Module 6: Ancient Chinese Innovations, Soy and Fermentation

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China was the founder of many inventions that changed the course of history and humanity, including printing, gunpowder, paper-making, and the compass. China is the oldest existing literate society, with over 4,000 years of written history.


During the time of the Punic Wars in the Mediterranean in 250 BC, the province of Sichuan was called Shu. The governor of Shu was a man called Li Bing, who is said to be one of the best hydraulic engineers of history. Since water resources and management was one of the more difficult issues in developing China, which had a tendency to have severe droughts and flooding periods, it was strongly linked with politics and authority. The golden age of ancient China was during the ruling of Emperor Yao, who had implemented flood control techniques. Li Bing was said to encompass the mythical characteristics of Emperor Yao, the god who tamed natured and abolished floods. However, Li Bing’s existence is well documented, as opposed to the mythical Emperor Yao. Li Bing’s biggest feat was the construction of the first dam. He divided the Minjiang River in Dujiangyan, an area where the Yangtze River flows into another body of water. By constructing the dam, the river became redirected into a series of channels and spillways that could be controlled. If the land was in a drought, the channels could be opened to help irrigate crops. If there was flooding, the channels could be closed. Li Bing had three men made of stone put into the water to gauge when the channels should be opened or closed. If Li Bing could see the stone figures’ feet, it indicated a drought and the dam’s gates should be opened. If the shoulders of the men were covered in water, the dam’s gates should be closed to avoid flooding. As a result of the efficient Dujiangyan dam system, the eastern plains of Sichuan became the “Land of Abundance” and a Chinese agricultural hub. The dam system at Dujiangyan is still operational today, leaving Sichuan as a somewhat eternal land of abundance and agriculture.


Two water gauges for the damn that were carved in AD 168 with the inscription “to perpetually guard the waters,” were discovered in 1974, along the banks of the Minjiang [min-jiong] river. One is the oldest stone figure that has ever been discovered of an identifiable person, Li Bing. It appears that these statues were created as a replacement for the original statues that were used as water gauges. The original statues that were placed in the water were the gods of flood control. 400 years after Li Bing’s death, he became considered one of the gods of flood control as well.

Although the area of Sichuan has been producing salt since 3,000 BC, Li Bing was the one who discovered that the natural brine from which salt is made, didn’t come from the pools where it was originally found but rather, seeped into the pools from the ground. After this massive discovery, Li Bing ordered the drilling of the world’s first brine well in 252 BC. The wells were like open pits with wide openings, some were drilled more than 300 feet into the ground. Once the technology advanced and the hydraulic engineers became more proficient in drilling wells, they were able to drill even deeper and contain them to a narrower pit. Sometimes, an explosion or flames would erupt from the boreholes, killing entire crews of engineers. Some workers would also fall ill, become weak and die. After multiple occurrences of these sorts of dangerous situations, the salt workers became convinced that evil spirits were rising up from the underworld through the boreholes. The evil spirit is said to have emerged at two wells in 68 BC: one well in Sichuan and one in Shaanxi. On an annual basis, the provincial governors would go to the wells to make offerings to ward off the evil spirits.


Eventually, the salt workers discovered that the wells were not indeed portals to the underworld for evil spirits rather, some type of invisible substance. By AD 100, the salt workers would light the invisible substance being emanating from the boreholes, and were able to create a fire to cook with. A short time later, the salt workers learned how to insulate bamboo with mud and brine, to be able to effectively pipe the invisible substance into boiling houses. Basically, these houses were just a shed to store pots of brine, where the mysterious substance was used to boil the water until all that was left in the pot was salt. Eventually, this technology advanced even further, where the boiling houses were fitted with iron pots that were heating with gas flames. Given that the Chinese discovered this technology in AD 200 and it took until 1820 for Europe to figure out how to make gas stoves, this is a pretty astonishing technological advancement - not only within the salt industry of China but also in the evolution of Chinese cuisine. This discovery was the first use of natural gas in human history.


The salt workers refined the technology to be able to drill even narrower holes, allowing for even deeper wells. To extract the brine from that depth, a long tube made of bamboo, with a leather valve at the bottom, was plunged down the well. The valve would remain shut due to the water pressure, allowing for the bamboo tube to be pulled out of the well with the brine inside. Once it was removed from the well, it was placed over a tank and a stick would be used to poke it, which would allow the leather valve to spill the brine into the tank. A series of bamboo pipes were used to transport the brine from the tank into the boiling house, as well as pipes that were placed below the opening of the well to funnel natural gas into the boiling house.


