You might find this is ridiculous, but I still do not know how to answer this question: shall we try Chinese food? For non-Chinese, Chinese food might refer to all kinds of Chinese food or certain Chinese food they know; whereas for Chinese, there is no such thing called ‘Chinese food’.
Generally speaking, there are 4 cuisines in China divided by the geographic regions.
Cantonese food is the most well-known cuisine around the world as the majority of the early migrants from Canton (Aka Guangdong) province. Dim Sum could be the representative of Cantonese food which tastes fresh and sweet.
Though Sichuan cuisine is popular in China, while for the rest of the world, Sichuan food is a rising star. Hot pot is regard as the top choice of spicy Sichuan cuisine, personally, I spent 4 years in Sichuan province, and hot pot is something that I will never forget though my stomach has to be suffered from the hot chilli.
Then comes the Shandong cuisine, known as Lu cuisine in China. Shandong Suicune is the most historic cuisine among all which has been regards as the most difficult. Accordingly, during Ming and Qing dynasty, Shandong food was very popular in the Forbidden City.
Finally, the Jiangsu cuisine covered the eastern part of China, the dish named ‘Lion’s head’ which actually consisting pork meatballs stewed with vegetables is original from this area.
By the end of Qing dynasty, there are eight regional cuisines formed in China. Whereas, the diversity of Chinese food is far more than just 8 cuisines. The cooking methods and ingredients could be different city by city, even family by family.
Even the dish have the same name will have variety cooking ways. For instance, almost every single Chinese’s first dish to learn in their life and you will find this dish in almost all the Chinese restaurant called ‘stir-fry egg and tomato’. Some will cook egg first, some might out tomato first; while some might add sugar or coriander or garlic or green onion, some might only use salt to season the dish.
It surprised me that seems all the British families have at least one recipe book at home, and the recipe books section in the bookstore are extremely popular. Whereas, I could not recall any memories that any of my friend or relative’s home has recipe books, no need to mention my home.
Moreover, the oven is not the necessary equipment in Chinese family’s kitchen, as well as measure cups and kitchen timer. Though I bet the young generation might have a more modern life than the older, you will not able to find those things in the majority of Chinese families, at least Chinese won’t use them for cooking Chinese food.
So how Chinese learn how to cook? Well, the so-called ‘recipe’ normally inherited from grandparents to parents, then to children. Like the genes, generation to generation; though tastes could change, something will always remain the same.
Feeling, experience and personal preference are the secrets to cooking Chinese food, as a matter of fact, Chinese seems more creative in cooking. There was a series of the documentary a few years ago called ‘A Bite of China’, here is the first season with English subtitles:
Warning: Please eat before you watching, or you will drooling like a baby…