The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, "Governing a great nation is like cooking a little fish." What he wanted to say was that when governing a country you have to know how to use the seasonings and give the right touches to obtain good results. This metaphor is a clear example of the importance attributed to food by the Chinese.
La kitchen China can be classified into two main groups with different styles: that of the north and that of the south. In general, northern dishes contain oil, without being cloying, and the taste of vinegar and garlic tends to predominate. Pasta plays a fundamental role in kitchen From the North: noodles, ravioli-like balls, steamed buns, and steamed bread are all very common flour-based dishes. Perhaps the styles of Beijing, Tientsin and Shantung are the best known within the kitchen north china. A dish with a pleasant aroma whets your appetite.
Onions, fresh ginger root, garlic, chilli, wine, anise, cinnamon sticks, pepper, sesame oil, a certain type of dry mushroom characteristic of China, etc., are some ingredients whose aroma makes our mouth water. When preparing any dish, it is of utmost importance to preserve the natural freshness and flavor of its ingredients, as well as to eliminate any unwanted fish or game odor. In the kitchen western, lemon is usually used to eliminate the fishy flavor; In Chinese cuisine, chives and ginger play a similar role. Soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and other seasonings enrich a dish without hiding the natural flavor of its ingredients. A well-prepared dish should please fans of strong flavors, those who appreciate softness more should not find it too strong, it must appear sweet to fans of sweet and spicy to fans of spicy. A dish that meets all these conditions will be truly successful.
Color, aroma and flavor are not the only things that are taken into consideration in Chinese cuisine. Nutrition, of course, is the main thing. The trail of the theory of "harmonization of food" (ting nai t'iao ho) can be traced back to the time of the Shang dynasty (XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries BC) with the scholar Yi Yin. It relates the five flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and sour) with the nutritional needs of the five main body systems (heart, liver, spleen / pancreas, lung and kidneys and highlights the role they play in maintaining the health of the body In fact, many of the plants used in Chinese cuisine, such as chives, fresh ginger root, garlic, dried lily buds, tree fungi, etc., have properties that prevent or alleviate various diseases .
The Chinese traditionally believe in the medicinal value of food and that cooking and medicine have the same origin. This view can be considered a precedent for Chinese nutrition science. One of the most outstanding notions of this theory is the idea that a correct proportion must be maintained between meats and vegetables: a third of the dishes whose main ingredient is meat must be vegetables and vice versa. When preparing a soup, the amount of water used must be equal to seven tenths of the total volume.
In summary, the correct proportion of ingredients must be respected in the preparation of any dish in order to obtain the maximum nutritional value.
The Chinese have certain norms and customs related to food. For example, you should eat sitting down. There is a pre-established order that determines who should be in first place among men, women, the elderly and the young. The main course should be eaten with the chopsticks and the soup with a spoon. Chinese banquets are organized table by table, and ten to twelve people usually sit at each table. A typical feast can consist of four appetizer dishes, such as cold skewers or hot appetizers; six or eight main dishes; something to snack on and dessert.
There are several preparation methods: braised, braised, steamed, deep fried, quickly satinized, etc. Dishes can be tasty, sweet, acidic, or spicy. The most common colors are red, yellow, green, white and caramel. Garnishes such as tomatoes, Chinese white radishes, cucumbers, etc. are also used, which are cut or sculpted to make the dish more attractive to the eye. All these elements contribute to make Chinese food a feast for the eyes, smell and taste.
Chinese cuisine ingredients.
Today it is impossible to link the cuisine of any country in the world just by relating it to its indigenous products. The transposition of genres from one continent to another is so vast that entire continents can depend on their own kitchens for food that until just half a millennium ago was unknown in them. Such is the case for example of cassava in the African continent or peanuts in Chinese cuisine. At the moment it is common to find in a plate of an American country the inescapable presence of the assimilated garlic or onion; As in other non-American continents, there are national cuisine dishes that could not be made without the presence of tomato or chili, just to name a few obvious samples.
