings and sauces is a huge hit among connoisseurs of good food. Chinese cuisine has undergone great modifications before achieving popularity in its modern version. Dig into the article below to gorge on the unbelievable history of Chinese food.
Chinese Cuisine History
A study of the culture of any nation is incomplete without an understanding of its cuisine. Hence a good study of Chinese culinary techniques and an actual preparation of some of those dishes prove every word true beyond doubt about its legacy. The proud custodians of a 5000 year civilization, the Chinese have honed their culinary skills through several ages, new adaptations and unsteady changes. Chinese cuisine has managed to withstand every test of time with flying colors. No wonder the Chinese are proud of their culinary skills. One such basic Chinese kitchen technique is steaming – used way before the advent of the first dynasty. With the lapse of time, through foreign trade, many foreign ingredients easily marched all the way into the imperial kitchens of China; and the Chinese excelled in blending it with the traditional cuisine, turning up some out of the world cuisine.
The Chinese believed in curing diseases with medicinal food. For them, food was the answer to everything. No wonder food, as well as its preparation, has gained itself a status nothing short of an art form in China. The rich and poor appreciate delicious and nutritious food with a common passion.
Confucianism and Taoism spread two different schools of thought that influenced not only the political and economic history of China but also the art of cooking. Confucius lent great import to the artistic and social aspects of food. Carrying forward that philosophy, the Chinese nearly always come together even today with food featuring prominently at such meets. Apart from this, the Chinese do not appreciate the use of a knife on a dining table, and cut the meat and vegetables into bit-sized pieces before it reaches the table, unlike some other cultures. Chopsticks also became a part of their table habits by that time. Confucius upheld the need of a unified dish with a proper blend of ingredients and flavors. He was adamant about his preaching on harmony even in the culinary domain. He even promulgated the effectiveness of well-presented food, taking note of the texture, color and decoration of the food. Above all, he believed in the philosophy "live to eat" rather than "eat to live".
However, Tao, who represented the other side of Chinese cuisine, was more into the nutritional benefits and dietary aspects of food as well as cookery. It was Taoists who gave prominence to the medicinal benefits of each Chinese food item. From time immemorial, the Chinese have been well-acquainted with the life-giving properties of food, be it roots, fungus, herbs or plants. Taoists also educated the world on how over-cooking can bring harm to the nutritional value of food and how flavorings have medicinal properties, too.
It is an interesting coincidence that the culinary philosophies and the methods, at times, of both the French and Chinese cuisines seem so alike, for e.g., a fresh black truffle of the French can easily remind one of the fermented Chinese black beans! But Chinese cuisine dwells on a plethora of ingredients and methods that cannot be equaled by any other culture, rice being one of the main ones. It is no exaggeration to say that without rice there is no Chinese cuisine. Noodles are another thing for which Chinese cuisine is known for across the globe. Noodles, an essential part of Chinese cuisine for about 2000 years, are also supposed to have entranced the Italians when Marco Polo returned to Italy after his Chinese expedition. Tea, originally taken by the Chinese for its medicinal properties, has today been accorded a status fit for a national treasure, and later became a necessary part of Chinese cuisine.
A bowl of Chinese culinary art is a blend of antiquity, ethnicity and a glorious cultural heritage. The fine expression of Chinese culinary art has successfully lived through many a war, famine and catastrophe and continues to tantalize our senses.
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