In Chinese, the number 10,000 is indicated by a single character – “wan”. One of the sages of the Tang dynasty said that the imperial cuisine is famous for its culinary diversity: there are at least 100 “vanya” different dishes, that is, more than 1,000,000. Of course, it cannot be ruled out that such a comment was flattery aimed at the chefs of the Son of Heaven. But even today, the Middle Kingdom is distinguished by its culinary diversity. Chinese dishes with their original range of flavors stand out against the background of any national tradition.
The origins of strange tastes.
Many people mistakenly believe that Chinese cuisine uses raw materials, to put it mildly, non-standard for Europeans: dog meat, cockroaches, mice. In fact, both the first, second, and third are present in some recipes. But, as a rule, we are talking about the southern regions of the country. The Northerners are closer to the Slavs in terms of gastronomy. Another specific feature of the dishes is a strange taste. Now and then in meat dishes there is a fishy tint, then potatoes smell like an apple. This trait also comes from the Imperial era. The fact is that the ruler, as a rule, was a great gourmet. When the cooks received orders to cook carp, the unfortunate ones could not disobey. If it was not possible to catch a fish, then a demonstrative execution followed. Enterprising chefs, however, realized that the skillful technology of mixing spices and sauces allows you to disguise ordinary pork as fish. Approximately the same scheme worked when the master demanded to cook deer meat: the raw materials were used by the horses that had worked out their time in the imperial cavalry.
The balance of heat and cold.
Almost all Chinese people believe in traditional Chinese medicine . According to its canons, the balance of qi energy in the human body is subject to changes due to shifts in the balance of internal heat and internal cold (they are also yin and yang). Heat and cold, in turn, are affected by food, which is divided into hot and cold. And we are not talking about its physical temperature. For example, an apple, no matter how it is heated, will still remain cold, and chilled ginger, hot by nature, if eaten overnight, will lead to what the Chinese call “shang huo”. This phenomenon is expressed in various symptoms: from stomatitis to colds and in scientific medicine has no explanation.
Condiments, without which food is not food.
Do you know what Slavic dish causes the Chinese to shiver? You’ll never guess: boiled potatoes! Why? Yes, because it is fresh, even if salty, it has a very muted homogeneous taste. Both in China and abroad, the Chinese actively use spices. Fans of spicy (as a rule, they come from the southern provinces) actively use chili and several other varieties of dried pepper. The most powerful of them, like majiao, can deprive a person of speech for half an hour if used in its pure form. In some provinces, sugar is added to any food, in others-vinegar. But usually we are not talking about one or two components. Factory sauces and food additives are a relatively recent trend. One of these products — “Lao Ganma” (“Named aunt”) is a thick spicy essence of pieces of chicken meat and chili pepper. A couple of years ago, the manufacturer of the product became one of the largest taxpayers in China. There was an addiction to the “Named aunt”, the cause of which remained unknown, but according to competitors, it is opium oils in the composition.
Traditional Chinese cuisine, no matter how conservative, absorbs the influence of other cultures. Sometimes the results of such influence are quite amusing. For example, the dish “kele-jichi” is prepared by the inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom with … coca-Cola. Chicken wings are first richly marinated with soy sauce, ginger and sugar, and then stewed in cola. In some versions, pepsi or other beverages are used.
Not a side dish, but bread.
Slavic bread seems sour to the Chinese. This is not for nothing: the largest nation in the world is not used to such baking. The fact is that Chinese buns are sweet and much smaller than the usual loaves and loaves. The Chinese bread used with all dishes is rice. Yes, it is bread, not a side dish. They eat a lot of it, combining it in different versions with noodles, meat, and seafood. At the same time, there is a huge variety of types of noodles, mushrooms and vegetables, which are not considered side dishes to meat, but are used as separate dishes.
Huo guo and food etiquette.
Huo guo is an original dish that is consumed hot, or even boiling. That is, they are eaten in the process of cooking. Many restaurants that serve huo guo are even equipped with special tables with a sawn circle for an electric stove. The composition of the dish can be different, usually it is meat, scraps, bones, offal, vegetables, spicy spices. But the essence of the dish is the unification of guests and pleasant communication. “Go to the Huo guo” in Chinese is a synonym for the Russian “go for tea”. Chinese rules of etiquette are quite far from European ones. For example, it is allowed to chomp at the table and, moreover, even welcome. Silent consumption of food can be met with censure: if noisily pleasure is not shown, then the food is tasteless. Another distinctive cultural moment: the Chinese eat everything together from common plates, putting everything they like on their own, but little by little. Chinese chopsticks should be handled carefully: there is a taboo on tapping them on dishes or on vertical sticking in rice.
The non-obvious advantages of wands.
Almost all the peoples of Southeast Asia eat with chopsticks. Their Chinese version-kuaizi, slightly differs in the shape and diameter of the working part from the Japanese and Chinese ones. Chopsticks are not only a tool for eating, but also a great tool for the master of cooking: they can serve as a ladle, and a spatula for dough, and even a food processor. When eating, kuaizi does not allow you to grab very large chunks: eastern moderation leads to gradual satiety and promotes healthy digestion.
From smoked horse meat to mouse meat.
It is easy to guess that the differences in culinary traditions are due to the size of China and the fact that its individual regions have historically been isolated from each other. Today, the major cuisines are sweet Cantonese, Anhui, spicy Fujian, Hunan with a variety of sauces and colors, Sichuan, the most spicy in the country, Shandong with traditional dishes from the nests of swallows, as well as the cuisine of the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, characterized by thick soups and an abundance of seafood cooked over high heat. Within these kitchens there are subspecies, so that the classification can be carried to infinity. The bottom line is that the food traditions of some territories of China differ, no less than the cuisines of different European countries. Cooks use different raw materials, spices and techniques: there are variations from dried horse meat to cockroaches in caramel.
With all the variety and versatility of Chinese cuisine, everyone can find something to their taste in it. Sweet, sour, spicy, salty — there is everything in this country! Of course, it is best to join the culinary traditions in their homeland. And tours to China can help with this.
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