Chinese prefer to combine gourmet food with festivals and important occasions. The most interesting part of cuisine culture lies in the feast offered on various occasions, including festivals, birthday parties, weddings, funerals. Different occasions match with different cuisines.
Jiao Zi (Chinese Dumplings)
Dumpling is the representative of Chinese traditional food, which is indispensable in Northen China household during the holidays. Because it is shaped like the ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots, dumpling symbolizes wealth. In the New Year’s Eve, all family members try to gather to have the reunion banquet. People may hide a coin in dumpling when they make it, and the people who find the coin will likely to make a fortune in the coming New Year.
Dumpling can be filled in various stuffing, and the most typical flavor is the chopped leek and pork. Steaming, boiling or pan-frying all is cooking methods to cook dumpling. The authentic way to eat is dipping the dumpling to some seasoning.
On the other hand, dumpling can be a fast food with good nutrition. You don’t need to cook other dishes when you plan to eat dumpling on big occasions. It already has the rich content inside! Today, people will find different kinds of deep-frozen dumplings in supermarket.
Nian Gao (New Year Cake)
Niangao is an indispensible food in Chinese New Year for the meaning of thriving in the New Year. It’s a kind of Chinese cake, made by sticky rice flour and brown sugar, or meat and spring onion. It is Southerners’ favorite New Year food. The shape is round. In Chinese, ‘Gao’ has the same pronunciation with the word meaning ‘High’, and ‘Nian’ means year. So ‘Nian Gao’ is a symbolization for gaining improvement in life year by year. What’s more, the round shape means family reunion.
Zongzi is a traditional food of Dragon Boat Festival. Generally speaking, Zongzi is made of sticky rice with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. Different regions of China have their own flavors of Zongzi. For example, in Southern China, you will find fat pork soaked in soy sauce or bean paste in the middle of the sticky rice. While Zongzi in northern China often uses dry dates as filling, and there is also a kind of Zongzi without any fillings. The most common shape of Zongzi is pyramidal or triangular.
Making Zongzi can be challengeable. People should make the bamboo or reed leaves into a funnel shape and place the rice inside, and then use the straw or thread fasten it.
Moon cake is the most popular food in Mid-autumn Festival. It is a kind of cookie with fillings of lotus seed, the yolk of preserved eggs, apricot kernel, olive kernel, green pea, sesame, dry mushroom, shrimp, tangerine peel, lemon leaves, and so on, which can mainly be classify.
Tangyuan is a typical food in Chinese Lantern Festival. It’s a kind of dumplings in China. The fillings inside the tangyuan are various. Sesame is the most common filling. There is a slight difference between northern China and southern China. The filling is salty in northern China, while that is sweet in southern China.
Royal Cuisine originated from the imperial kitchens, where dishes were cooked for the royal families. It is made from selected materials and cooked with great care. In addition, the cutting skills are delicate. The dishes of royal cuisine often have beautiful names with auspicious meanings. They are excellent in color, fragrance, taste, shape, and dishware as well as dish arranging.
In China, there’s another way to classify cuisines besides region that is based on the origin of the dishes. This system includes dishes of the palace, official, common people, mountain and forest temples, and ethnic minorities, as well as dishes of foreign countries. This way of classification has a very long history. It was based on the rigid stratification of China’s feudal society, which lasted for thousands of years and forced different ways of living upon the people. The differences in the stratification of the foods were recorded in the Unofficial Annals of the States in the Spring and Autumn Period as follows, ‘The emperor ate beef and sheep; officials ate pig; scholars ate fish; and the common people ate vegetables.’ Feudal ethics and different living standards among the differing strata resulted in Chinese food being classified into the palace, official, and common people cuisines. Official cuisine, also called the cuisine of the officialdom and literati, included the famous dishes of the wealthy people. The standards for the officials are it should be lower than for palace food while remain far superior to that of the common people. Official dishes were created by working people, but were eaten only by feudal bureaucrats, aristocrats, and the rich.
The Vegetarian Cuisine became popular as early as the Song Dynasty (960AD -1279AD) and developed further into three major schools in Ming and Qing Dynasties, they are temple vegetarian dishes, court vegetarian dishes and folk vegetarian dishes. Made of green vegetables, fruits, edible fungi, soybean products, and cooked in vegetable oil. The dishes are tasty, nourishing, and highly digestible. What’s more, the vegetarian cuisine can help the body resist cancer. Cooking by the various methods, some of the materials can be appeared and tasted like meat.
The most impressive about Islamic dishes is that you can’t see any pork in the Islamic dishes. Actually, there are many taboos about Islamic dishes according to the Koran. Islamic Dishes have became more and more popular as Islam was introduced into China and absorbed the traditional cookery of nomadic peoples in northwest and northeast of China. Visitors can find the Islamic cuisine restaurants all over the country especially in the north and northwest of China, for people there believe Islam.
The cuisine is an important and characteristic part of Chinese cuisine. The cuisine mainly is soup boiled with many Chinese medicines for several hours. The chefs have developed many food therapies by combining cookery and traditional Chinese medicine. Medicines cuisines are not only tasty but also good for health.
Minority Ethnic Cuisine
Apart from the Han, China also has 55 minority ethnic groups whose living habits vary greatly. Living on the grassland and engaging in herding and hunting, the Mongolians are called ‘the ethnic group on the horseback’. Their typical food, like Roast Whole Lamb, Roast Lamb Leg, Mutton Eaten with Fingers and Milky Tea, is well known both at home and abroad. The Tibetan dwells on the roof of the world. Due to high altitude, water’s boiling point is too low to cook highland barley. So they bake the barley and grind it into flour to make a special staple food named Zanba. The minorities living in muggy zones in southwest China favor to sour, bitter and spicy food, such as Roast fish Wrapped in Lemongrass created by the Dai people in Yunnan Province. Apart from adding ingredients like ginger and pepper, they wrap the fish with lemongrass and then grill it on a fire.