However, in all the cases and in which we are concerned, this would not be the exception, we must take into account certain products that in a resounding way establish an always repeated manifestation. Rice, wheat, soy, ginger and tea are at the forefront of the historical list of ingredients consumed over the centuries by the Chinese people. Rice as a flagship food, has had times when it has been the only daily bread to which, depending on the circumstances, other ingredients have been added to enrich its limited nutritional value. This to a certain extent has established a typicality since many Chinese dishes are made with a main ingredient - rice, for example - which is joined by two or three more that provide contrasts of colors and flavors.
The cuisine of various regions reinforces the presence of pepper, the undisputed symbol of one, among other important economic reasons, of the adventure to conquer the new world, tinged by the search for the long-awaited oriental spices and whose value was equated with the most precious at a certain point in history.
The vast and varied Chinese geography provides products that go beyond themselves and have even defined methods of preparation, preparation and distinctive tastes. Aromatic products proliferate: garlic, ginger root, onion, chilli, sweet pine, orange peel, the so-called five spices (aniseed, clove, Chinese cinnamon, pepper, and fennel), turmeric, leek; sesame and soybean peanut oils, dried mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, chili peppers, bananas, sweet potatoes, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, bamboo shoots, barley, corn, abalone (mushroom-like mushrooms), agar agar, litchi ( red and pulpy fruit), quinotos, quincuais (quincháis ¿) or also Chinese oranges (small bitter citrus for confectionery), Chinese noodles (similar to spaghetti, Chinese vermicelli (transparent and very fine), vinegar (less acidic than that used in western cuisine), chickens, pigs, rabbit, ham.
The ox that only after being exploited as a means of transport and shooting, goes to the kitchen as food, and other exotic and less conventional animals such as the pawa (¿) or the snails.
Freshness is sought in ingredients and in many cases (for example ginger root or onion) they are used to eliminate bad odors. Many products are linked to its traditional medicine such as chives, garlic, buds of dried lilies, and certain mushrooms, among others. The correct ratio of meat to vegetables is a requirement. A third of vegetables if the dish is meat and vice versa and in soups the water used must be seven tenths of the total. Vegetables predominate in the garnishes, which can be very varied; tomatoes, Chinese white radishes, cucumbers and others, cut or sculpted to enhance their aesthetics.
As it has been explained, in the most fertile regions vegetables and fruits proliferate and in the marine coast and accumulations of fresh water crustaceans and other aquatic species abound. Abundant are shrimp, veras, lobsters, crabs, river carp, oysters, Cambrian, eel; domestic or wild birds like ducks, batrachians like frogs. The shark fin and the very select swallow nests are highly reputed and coveted, with which soups of recognized nutritional value are prepared, considered delicacies.
Eggs are prepared in different ways and not only chicken eggs, duck and other birds are also used. An example of this is the one known as a hundred-year-old egg or a millennial egg (leg eggs treated for a long time with ash, mud, rice husks, barley wine and spices). Cow's milk does not enter their eating habits and cheese is obtained from soybeans, a vegetable with a rich protein value that is widely used in the form of sauces, milk, cheeses and other preparations. (Tofu).
Alcoholic beverages have a common name to identify them: jiuand in this concept it is included from beer to wines, which is made from rice, grapes, fruits and others.
The country's own characteristics and its historical development, low fuel and high population density, have forced the optimal use of resources of all kinds, which in fact has led to establishing very strict criteria within the ingredients of Chinese cuisine. in terms of saving resources and taking advantage of everything that nature can offer to satisfy the food needs of its population.
TRADITIONAL TOOLS, CUTTING METHODS AND PREPARATION IN
THE CHINESE CUISINE.
One of the most accentuated characteristics of Chinese cuisine is the surprising simplicity and practical richness of the few utensils of its gastronomic battery. This particularity inexorably governs all the actions and operations of Chinese cuisine as a result of the known historical fact: an immense territory with a marked rate of high human concentration, governed by the need to make the most of all resources and in that search, the objective It is essential to find ways of rapid transit to a simple and elevated kitchen at the same time.
