Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  
 
 
Chinese cuisine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China is a vast country, and there are many different regional styles of Chinese cooking. But although cooking styles throughout China may vary, there are many common elements they share that characterize Chinese cuisine as a whole.

Grain foods

In most parts of China rice has been a traditional staple for thousands of years. In fact, the Chinese word for cooked rice, fan, also means "food." Long-grain rice is the most popular variety. Noodles in many forms, thick and thin, made from wheat, rice or bean starch are another popular food. In the Northern regions of China, wheat is not only used in noodles but often to make dumpling wrappers, steamed buns and pancakes, which encase foods like chicken, bean curd (tofu), fish and minced pork.

Vegetables

Vegetables are a fundamental part of Chinese cuisine and are combined to highlight their textures, flavors and colors. Many of the vegetables used in Chinese cooking are familiar to Westerners such as bell peppers (capsicum), carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, scallions, celery and broccoli. Other varieties of popular vegetables include wong bok (Chinese cabbage), bok choy, gai lan, choy sum, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and turnips. Often these vegetables are cut into small pieces or thin strips and stir-fried with seafood, fish, meat or bean curd (tofu) and served with rice or noodles. Vegetables are also used in braises, soups and as a filling for wontons.

Fish and shellfish

Fish and seafood are a staple food in the coastal areas of China. Fish is also eaten throughout the inland parts of China where it is caught from rivers and lakes. Popular fish and shellfish include snapper, sea bass, shrimp (prawns), scallops, squid, crab, clams and oysters.

Bean curd (tofu)

Bean curd has been eaten throughout China for centuries and is a valuable source of protein. Bean curd has a rather bland flavor but it soaks up the flavor of other foods it is cooked with. There are two main types of bean curd, firm or soft. The soft variety is often used in soups and the firm variety can be cut into cubes and added to stir-fries and braises.

Nuts, seeds and oils

Nuts like cashews and almonds are added to stir-fries and other dishes for their crunchy texture and nutty flavor. Sesame seeds are used in much the same way and are also ground into a robust flavored paste which is used in sauces. Sesame seeds and peanuts are also pressed for their oils. Sesame oil is used in small amounts as a flavor enhancer in food, but peanut oil is valued for its cooking properties and its ability to be heated to high temperatures (which is ideal for stir-frying and deep-frying).

Poultry, eggs and meat

Chicken, and other birds including duck are eaten regularly, and eggs are also used in a variety of dishes.

As with most other Asian countries, meat is traditionally eaten in small amounts. The meat most commonly eaten in China is pork. Beef, when it is used, is often cut into thin strips and used in small amounts instead of being the center of attention as it is in a typical Western meal.

Seasonings and sauces

The essential trio of seasonings—garlic, ginger and scallions (spring onions)—form the basis of many Chinese dishes. Condiments and spices are used subtly to accentuate, rather than mask, the natural flavors of food and are mixed in different combinations to create almost limitless taste sensations. The most commonly used sauces in Chinese cooking are soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce and black bean sauce. chilies and chili pastes are also used to add flavor and pungency to dishes, as is five spice powder made from a fragrant mixture of ground cinnamon, cloves, star anise, Szechwan pepper and fennel. Cilantro (coriander) is the most commonly used fresh herb.

Desserts, fruit and beverages

Exotic desserts are usually reserved for special occasions or feast days. If dessert is eaten it is often fresh fruit like mandarins, melon or lychees. Fruit is also eaten for snacks.

Tea is the most popular beverage in China and has been drunk since ancient times times. The most popular alcoholic beverages are rice wine and beer.

 

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