Realistically, China was the perfect environment for this innovation to occur, since bamboo is salt resistant, with the salt itself being able to kill any microorganisms that could cause rotting. A mixture of tung oil and lime or mud would seal the joints of the pipes. With the invention of piping, it allowed the Chinese to create plumbing and irrigation systems. In Hangzhou [hang-cho] in 1089 and Canton in 1096, large bamboo water mains were installed and villages, farms, and private homes were fitted with bamboo plumbing. Ventilators and holes were even installed in these plumbing systems to prevent blockages and pockets of air. Using gravity to their advantage, salt workers fitted bamboo piping all across the countryside, and by the mid-11th century, the Sichuan salt workers created percussion drilling, which became the most sophisticated technology for drilling over the following 700-800 years.


Using a heavy, long rod with sharp iron on the end, a hole could be bored by dropping it into the ground. The rod was guided inside a bamboo tube, to ensure that it was boring into the same place every time it was dropped. The salt worker would contrast his weight with the heavy rod on the other end using a wooden lever. The salt worker would move the lever up and down, manipulating his own weight with the weight of the rod, causing the iron on the end to pound into the ground, in the exact same spot, consecutively. A well that was hundreds of feet deep would eventually hit brine after 3-5 years.


While King Harold from England was murdered at Hastings by an arrow in 1066, the Chinese believe that the bow and arrow were originally invented by Huangdi, who was one of the god-like figures we spoke about earlier in ancient Chinese prehistory. By this time, the Chinese were already accustomed to using gun powder, which required - you guessed it, salt. Salt truly catapulted China into some serious technological advancements, whether by accident or deliberately. Gunpowder could be made from combining potassium nitrate or saltpetre, with sulphur and carbon. When the powder was lit, the gases it produced would expand so quickly that an explosion would occur.


The last significant technological breakthrough in salt processing was made in the twentieth century. Instead of trapping seawater in a single artificial reservoir, sealing it, and waiting for the sun to evaporate the water, the salt makers constructed a series of ponds. The first pond was a large open tank with a series of pumps and channels that transferred the seawater to the next pond after reaching an elevated salinity. The water evaporated further there, and a denser brine was transferred to the next pond. Fresh seawater passed into the first pond to allow for a new lot of brine to be made simultaneously. When the brine approaches the proper consistency, the salt crystallizes, and the crystals settle at the floor of the pond, where they can be scooped out. It can take over a year for seawater to achieve this consistency in a pond with only solar heat. However, with the ample sun and wind and the dry season to keep runoff from diluting the dams, the only output cap is the area available, the number of ponds that can run simultaneously. It needs little equipment, very little money, and little human resources except for the final scraping point. Western scholars assume that the Chinese may have been the first to develop this strategy around A.D. 500. However, the Chinese historians, who are hesitant to discredit the inventor's rights of any creation, lay no claim to this. The Chinese were not happy with the salt provided by this technique. Slow evaporation results in rough salt and the Chinese have often found fine-grained salt to be of better quality.


Chinese Salt well technology, which was ahead of the world in the Middle Ages, continued to develop. One advancement added four oxen tied to a post, pushed in a circle, which twisted and created a tough, braided bamboo leaf rope. Counterweighted with massive rock slabs that ran to a large wheel, the rope's framework acted as a pulley and spanned to the derrick's top, powering a bamboo tube that got lowered into the brine. The longer the tube, the higher the wooden derrick that lifted it and lowered it. In the boiling house, pipes led the brine into the gas-heated pots. After adding a ladle of the ground yellow bean, soya and water to the brine, yellow dirt would grow on the surface and get skimmed off, ridding the salt of impurities with a more precise solution than the Europeans ever found. After five to six hours of boiling the brine to pure crystal, the salt was poured into a barrel and hardened.


The Shen Hai well was drilled in Zigong in 1835. Natural gas struck at 2.700 feet. The well reached natural brine at 2,970 feet, but drilling continued down to 3,300 feet, making it the world's deepest well-drilled at the time. Twenty-four hours later, an American would be cheered for drilling 69.5 feet in Titusville, Pennsylvania.