Let's start with the Wok, that magical and ancient instrument of Chinese cuisine that encloses in itself the benefits of a versatile saucepan that is transmuted in the blink of an eye in what for us would be the version of a frying pan Creole mixed with a cauldron. This efficient auxiliary is a circular, semi-spherical and concave shaped metal container of relatively thick gauge that is manufactured in different sizes; from small and medium to large capacity. The originals have two handles, but nowadays, perhaps due to some western influence, they are also made with a wooden handle instead of the handles. Due to its shape, the bottom is at the same time the interior wall, which facilitates a maximum use of the fat with which it is cooked, since it runs towards the center to concentrate and with a relatively small amount of this ingredient you can fry food. taking advantage of all their potential. The handling of wok It requires skill to execute the wavy, fast and precise movements of the products on its surface. In the wok the distribution of heat is produced in a uniform way which in passing helps to save fuel to apply the fire and to a faster evaporation of the contained liquid. All this implies that when cooking in the wok, the texture, flavor, color and nutritional substances of the food remain intact.
Another valuable instrument is the call Chinese blade. With it, you can execute infinity of operations that go from cutting to sculpting. Obviously in the middle of these operations there is the possibility of putting into practice with it a set of others such as cutting into figures, crushing, breaking, crumbling, notching the food, slicing, crumbling, grinding, chopping, softening, crushing, breaking , decorate and others more required in the kitchen. There are actually three types of blades, but the only significant difference between them is the thickness and of course, their weight.
Chinese steamed strainer.
As usual in Chinese cuisine, even insignificant things have their reason for being. The bowl, that apparent simple utensil on your table, is a traditional container that has its own philosophy. The open bowl is typical for rice to which meat and vegetables cut into pieces are occasionally added, which facilitate the ingestion of food with chopsticks. A closer bowl is required for foods that want to retain heat and aroma, for example soups, which are eaten with spoons.
The bamboo it has great functional value. Its strength and durability make it popular for building all kinds of things, from tables and chairs to frames for houses and roofs. In the kitchen, its strong segmented stems are great for making steamer handles, called chen lung in Chinese, made from layers of wood, strips of liana, and bamboo. The lids and bases of bamboo steamers are the most important parts because they direct and regulate the steam flow. The steamers come in u. Whatever the size, the steamers have the same basic construction, which has remained constant for centuries. The circular side is made of four layers of light, light wood, which is purchased in thin sheets. These are cut into strips. The base of each chen long consists of a row of narrow bamboo strips reinforced by two other rows of the same material placed at right angles. This loose rack is attached with thin strips of liana, then is adjusted to a quarter of the distance. Even when cooking food in bamboo steamers, it is a good idea to rotate them so that the snacks at the bottom long are not cooked in excess. Usually a maximum of six or seven lengths are stacked, but it all depends on how strong it is.
Chopsticks: Chopsticks are made of ivory to avoid poisoning as they turn black in the presence of poisons. Also of precious woods, plastics. The main course is eaten with chopsticks and the soup with a spoon.
How to use:
Place one of the toothpicks in the indentation between the thumb and index finger. This stick will always remain fixed.
The other toothpick with the ends of the thumb, index and middle fingers.
Practice the movement on this last stick, against the end of the other.
Take the chosen piece between the ends of the chopsticks by turning your hand.
Move the wrist away so that the food is close to the mouth.
Carefully raise the chopsticks towards the mouth keeping the food secured between the chopsticks and preventing them from slipping.
Open the mouth and insert the chopsticks to a depth of approximately
Remove the toothpicks from the mouth.
The menu card.
The letter has the menutasting s typical of the restaurants Chinese. The difference is that, instead of increasing the portion size according to the number of diners, in Hunan the number of dishes is increased, which is the right thing to do and is styled at truly Chinese banquets.
This is because, as most Chinese recipes are stir-fried, that is, quickly sautéed in oil in a wok, too large a portion of ingredients lowers the temperature of the wok too much and the necessary temperature is not achieved (between 350 and 450 degrees) to fry food properly.
