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PENS Topics : Cooking Chinese
Chinese cooking has a global appeal; it is also one of the most varied of world cuisines. China's unique culinary tradition is greatly influenced by the differences in regional availability of food products. The four main styles of cooking are: Peking (northern), Shanghai (eastern), Sichuan (western), and Canton (southern). There are no formal divisions between these "schools" of cooking, but rather shifts of emphasis and perspectives.
The Chinese believe the most important elements that help us to appreciate the taste of foods are colour, aroma, flavour, and texture. All these elements have to be well balanced to form a harmonious whole.
The central principle of harmonious contrast is carried all the way through each dish and the whole meal. The Chinese eat a variety of foods avoiding very few. Most Chinese food is cooked. With the exception of fruit, few foods are eaten raw.
To increase the knowledge of university/college students about the Chinese culinary art.
By the end of the session, participants will gain a better understanding of:
Suggested Background Reading for Presenters
The Regional Cooking Styles of China
China is usually divided into culinary regions characterized by flavour and based on climate and the availability of foods. (Overhead 2)
Peking (Northern School) - Famous for Peking duck, Mongolian hot pot; staples are millet and soybean; grilling or barbecuing is common; vegetables, cabbage and onions are common foods during winter.
Shanghai (Eastern School) - Specialties are white-cut pork, lion's heads, squirrel fish; staples are rice and soybeans.
Sechuan (Western School) - Dishes are distinguished by their use of chilies, garlic and the Sichuan pepper "Fagara"; characteristic dishes include hot and sour soup, tea-smoked duck, and an oily walnut paste and sugar dessert that may be related to the nut "halvah" of the Middle East; some of the best ham and head cheese in China are found in the area.
Canton (Southern School) - Probably the most familiar to North Americans; characterized by stir-fried dishes, seafood (fresh, dried or salted), "dim sum" ("small bites"), such as steamed or fried dumplings stuffed with meat or seafood.
The Chinese customarily eat three meals a day, with snacks. Although the Chinese are receptive to all types of food, the composition of a meal is governed by specific rules: a balance between "Yin" (cold) and "Yang" (hot), and the proper amounts of "Fan" and "Ts'ai". In general, "Yang" (hot) foods are stronger, richer, and spicier. Cold foods ("Yin") are bland, low in calories, and often consist of vegetables and herbs. Hot foods should be eaten in the winter and for tiredness. Cold foods should be eaten in the summer and for dry lips.
"Fan" includes all foods made from grains, such as steamed rice, noodles, and dumplings which are served in a separate bowl to each diner. "Ts'ai" includes cooked meats and vegetables, which are shared from bowls set in the centre of the table. "Fan" is the primary item in a meal and "Ts'ai" helps people eat the grain by making the meal more tasty.
The traditional eating utensils are chopsticks and porcelain spoon used for soups. Tea cups are always made out of porcelain, as are rice bowls.
Special Ingredients, Kitchen Utensils, Preparation Techniques
The Chinese culinary art uses many special ingredients to create a subtle delicacy in mouth-watering dishes. These include bamboo shoots (fresh or canned), tofu (made from soybeans), bean sprouts (fresh are crunchy), black bean sauce (distinctive salty taste), chili paste/sauce, cellophane or transparent noodles, Chinese cabbage, Chinese dried mushrooms, dried shrimps, ginger root, Chinese parsley (coriander), green seaweed, hoisin (barbecue) sauce, MSG, oyster sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, golden needles (dried Tiger Lily buds), water chestnuts, wood ears (tree fungus) and many others.
The average Chinese kitchen has far less equipment and tools than a North American kitchen. The "wok" and "cleaver" are the two primary tools used by a Chinese cook to work wonders in the kitchen with whatever ingredients are given. The advantage of the "wok" (cone shaped with a rounded bottom) is that the heat is spread evenly to all parts: because of its shape only a short cooking time is required. The other principal elements include a chopping block, bamboo steamers, strainer, scoop, spatula, and sand pots (casseroles).
Ingredients are commonly cut into very thin slices, not much larger than an oblong stamp, and thin as cardboard. Most foods are prepared with steam (e.g., bread and dim sum). Whole steamed fish is prized above all. Stir-frying is an important part of any Cantonese chef's skill set. Deep frying is also a popular technique in Chinese cooking. After cutting, the next stage in the preparation of food, before the actual cooking, is marinating, sometimes called "coating" or "blending" in Chinese. The marinade is usually a mixture of salt, flour or cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce and wine.
[To get a full flavour of Chinese cooking, one must sample a taste of their cuisine. Today we are preparing a recipe called Stir-fried Chicken Cubes as a way to end our tour of China.]
Regional Cooking Styles of China
Chinese Eating Patterns
Preparation Techniques - 2
Stir-Fried Chicken Cubes
Prepare the following in the order specified:
YIELD: 4 Servings
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Last Modified on May 1, 2012 12:18 PM, by [DR]