In Zigong, the Chinese continued to use percussion drilling despite the American oil industry developing much faster techniques. Their homegrown technology was sluggish but achieved depths that were incredible even in the petroleum era. Although it broke records in 1835, the Shen Hai well was drilled deeper to 4,400 feet in 1966. The Chinese character, meaning "well," is a depiction of a Zigong derrick. The derricks, towers of grey, weather-beaten tree trunks lashed high in the air, fitted with bamboo leaf ropes, pointed the Zigong [See-gong] landscape as oil wells do in petroleum towns. Sichuan saltmakers found the layer of rock salt under Zigong in 1892. Zigong contains more salt than brine salt today. Nevertheless, in the first decades of the twentieth century, Zigong worked between 300 and 400 brine wells.


More important was the development of food technologies of the Zhou. Flour milling and oil development advanced significantly.


A closely integrated farming system evolved, mixing this intensive rice farming with aquaculture, duck and pig rearing, and fruit and vegetable planting. Any crop fits tightly in its place. When the crops were too old to produce food, snails and insects would feed and leave manure behind. Several fish species were bred, each feeding a separate collection of natural pond life-forms. Pigs and chickens ate leftovers and inedible objects. Frogs and other animals were trapped and eaten. What escaped the ecosystem was cycled by shellfish and finfish. Nothing was missed or wasted. This method, along with similar southern Japan and central Java schemes, was the world's most vigorous and profitable cultivation until green-revolution crops grew in the mid-twentieth century. Fish are the primary animal protein in marine and delta regions. Thousands of aquatic animals exist and can thrive in these aquaculture systems. Recently, overfishing has rendered aquaculture more relevant.


One of the oldest and most advanced irrigation systems in operation is the Min River irrigation scheme, constructed by the Li family of engineers in the third century B.C.E. Historically, it was used for millet and rice, with wheat being significant in the northern fringes.


The Bronze Age saw another impressive advancement when animal power was harnessed for wheeled transportation and ploughing. Sophisticated irrigation systems were also established; thus, another significant rise in food production became inevitable. Animal-drawn ploughs enabled a person to develop more extensive areas of land; wheeled transportation indicated that surplus could be moved more efficiently; and irrigation in the sunny lands of the Near East resulted in increased yields, mainly of rice, but also of the other prominent Neolithic cultivars, wheat and barley. These numerous developments contributed to agricultural expansion and, therefore, population growth and socioeconomic distinction. Using manual cultivation techniques and having ample property supply, hiring others to work was hardly lucrative or even feasible, except under conditions of slavery. Before the Bronze Age, landholding was quite democratic, including food processing. Many households had a nearly comparable food source, as was the case with older hunter-gatherer systems, where food sharing was heavily institutionalized. With the introduction of the plough, equality quickly dissolved. One man could farm a larger plot than another, so purchasing additional property became a means to sustain a better quality of life, not just by paying farmers for labour but by utilizing the surplus to sell with local experts or buy luxury products from merchants. These luxuries included culinary delicacies imported from abroad, particularly those that could tolerate travel, such as cheese brought to Rome from the Central Massif of France, or sugars brought from India to China, or wine and olive oil shipped across the Mediterranean.


The Bronze Age urban revolution established societal towns, allowing communities to support full-time specialists by supplying them with food from their newly overflowing food stores. Since the specialists were fed and were not busy trying to feed themselves, they could focus on trades, metalworking, and publishing. Trade and transportation allowed for varied food supplies and resources. Metalworking and ovens allowed for new cooking techniques, such as baking. Writing contributed to refining and conveying more complicated recipes and gradually developing a distinct and even high cuisine in China, India, and the Arab and Muslim world. Hierarchical disparities in diet set aside, higher agricultural efficiency indicated that a nation could supply a significantly greater number of inhabitants, a selection of which could be involved in non-essential food processing practices. City dwellers needed large-scale transportation of food to markets, restaurants, and other locations beyond the home. China was the first to witness restaurant growth within its large towns and the emergence of ready-to-eat goods at the market, such as tofu.


Sustained and comprehensive food supply allowed communities to establish science, literature, and political structures, all further advancing agriculture. Highly evolved farming systems became the foundation of China's growth and unification.


Egyptians are credited with inventing paper by pushing together papyrus sheets, but the Chinese developed actual paper using paper mulberry.


