An Ancient Chinese proverb says “To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven.” This proverb clearly shows that food to the Chinese is like tea to the British. In China, dinner is a time of communication, sharing and discussion. During major festivals, food has always played an important role. During Spring Festival, dinner time brings the family together; during the Qingming festival, food is placed at the graves of ancestors as an offering to relatives in the afterlife.
China, being almost as big as the United States, has a diverse menu of dishes and cooking styles. One of the major differences in China is the choice of staple food. Whereas in the north, the staple of choice is noodle, the south is keener to have rice as the accompanying component.
A very interesting cuisine, originates from the Manchus, the north east region of China, and is known as (东北菜). The Manchus, who used to live in that area, relies heavily on thick and well preserved ingredients to help the locals tackle the harsh winter weather. Two interesting dishes come from this region. The first is called Guo Bao Rou (锅包肉) which translates as coated boiled meat. This dish contains thin slivers of pork which are coated in batter and fried along with ginger, scallions, soy sauce, garlic and chilli. When cooked and crisp, these pork slices are coated in thick gravy which is made up of Rice vinegar, ginger, garlic and potato starch to give it a thick, warming feel.
A second dish from the Dongbei region is the delicious vegetarian dish Di San Xian (地三鲜) which translates as the three fresh vegetables from the ground. This dish consists of potato, green pepper and aubergine cut into equal slivers and fried in garlic, oil and soy sauce. When cooked and soft, these vegetables are coated in a delicious gravy made up of garlic, dark soy sauce, sugar, stock and garlic. These dishes really help warm you on a cold winters’ day.
The next dish comes from Shanghai and is a type of dumpling called Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) which translates as ‘Little basket of buns’. These mouth-watering dumplings are filled with pork, crab, cabbage or roe and are usually dipped in rice vinegar and chilli. Xiao Long Bao make up part of China’s ‘small eats’ (小吃) menu and are great for snacks and sharing with friends.
Sichuan is famous for its spicy food and is famous for using a type of spice called Mala (麻辣) which both pleasantly numbs and tingles your taste buds. One of Sichuan’s most famous spicy dishes, is Gong Bao Chicken (宫保鸡丁), known to us in the UK as Kung Pao Chicken. Gong Bao chicken is very popular throughout the western world and it is no surprise; the ingredients include chicken, Sichuan peppers, peanuts and spring onion, covered in a light rice wine sauce. In my personal opinion, this is one of the most addictive Chinese dishes and never fails to disappoint. It’s so simple yet so delicious.
The final dish is the most famous dish in China and possibly one of the most famous dishes in the world. Go past any Chinese area in any western city and you will no doubt see roasted ducks hanging in the window of butcher shops, being aired out to give them their rich aromatic taste. The roasted duck is originated from Beijing and is most commonly known as Peking duck (北京烤鸭). The Peking duck started as a dish of the Emperors and would be seen on any royal menu. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the dish began to spread down to the upper classes and eventually to the common Chinese man as a sought after dish. The duck takes 65 days to prepare and must be cooked in a specialised oven. Peking Duck usually comes with pancakes, spring onion and delicious plum sauce to make an addicitive mix.
Above are just a few examples of dishes from China which to me personally, exemplify China and provide the western tourist tastes which cannot be found in a Chinese takeaway in England. China Holidays will open our guest’s taste buds to a medley of flavours and tastes enticing you to keep returning for more.