One out of every three Americans orders Chinese food at least once a month. It’s one of the most popular foods in the world for a reason. There are so many flavors and ingredients that go into making it.
Not only is Chinese cuisine delicious, but it’s centered around a rich culture. Many dishes have special meanings and are mostly eaten during certain festivals, for example. You can also get different dishes depending on what part of China you’re in.
It can be fun to explore the history around your meal before you chow down. Check out this guide to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Chinese recipes and delicacies.
1. There Are 5 Key Flavors
The basics of Chinese medicine dictate that five main flavors have to be adhered to. These flavors are sweet, spicy, sour, salty, and bitter.
Since there’s so much to balance, each region in China is known for a different flavor. If you travel to the north, you’ll find mostly salty dishes. Meals in Sichuan are known for their spiciness.
Food in Hong Kong can either be sweet or savory. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to go to the southern region.
2. The Wheat/Rice Divide
The flavor isn’t the only thing that changes depending on what region of China you’re in. The northern part specializes in growing wheat. Most of the dishes include steamed buns, dumplings, wheat noodles, and stuffed buns.
The southern part of China prides themselves on their rice. You’ll find rice noodles and more. There’s also a huge variety of veggies.
You may be able to get the occasional wheat dish in the south, but they are far and in between.
3. They Eat the Entire Animal
One thing about China is that they don’t like to waste anything. Most of the time, the entire animal is served on the plate. They chop the bones up and use them in broth.
They take out any part of the animal that doesn’t go with a particular meal and save it for a different dish. They serve fish with the head and bones included.
The bones are soft enough to eat. If you run into a bone that isn’t soft enough for you to chew, you can move it over to the other side of your plate.
4. There’s a Ton of Vegetable Variety
Chinese delicacies include almost everything that moves. This variety doesn’t end with meat, however. You’ll run into tons of veggies that you’ve probably never even heard of.
There are bitter cucumbers, pomeloes, tree fungi, and yard-long yams. These are only a few of the plants that you’ll find in your meals.
5. Fresh Foods Only
Canned and frozen foods are mostly spurned in China. You may be able to get the occasional Classic Pork Pack out of a freezer, but there aren’t that many of them. This is once again due to Chinese medicine.
It states that people need to eat food while it’s in season. This way, you don’t get an overdose of yin or yang in your meals.
This is why there’s a wet market on pretty much every corner in China. Here, you can get butchered meats and freshly grown produce to cook in your meals.
6. Everything is Bite-Sized
Chinese people find the use of forks and other utensils barbaric. They would much rather eat with chopsticks. It’s for this reason that there is a tax on reusable chopsticks.
The thought is that it might cut down on usage a little. The tax isn’t the only thing that has to accommodate the heavy amount of chopstick use. The food is also created with them in mind.
Everything is bite-sized. If it’s not chopped before the cooking process, it’s a dumpling. Something soft and squishy enough to be easily picked up.
7. Food Decoration is Insane
If you ever get Jiangsu foods, you’ll notice that the presentation is always insane. They chop the veggies into intricate patterns and use tons of colors to bring out the most in every meal.
The reason for the bright presentation is because most chefs believe that a person takes their first bite of food with their eyes. First impressions are everything, essentially.
8. Everything Has a Meaning
Many foods in China have particular meanings. You’ll eat certain foods depending on what time of year it is.
For example, they eat ingot-shaped dumplings during the new year because they represent wealth. It’s sort of like greens and black-eyed peas in some parts of the US.
Mooncakes are another symbolic food in China. They eat them during the Mid-Autumn festival.
9. Lazy-Suzy-Styled Eating
In China, most meals are served in the middle of the table. People sit around it with bowls of rice and pick up food as needed. If you go to a restaurant, you’ll find all the meals placed on a turn-table.
This makes everything to share.
10. Honored Guest Seating
If you’re an honored guest in someone’s home, you’ll sit far away from the door. The heads of all the animals served will be pointed away from you.
Your Complete Guide to Chinese Cuisine
Out of all the different foods in the world, Chinese cuisine is probably the most in-demand. Not only is it delicious, but there’s a rich culture around it. There are certain meals that you eat during festival times.
There’s also a level of variety, flavors, and presentation that goes into each dish. It’s no wonder why it’s so many people’s favorite food.
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