There are some facts about Chinese food that you may not appreciate. If you enjoy Chinese cuisine, then it’s time to remedy that.
Welcome to the next article in our Chinese Food Focus: First Bite Series.
Introduction – Chinese Food: Facts You May Not Appreciate
In every country, food traditions and customs get based on centuries-old traditions, undying history, and an unbroken line of disciples passed down from generation to generation, all the way up to the present day, when they have mutated into something new.
Chinese food contains a wide variety of flavours from all around China and from Chinese communities worldwide, including those in nearly every Asian country.
The history of Chinese food in China dates back thousands of years and has evolved depending on the environment, imperial trends, and regional tastes over different periods and regions.
And so there is much about Chinese food you may not have yet fully appreciated. And such lack of appreciation will be to your detriment.
01- Chinese Diversity of Taste Will Astound You
The diversity of tastes in Chinese food is unparalleled anywhere in the world. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is vital to balance sweet, salty, bitter and spicy flavours.
This sophistication is not very different from some other ancient cultures, but the depth of taste will always surpass your level of expectation.
For example, the country has a massive variety of trees, thus giving access to more types of fruit and vegetables than you might have previously encountered. Similarly, the varieties of meat may surprise you too.
Considering the size of the country, with its varying diversity of landscape and geography, leading to the availability of foods that reflect the terrain, climate and temperature, nature has given inhabitants over the generations a million opportunities to create food masterpieces.
And disappoint us, they have not.
So below, I provide seven tidbits that will help you better understand and appreciate some of what underpins the food you’ve grown to love.
02- Noodles and Rice is Common for Chinese People
Chinese Northerners love eating noodles and consider it a staple dish because of the region’s dry environment, which is ideal for growing wheat. In that region, you will find hand-pulled noodles, minced noodles, and soybean paste noodles.
While in the Southern regions, people tend towards rice as a staple meal. The climate is hot and wet in the south, and paddy fields are the primary source of farmed lands, resulting in an abundance of rice in that region.
03- Unusual Public Eating Place
It is not uncommon for Chinese restaurants to be loud and smoky due to diners who do not grasp the recent government-imposed volume control and smoking laws in some locations.
04- Chinese People makes the Healthiest Food
Healthy is one of the most enticing facts of Chinese food. Fresh foods get preferred by the Chinese, who aim for a well-balanced meal that includes both vegetables and meat to ensure that the body receives all the nutrients it needs.
Steaming and boiling, for example, have been developed as healthy cooking methods because they destroy the nutrients in the food in the smallest amount possible.
05- Soup in Every Chinese Home
Soup as a course gets served with lunch and supper in China. In contrast to Westerners, Chinese people prefer to eat soup after the main dish rather than before it.
In more informal situations, individuals will take up the bowl and drink directly from it; spoons are necessary for a more formal one.
06- No Food Waste on the Table
In China, wasting food is considered a grave sin. Cooks must utilise all portions of the vegetable or animal in meal preparation. Anywhere in China, fish is being filleted, fish gets gutted.
Chinese people also serve heads and bones on the table. For the bones, an additional plate gets provided.
The Chinese have long appreciated that creating and preparing food at a high cost should not be merely discarded out of hand because of the effort put into cooking. To the Chinese, throwing food away represents the worst kind of waste.
Even more importantly, the Chinese have, in living memory, experienced the most significant widespread scarcity of food of all time. This famine occurred during the Great Leap Forward initiative in 1958 and 1961.
The Great Leap Forward campaign was all about pivoting China from an agricultural-based country to an industrial-focused country. It didn’t work as intended and many people lost their lives due to the way it got implemented.
Little wonder then that the Chinese have evolved wanting to waste nothing.
07- Eating Without Knives and Forks
Since using knives and forks to eat is considered a primitive and cruel custom in China, the Chinese prefer not to use them while eating.
Chopsticks are the preferred tools; (45 billion of them get used each year!). Therefore, every food is either very soft or cut into bite-sized pieces before cooking, to meet this need.
There is one significant side effect of using chopsticks – It’s almost impossible to eat too fast. When you eat quickly, without proper chewing, it causes some bloating and discomfort for a few many hours after eating.
If not thoroughly chewed, certain foods do not get properly digested, and nutritionally, you lose out.
08- At the Table’s Head, the Guest is Seated
Chinese people value politeness, civility, and comity, whether it’s a wedding ceremony, a party to celebrate or just a regular occasion at home. Chinese table manners and other traditional Chinese practices get reflected in their culture.
When three individuals are dining together, the person in the centre seat holds more social clout than those seated on each side of him. The guest, which Chinese people considered most honourable, gets placed at the head of the table.
09- Chinese Tea Is The Ideal Drink
In a Chinese dining room, tea gets served in a formal setting. Tea gets poured by the person closest to expressing gratitude when tea is provided by saying “Thank You” or making a thank-you gesture.
The practice must be done by the host, not by the guest.
The practice of using boiled water with tea leaves for pleasure or well-being began with the Chinese. There are few things nicer than having some piping hot Jasmine tea made from proper tea leaves (as opposed to a teabag) and poured from a tea-pot after almost any kind of Chinese meal.
If you’ve yet to do this, you’ve been missing out.
Note that if Jasmine tea is not your preference, over 1000 kinds of tea in China.
Conclusion: Chinese Food: Facts You May Not Appreciate
So while enjoying Chinese cuisine might be a favourite pastime, it pays to know something of what lies behind the food, the people and the culture.
Previous article in this Chinese Food Focus: First Bite Series: Chinese Food: Top Most Symbolic Chinese Foods
The first article in this Chinese Food Focus: First Bite Series: Chinese Food Focus – First Bite Series
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