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you are here: Home - China travel guide - Food and drink
 

Eating and Drinking

Chinese foods and drinks are quite different from other countries. Chinese wide areas and diversity of peoples give rise to Chinese colorful eating and drink. Chinese diet culture has become an art that attracts a number of foreigners all over the world.

China's Cuisine

Peking Duck Dinner

China's cuisine is as varied as its landscape. Each city has its own specialties and styles: Sichuan for hot and spicy food imbued with the red chili pepper, Shanghai for sweeter flavors and famous dumplings and, of course, Hong Kong for the famed dim sum.

Generally speaking, there are eight main regional cuisines: Anhui, Canton, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang. There is also Huaiyang Cuisine, a major style and even viewed as the representation of the cuisine.

Occasionally, Beijing cuisine and Shanghai cuisine are also cited along with eight regional styles as ten regional cuisines in China. There are also featured Buddhist and Muslim sub-cuisines within the greater Chinese cuisine, with an emphasis on vegetarian and halal-based diets respectively.

Rice and Other Things to Eat

Rice

Rice has been China's chief grain dated back to Song dynasty (960-1279), but it is not the only important staple foodstuff. Rice is grown and eaten mostly in south of China. In north of China, where the main cereal crops are wheat, millet and sorghum, noodles and steamed buns made from dough are more usual. These grains and starchy foods are called FAN in Chinese; vegetables and meat are called CAI. A balanced meal contains both FAN and CAI.

A densely populated land with limited fuel supplies needs a method of cooking that is economical of resources. Chinese cuisine relies on much labour being spent on preparation, in order that cooking can be done quickly. The most common, but not the only, method used by Chinese cooks is stir-frying, in which food is cut into bite-size pieces and cooked fast at high temperature. The food is brought to the table on serving dishes from which the diners help themselves. Each person usually has a bowl, a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. Chopsticks have been in use since Shang times (about 1700-1050 BC).

Among the well-to-do it was the custom to have a separate table for each person. The narrow, rectangular tables were placed close together in a semi-circular arrangement or as three sides of a square. Several people would have been able to sit round a square table like the one illustrated here. We know that this is a dining table because it has raised edges to stop anything that spills from dripping in the diners' laps. Tablecloths were not used to cover the table top although the front and sides were sometimes draped with silk hangings.

Chinese Dumpling (Jiaozi)

Chinese Dumpling

Chinese Dumpling (Jiaozi) is a traditional Chinese Food, which is essential during holidays in Northern China. Jiaozi has become one of the most widely loved foods in China. This is because of many reasons. Here is a list of them.

Jiaozi is one of the most important foods in Chinese New Year, since the shape of Jiaozi is similar to ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots, they symbolize wealth. Traditionally, the members of a family get together to make dumplings in the New Year's Eve. They may hide a coin in one of the dumplings. The person who finds the coin will likely have a good fortune in the New Year. Jiaozi is also popular in other Chinese holidays or festivals, so it is part of the Chinese culture.

Chinese Alcohol

In Chinese the word for alcohol "JIU" is used to mean all types of alcoholic beverages, from "PIJIU" (beer) to liquors (just called 'jiu') to grape wine ('putao jiu').

Chinese people have drunk alcohol with their meals since the Neolithic period (about 5000-1700BC). Most alcoholic drinks are produced from cereal grains and some are drunk warm. The little pot shown here, made between AD 500 and 580, was used for heating wine. The tripod legs would have straddled the heat source. The handle at the side of the pot is hollow to take a wooden extension for lifting it off the stove. At the same time a stick would have been passed through the ceramic loop on the opposite side to steady the hot pot. Wine warmers like this often look a bit like animals. The potters who made them sometimes played up this resemblance by adding tails and beast-like heads or faces, or by giving the tripod legs hooves or paws. This pot has an animal's tail but no face.

The ewer and stemcup shown on the table were also for alcohol. The ewer is unusual because it is made out of a piece of jade. Stemcups were only ever used for alcoholic drinks. The Chinese term means 'urging cup': the drinker toasts his companions and at the same time urges them to down another cup.

Tea

Tea

Tea is China's most popular beverage. Chinese people drink green unfermented tea, taken hot without milk or sugar, with meals and snacks and on its own throughout the day. Today, they use mugs with lids and handles, but up until this century tea was always drunk from small bowls. Eight hundred years separate the two tea bowls in the picture. The one on the stand was made between 1000 and 1125, by which time tea drinking had become an everyday habit for most and an art for some. Aristocrats and educated monks and nuns would gather together to taste fine teas and appreciate beautiful utensils. The powdered tea favoured at this time was whisked up with hot water in the tea bowl until it formed froth. The white whipped topping showed up well against black tea bowls like this, which was one reason for their popularity. Tea making competitions were held, the winner being the person whose froth lasted longest. The thick sides of these stoneware bowls mean the heat of the tea is not lost quickly and the tea- drinker's fingers do not get scalded. Stands, such as the one here, were used for serving or to raise steaming tea bowls to the lips.

In China, the Chinese drink tea at every meal for good health and simple pleasure. Chinese tea consists of tea leaves which have been processed using methods inherited from China. According to popular legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a Camellia sinensis tree fell into water the emperor was boiling. Tea is deeply woven into the history and culture of China. The beverage is considered one of the seven necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce and vinegar.

Some writers classify tea into four categories, white, green, oolong and black. Others add categories for red, scented and compressed teas. All of these come from varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant. Chinese flower tea, while popular, is not a true tea. Most Chinese tea is consumed in China and is not exported. Green tea is the most popular type of tea used in China. Dragon Well Tea and Eyes on Heaven Tea is very famous in China.

Long Jing and Tian Mu may match Heaven Pool tea due to the weather in their growing regions. Because the cold season comes earlier to the mountains, there is abundant snow in the winter; hence the tea plants germinate later.

Long Jing tea is manufactured in the West Lake district in Hangzhou city, China. There is a Longjing (Dragon Well) on the Feng Huang Mountain. Tian Mu Mountain is located in Lin, a county in the north west of Zhejiang province. There are two 1500-meter peaks, each with a pond on top filled with crystal clear water looking like an eye, hence the name of Eyes on Heaven.

China Cuisine Tours

 
4 Days Guilin Yangshuo Cuisine Tour   4 Days Guilin Yangshuo Cuisine Tour
Duration: 4 days Available: daily
Visiting: Guilin, Yangshuo
Enjoy the breathtaking landscape in Guilin and Yangshuo and take cooking class to learn how to make the local food...

Cuisine tour at Yangshuo details...

 
 
 
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