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.
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."
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
seeds and oils
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).
eggs and meat
and other birds including duck are eaten regularly,
and eggs are also used in a variety of dishes.
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.
essential trio of seasoningsgarlic, 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 and black
bean sauce. chilies and chili pastes are also
used to add flavor and pungency to dishes, as
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.
fruit and beverages
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.
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.