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Chinese Food It Is.
Can you survive without food and friends? Well, the Chinese cant either. They believe that a gathering is incomplete without food and that friends and food are inseparable. Chinese food goes back about 2000 years when Emperor Fuxi taught his people to hunt, fish, grow crops and cook. Though it was a means of survival in the beginning it took the form of an art soon.
The art of Chinese food has a few threads that weave its story together. Here are the threads for a peep into a little bit of history, beliefs, customs, legend and folklore.
The Chinese believe in longevity of life and have explored the world of roots, plants, fungus, seeds and herbs to find life giving elements. This led to the discovery that most vegetables have medicinal value and cooking them wrong could destroy their nutritional value. Like the favourite condiment ginger that can be used as a cold remedy and to soothe an upset stomach.
Chinese food unlike its western counterparts is low in calorie. Poly unsaturated oils are used in Chinese cooking in the place of cream, milk, butter and cheese. The small portions of meat used in cooking keeps the presence of animal fat to the minimum. Yet another reason why the Chinese live the longest.
Chinese cuisine reveals the country's vast geography and rich history. 2000 years ago Buddhist missionaries brought in the garlic, onions, peppers and ginger. Today these ingredients are key sources of authentic flavour in Chinese cooking.
Culinary characteristics in China are divided by region. In the North of China there is a Mongolian influence and they don’t grow rice. Noodles, breads and soybeans are more popular. At the same time the South has a Cantonese influence. Fresh fruit and seafood are highlights of the local cuisine.
Schezwan and Hunan in the west seem to conjure up the spice in Chinese cooking. Atleast now we know that Schezwan and Hunan are names of places and not just names of Chinese delicacies.
The Chinese consider using a knife at the table poor taste and so they cut food into bite size pieces and use chopsticks. Have you always tried to eat with chopsticks and given up? Here are a few easy to follow steps to enjoy a Chinese meal with chopsticks.
- Wood or bamboo chopsticks are a better idea than plastic or lacquered ones that tend to be more slippery.
- Make sure you hold the chopsticks in the middle and that the ends do not cross but are even.
- Hold the chopstick in such a way that it rests comfortably between the tip of your ring finger and the gap between your thumb and index finger. Pay attention to keep the ring finger straight. This is the bottom chopstick and requires lesser movement.
- Once you have that in place, pick up the other chopstick and place it firmly between the tips of your thumb , index and middle fingers, making sure that the index and middle fingers are curled.
- The bottom chopstick has to remain stationary while you use the top chopstick to pick up food.
- So that you can pick up food, straighten your index and middle fingers as much as you need to, to move the top chopstick outward.
- Now grab the food and curl your index and middle fingers to bring the chopsticks together.
- If you are eating meat with bones, hold the meat with the chopsticks and eat around the bone.
The Fortune Cookie
The Chinese don’t have a tradition of dessert and so every Chinese meal culminates with a fortune cookie. Though the fortune cookie is the end of a Chinese meal it has an American origin. The Chinese are of the belief that the fortune cookie is a modern Chinese American interpretation of the moon cake. Moon cakes were supposedly used by Chinese soldiers disguised as monks to communicate strategies by stuffing messages into moon cakes. This is only one of the many stories fortune cookies have attached to them. Today the fortune cookie is produced in mass and distributed widely. They have English messages tucked away inside and are most popular in the US. The cookies are known to give promises of great success, fame and good fortune, love and harmony and most of all lifts spirits.
The Chinese eat a lot of variety on occasions like the Chinese New Year for good luck.
Eating lotus seeds is believed to give luck to have a baby boy, dried bean curd gives wealth and happiness, black moss seaweed stands for lots of wealth, the famous bamboo shoot is believed to be consumed to wish for everything to be good. There are certain types of food that they don’t consume around this time like tofu or fresh bean curd as it is white. White is unlucky as it signifies death.
Chinese food is popular all around the globe. With its quality to satiate hunger any time of the day and being stomach friendly (easily digestible) it seems to be the choice for people in all age groups.
Diced chilly chicken, shrimp in black bean sauce, golden fried prawns, sweet and sour chicken soup, Schezwan fried rice, Hunan chicken, the spicy Koithai, Fuyongs all speak volumes about Chinese cuisine and its marvellous flavours. Chinese food is always served piping hot. The aromas waft to tease your senses and grab you into an irresistible meal.
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