Hello China Tour Dreamers!
Okay, enough blogs about the history and philosophy of China, let’s answer the question that is most on your minds; where can I get some great Chinese food?
Cooking in China is an artistic culture. Chinese chefs are extremely particular about their choice of ingredients and subtle about the use of fire, with due attention paid to the savories and nutritious balance of the dishes.The presentation is just as important as the taste. The dish must look as exquisite as it tastes! To judge a good dish, we have very tough standards: the color, the shape, the taste, the smell and the aesthetics are all critical to make a perfect dish.
There are four main styles of Chinese cuisine. (Actually one theory actually puts the number of Chinese cuisine at eight, with the addition of Fujianese cooking, which attaches utmost importance to freshness of ingredients and delicate taste of dishes; Zhejiang cooking, distinguished by an obsession with the purity of flavor; Hunan cooking, producing dishes which are pungent in a numbing way and Anhui cooking, known for its richness of flavors.) However for this blog we will focus on the universally acknowledged four main styles.
Cantonese, which is famous for the seafood, fresh water food and exotic dishes. The fact that some of them are made with exotic fowl and snakes makes Cantonese cuisine very special and exotic! There is a saying in China that the Cantonese will eat anything with wings except an airplane, and anything with legs except a table!
Cantonese cuisine is the most predominant style here in the U.S., by far. That is due mainly to the fact that in the early days of Chinese immigration to the U.S., the overwhelming majority of the Chinese immigrants were Cantonese. These were the brave, hard-working souls that came to America to work the gold fields of California and to build the first trans-continental railroad. It was the Chinese laborers from Guandong Provence (called Canton by the western countries) that laid the Central Pacific tracks across the mighty Sierras and all the way to Utah, where it connected with the Central Pacific driving westward from the east.
Sichuan cuisine is famous for spicy and hot. Spicy to the degree of numbness, is a salient feature of Sichuan dishes. A good Sichuan dish will leave you with your tummy full and your ears on fire! Some standard, authentic Sichuan dishes are Dan-Dan Noodles, Chongqing (a.k.a. Chungking) Chicken and Spicy Boiled Beef will leave you thinking that your hair must be on fire!
Sichuan restaurants are hard to find in the U.S. outside of major metropolitan areas, however I will hook you up with great Sichuan food on your tour! There are a lot of great things to see and do in Sichuan, which is also home of the Giant Pandas. Don’t worry if really spicy food is not your thing, they can dial down the heat to suit any taste!
Huaiyang cuisine is famous for its tenderness, freshness of materials, delicate tastes and the fastidious way of presentation. It is less greasy and very healthy. Huaiyang stands for the Huai’an-Yangzhou area of those riverside cities in Jiangsu province.
Huaiyang cooking contrasts the more common style of Chinese cooking, which entails cooking very fast over high heat. Huaiyang style is more along the lines of braising, stewing and steaming over low heat for a long time. And for the folks who were scared off by the spicy claims of the Sichuan section above, Huaiyang food is almost never spicy.
Fun tidbit: Huaiyang is famous for its Chingkiang vinegar, which is a black vinegar that really kicks up the flavor of many dishes. the next time you are in your local Chinese restaurant and order pot stickers, dumplings or Chinese buns or pancakes, ask them for some black vinegar. They will bring you a a little bowl that you can use to dip your food. Try it!
Shandong cuisine is often known as “Northern Style” cooking. Shandong chefs are especially skilled in producing high-calorie and high protein dishes. The imperial banquets in Beijing are considered Shandong style. These dishes originated in the kitchen of the imperial palace for the exclusive enjoyment of the emperor and empress in the old days. The serving of imperial dishes follows highly stylized procedures.
Speaking of Beijing, one of the most famous Chinese dishes is Beijing Duck, which has the reputation as “the most delicious food on earth”. Even Beijing Duck has over 100 years of history, beginning in the Qing dynasty.
The Dumpling Banquet in Xi’an is another masterpiece in the northern style. Dumplings are considered the most traditional Chinese food, and are served as a must in every family celebration during the Chinese New Year’s Eve. The Dumpling Banquet is a feast of dumpling collections that is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and should not be missed! The dumplings are as artistic as they are delicious! They come in all sizes and shapes. Some of the shapes are kittens, bunnies, peaches, fish and many more. And of course the ingredients vary as well from various vegetables and meats to fried walnuts. Just remember to pace yourself because there are 30 courses!
Naturally Beijing Duck and the Xi’an Dumpling Banquet and standard events on any tour we arrange that includes Beijing and Xi’an, respectively.
Wow, for some reason I am suddenly very hungry! I think I will go enjoy some delicious Chinese food!
All the Best!
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