One of the most popular cuisines in the world, Chinese food can be found pretty much in every country around the globe. This flavorsome cuisine goes back thousands of years, and over time has evolved depending on regional climate and local preferences. If you love Chinese fare, here are some interesting facts about this unique cuisine to tantalize your taste buds.
Food is Meant to be Shared
While in the West, we are all used to ordering one dish each, things are a little bit different when it comes to Chinese food. This is because Chinese cuisine is meant to be shared among a group. While rice is usually served separately in small bowls, vegetable and meat dishes are placed in the middle of the table for everybody to share. Because the food is meant to be shared, Chinese restaurants often have round tables with swiveling lazy Susans in the middle to allow diners easy access to all dishes.
Chinese cuisine is characterized by five main flavors: spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. All these must be balanced in order for the dish to be a culinary success. As a rule of thumb, food in the north is salty and the fare in the south sweet. Sichuan, Hunan and Guizhou People are mad chili enthusiasts so think again before trying any dishes that come from those regions.
Staples Vary According to Region
Rice dishes are the main staple in southern China you will always see a rice cooker upon entering a kitchen in this region while wheat noodles are the preferred staple in the north. While restaurants in southern China also offer noodles on their menus, these are usually made from rice. This is mainly because the dry northern climate in China is suited to the growth of wheat. The hot and rainy climate of southern China, on the other hand, is suited to the cultivation of rice.
While the Chinese dishes we eat in the west are usually composed of vegetables, seafood, and typical meat types such as beef or chicken, this is a whole different story in China. Some of the more shocking ingredients used in Chinese cooking include pig ears, intestines, chicken feet, and even snakes, insects and dog meat.
As westerners, we are used to finding salt and pepper shakers, or the occasional bottle of ketchup, on restaurant tables. In Chinese restaurants, on the other hand, bottles of chili paste, soy sauce and vinegar are the order of the day.
Chinese Food Tends to be Healthy
While this may come as a surprise to some, Chinese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world. Chinese dishes are usually jam packed with fresh ingredients, and feature a healthy balance between vegetables and meat. A lot of Chinese dishes are steamed or boiled, which preserves the nutrition of the original ingredients. Some Chinese dishes even contain herbal medicinal ingredients, such as ginseng and jujube.
Strangely Named Dishes
Rather than being named after their ingredients or methods of preparation, Chinese dishes are often given names based on their appearance or an auspicious story. For example vermicelli with spicy minced pork is referred to as “ants climbing a tree” in Chinese, and chili fish head is known as “hong yun dang tou,” which means good luck in Chinese.