In redress to Chinese cuisine, lChinese cuisine has suffered an unfair Western misunderstanding. Associating it with fried rice is an undeserved grievance. The stereotype has its reasons. Over the past century, the United States has required Chinese labor to build railroads.
Those emigrants had to live on an improvised meal, combining what little they knew with the ingredients of their new homeland. Those recipes successfully caught on in the United States and arrived in Venezuela with the North American oil companies.
But that westernized version does not reflect the universe of flavors that China offers. Yuman Ley Wong, owner of the restaurant Chez Wong. Thanks to his father -original from those lands- he knew the richness of that gastronomy. And although Ley Wong was born in Chile, his trips to the country of his ancestors ended up revealing to him the infinite dishes, techniques and flavors that he offers in the cuisine he now recreates.
10 years ago when he opened his Restaurant In Sabana Grande, Wong wanted to summarize that rich universe in a letter of his own. A decade after that initiative - and now installed in
The Moo Shu -plates with crepes- reveal the taste of the north, where rice is ignored and pasta is preferred. The steamed fish, meanwhile, try the soft southern recipes. Chez Wong's letter varies to allow for news. However, it retains proposals that are already emblematic of the house, such as the Smoked Duck in jasmine tea leaves and the Kum Pao-style Chicken with peanuts.
To complete the picture: the desserts - scarce in the oriental tradition - in this restaurant They are served with an Austrian recipe, while the wine is Chilean, for obvious reasons.
«I have reintroduced ginger, spices, sauces. Now the client can taste the true food of my country ». Pedro recognizes that the regulars find it difficult to enter the new world that he offers them. “They are used to the rolls, the salad with shrimp and the chicken with almonds. But Chinese cuisine is much more ».
And how is it? Fruit of tradition and also of the medicinal conception of food, everything is steamed or wok. This kitchen utensil is increasingly fashionable in Spain and guarantees that food mixes perfectly and combines its juices. The wok is a frying pan whose bottom is not flat, but rounded. When the vegetables and the meat are added to the sunflower oil, everything gathers inside and does not waste.
The other great way to take advantage of ingredients is to steam them. So they only know what they taste like. No additives, ”explains Li. This specialty is also in vogue: the result is a non-fatty, healthier dish. "Traditional Chinese medicine is primarily about ingesting certain things in a certain way." Hence, for example, that vegetables are always undercooked. "It retains all its properties."
Rice is like bread. It never fails. All other dishes are combined with it. But these do not mix with each other, as more than one is used to doing in the restaurant Chinese. What they do add are sauces, many, of all colors and flavors. The bittersweet, perhaps the best known, is made up of sugar, vinegar, prune juice and a typical Chinese delicacy that is also digestive.
Curry sauce, a spice of which there are up to five hundred different classes, is spicy. The rice vinegar It is a red liquid like wine, and with a strong flavor. And as, soy sauce. Actually three different: «Super light, normal and concentrated», Depending on how the food is made. For semi-raw dishes a light sauce is used; for those who require a long cooking time, concentrate.
Quality, first of all.
Another characteristic of Chinese food is that everything is cut into pieces. Also for this there is an explanation: it facilitates the use of chopsticks. In Mr. Lee they also have an assorted variety of bowls, the traditional container in China. More than a utensil, it is a philosophy: the closed ones better conserve the heat of the food; the more open ones make them cool earlier. Everything, even the smallest, has its reason for being.
Chinese gastronomy is deservedly famous; Despite its great variety, it is not recommended for the scrupulous. Chinese cuisine is about creating ingenious dishes with a limited number of ingredients. We can find four regional gastronomic styles: Beijing / Mandarin and Shandong, with bread and steamed noodles as staples; Cantonese and Chaozhou, undercooked meat and vegetables; Shanghai, the cradle of red cuisine and wuxi pork ribs; and Sichuan, very spicy food with plenty of chili. Tea is the most common non-alcoholic beverage, although cola is gaining popularity; beer is by far the most popular alcoholic beverage. "Wine" is a fairly broad term that includes rusty and herbal concoctions, rice wine, and wine with lizards, bees, or snakes in marinade. Another of the favorite alcoholic beverages is the maotai,, a very strong sorghum-based drink, the smell of which resembles 96 ° alcohol.
China is a huge country with great regional diversities. From a gastronomic point of view, several culinary schools are recognized. Among them, the Cantonese is the best known in the West, or rather, some of its dishes such as spring rolls or roasted pork, which are not the worms, frogs, snakes or turtles that are also consumed in Canton. The Peking school has contributed the duck to the Pekingese, whose correct preparation we could well say that it is a Chinese job, although it is very common, because with a single duck three different dishes come out. The skin is filled with a cake that is served first. Then comes the duck cut into thin slices, sautéed with spices and accompanied by beans and bamboo. Finally, with the crushed bones mixed with sugar and cabbage, a broth is made that is taken third. There has been a lot of discussion about the origin of noodles.
The general idea is that Marco Polo discovered them in China and imported them into Italy, but lately it has been proven that the Italians already ate them much earlier. It will be one of those inventions that appeared in several different places over time. In any case, archaeological remains show that the Chinese already consumed them more than a thousand years ago, with the Tang dynasty. Stranger it turns out that then donuts were also consumed, which we have for a recent American import.
Another of the pillars of Chinese cuisine is bamboo. We could even say that of the Chinese civilization, because the utility that this plant has been given in the East is almost universal. Irrigation canals, houses, ropes, containers, boats and all kinds of supplies and tools have been made and are made with bamboo. The 1.001 utilities of bamboo are the subject of a treatise that dates back to the XNUMXrd century. In addition, it is eaten. The tender shoots of the plant are used as a garnish to accompany textured meals and to make soup. Bamboo is the fastest growing vegetable, as it grows to over a meter in a day. But it is very greedy of its beauty and only blooms once every century.
The Chinese are refractory to dairy products. They don't try milk again from childhood and are disgusted by cheese (which they call milk cake) and butter. For them, a good Cabrales is as disgusting as for us a boiled snake. It is not a whim: most suffer from a genetic inability to assimilate lactose because they do not synthesize the corresponding enzyme. In return, they have soy. They make their tofu (soy cheese) and their chang-yu (soy sauce), which are products of extraordinary nutritional and vitamin richness. Soy is very appreciated: it can be grown anywhere and needs little agricultural care. The only problem is that you have to elaborate a lot to make it digestible. You can't talk about Chinese cuisine without referring to two of its non-food conquests such as wok and chopsticks.
The wok is the oriental equivalent of our saucepan, a magnificent metal utensil, hemispherical and provided with a pair of handles with which food is cooked at an astonishing speed. As for the chopsticks, it must be said that the Chinese knew them after having tried the forks, and that they decided to abandon the use of these for the advantages of cleanliness and speed that they saw in the chopsticks. In fact, its Chinese name reminds the ideogram that means speed.
While Chinese cuisine only distinguishes five primary flavors (sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and salty), it appreciates the following textures: gelatinous, crisp, rough, fluffy, slimy, chewy solid, and solid that does not need to be chewed.
The reason for some of its classic dishes, such as swallow's nest soup or shark's fin soup, is just because of its texture. Swallow's Nest Soup is almost a must-have for big banquets. When done with all the law, you have to start from a very expensive raw material: the nests that the natives collect climbing cliffs and caves in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines at the cost, many times, of their lives. What nests are made of, remains a mystery. It has been assumed that certain seaweeds are semi-digested by birds, but that does not explain why it also appears thousands of kilometers inland. When they come into the hands of the cook they are like large silk cocoons, dry, light, translucent and brittle. If they are available, the preparation of the soup is no mystery: after softening the nests in water and cleaning them very carefully, they are simply cooked.
You have to flavor them with flavorings, because they taste absolutely nothing: remember that what you are looking for is a texture, not a flavor. Something similar happens with shark fins, although they are more versatile. In addition to being eaten in soup they can be eaten scrambled with egg or used to fill a duck. They are not always shark, but also stingray or swordfish and all of the fish are used, not only the dorsal. Once skinned and cleaned of thorns, they become a gelatinous and yellowish matter that is cooked in a broth prepared with rice wine. It is considered an exquisite food that invigorates the body and has aphrodisiac properties. Another Chinese delicacy is holothuria, holutaria, trépang or sea cucumber.
Both for its price and its properties it is known as sea ginseng. It is a species of great marine worm, an echinoderm from the temperate seas that is scarce and very difficult to fish (Emilio Salgari wrote a wonderful adventure novel entitled The fishermen of trépang) and that is sold dry or smoked. A thick soup is prepared with it, with a mellow texture and a slightly sweet flavor that is the culmination of culinary delicacy. These dishes are, of course, for potentates. The refinement of the oriental tables always tends to value the scarce, so that the increasing economic power of the Chinese and Japanese upper classes threatens to extinguish some species that reach a high price as food or medicine. Whale meat, tiger claws, gorilla hands or rhino horns, whose trade was about to end this pachyderm, are many other examples.
For their part, the Chinese popular masses have always stuck to what they had on hand, looking for the best way to make edible proteins within their reach, whether they were insects, monkeys, batrachians, birds, reptiles, dogs or cats. They say that a Westerner only begins to know the country when he is able to visit a food market without getting dizzy.
Given that China has a large territorial extension, large population, different ethnic groups, different climates and customs and a variety of products, it is not surprising that there are different culinary styles with their own peculiarities in cooking techniques, snacks and dishes.
The main Chinese schools are 4:
The Southern KitchenIt stands out, among other factors, for the preparation of dishes with snake meat. Guangdong cuisine is famous: its dishes belong to the Yue Culinary School, one of the main schools in China. It uses very varied products and abundant seasonings such as oyster oil, Qipu sauce, fish sauce and a variety of vegetables cooked at high temperatures. The ingredients are bought daily from the market, beef, pork, fish, vegetables, mushrooms and freshwater fish from Guangzhou. Roast suckling pigs from Guangdong are known, as well as zhuzhou chicken from Foshan, wild cat stew, dragon, tiger and oyster gathering, dragon broth, tiger and phoenix, oil shrimp, pumpkin stuffed with eight treasures and mushrooms in oyster oil.
Formerly there were dishes that were exclusively intended for the emperor and his court, these are the Imperial dishes. Later this cuisine is developed with Lu cuisine, Tibet dishes and Muslim sandwiches; to which is added later the western cuisine and the dishes of Huaiyang. It is characterized by its meticulous selection and by not using any ingredient. The Beijing Duck and the black-legged goat with a spotted and castrated face are distinguished. It is a seasonal cuisine, in spring the rolls; in the summer, the crystalline shrimp and in the fall, the goat meat.
To cleanse the body the Chinese use the vegetarian food from vegetables, fruits, soy cheese, vegetable oil, peas, corn, bamboo ears, beans, mushrooms and other types of fungi.
At lunchtime, three glasses are placed on the table, one large for beer or water; a medium one for white or red wine; and a small one for liquor, the most popular in China being mao-taiwhich is manufactured in Guizhou based on sorghum. The Wang bye it is the traditional drink that is drunk before a typical meal of shark fin soup, goose in soy sauce, swallow's nest soup, chicken dishes and special noodles.
The fact that Chinese cuisine uses products foreign to the western mind is due to the fact that throughout its history it has suffered great famines. Overpopulation has also influenced culinary changes. Thus, all kinds of animals such as snakes, dogs, holoturias and highly nutritious vegetables such as algae and bamboo are introduced. You eat everything you feed, from the guts to the skin.
Each province according to its resources has developed a type of cuisine, but rice and soy are essential foods in any Chinese dish. One of the varieties of Chinese food is sandwiches, in each region we find different types. They are usually taken accompanied by the, which is served pure in small cups in the tea houses that are scattered throughout the country.