Shi Huangdi, meaning “first emperor,” ordered the Great Wall of China to be built in 221 BC, in order to protect China from the Mongol attacks from the north. The Great Wall of China proved to be a very expensive construction project, which was paid for mainly by the high taxes placed on the salt industry, which was the first recorded monopolization in history. The wall is 25 feet tall, spanning thousands of miles and required over a million men to build. Aside from the pyramids, it is also one of the few great wonders of the world that can be observed from outer space. Shi Huangdi also used the monopoly to fund other construction projects, similar to the pharaohs and Romans, which we will touch on in a future episode, and these projects included a giant palace that was able to hold 40,000 people. Since Shi Huangdi was convinced that he would be a ruler of China after his death, being the great emperor that he was, he ordered the construction of 6,000 life-size warriors and horses, as well as 1,400 chariots sculpted from clay to be displayed in his tomb. However, due to this insane amount of taxation and farmers spending their time constructing these large projects for the emperor instead of working in the fields, there was a shortage of crops and the entire empire collapsed.


The revenues from the Salt monopoly during the Qin dynasty encouraged the funding for large public works projects, such as the Great Wall of China, which was built to stop the Huns, as well as other invaders, from being able to enter China from the north.


China is home to some of the most dramatic geography, plant, and animal life on earth. On the Western border of China, the Himalayan mountains stand with the tallest peak on earth at almost 30,000 feet. Mount Everest is almost twice as tall as Mount Whitney in California. The lowest point within China, at 900 feet below sea level, is over three times lower than Death Valley in California. China also sees dramatic climates that include tropical rain forests to ice caps, monsoon rains followed by droughts.


According to the Book of Han, written during the Eastern Han dynasty about the Western Han dynasty, The Huang He River was named the Yellow River, due to the perennial colour of the muddy water and yellow silt in the lower course of the river, which arises from the soil being carried downstream. Due to its course changes and shifting elevation of the river bed, the Huang He would cause devastating floods to the region. The river was also called “the father of floods.” The Huang He and Yangtze rivers are the two great rivers in Chinese history, both of which begin in the Tibetan plateau and wind towards the eastern coast of China. The Yellow River flows along arid northern regions, which tend to produce more silt, in turn raising the riverbed causing flooding. The Yangtze however, is wider with many spots that flow into larger rivers or bodies of water. The river flows through the rainy and lush centre area of China, splitting the country in half. The river flows from the Tibetan mountains to Shanghai on the east coast of China by the sea.


Southeastern Chinese foods are extraordinarily diverse. For those that divide Chinese food by compass points, Fujian has distinct eastern parallels with neighbouring areas. Its food is affected by rivers, long coastlines and rough mountains, some touching the sea. This area, its landscape and food, is called shan Shui, meaning mountain and water. It is one of China's five excellent traditional cuisines, the others being from Guangzhou (Canton), Honan, Shandong, and Sichuan provinces.


Beijing has a sandy, dusty, oppressively hot autumn and relentlessly cold and windy winter. Nearby hills offer refuge from summer weather, but there is no escape from the winter chill. Today, and to some degree in the past, haze and soot thinly fill the area, contributing to the irritation. Until recently, the familiar foods in China's colder, wetter areas, such as rice, fish, and subtropical fruits and vegetables, were unusual luxuries.


What is commonly defined as Sichuan cuisine is part of a more extensive suite of culinary traditions in West China's cuisine. Traditionally, the Chinese schematize the universe in sets of five. In this system, China's great cuisines are Beijing, Sichuan (or Hunan-Sichuan), Shandong, Yangzi Delta, and Guangdong. However, splitting Chinese cuisine into north (including Beijing and Shandong), east, south, and west are more ecologically and geographically correct. The western community comprises Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Gueizhou and Hubei cuisines. Culinary borders do not precisely align with provincial boundaries. Yunnan and Gueizhou have broad communities of distinctive foods. Hubei sections and other provinces shade into other culinary areas.


Sichuan's west is Tibet. This large highland grows very few foods. Barley and buckwheat, which rise high, are staples. Tsamba is particularly important to nomadic herders and other travellers, which is barley roasted in the oven and ground into meal. For instant food, this can be combined with tea, milk, or broth. Dairy goods are highly essential, mostly made of yak milk. Butter is a snack and a sunblock, sculpture medium, gift piece, and more. Since there are few vegetables available, wild herbs are used.


Geography, history and communication worked together to form Western Chinese cuisine. Two items distinguish the cuisine: its use of mountain products and hot spices. In this mountainous zone, China's wettest and most biologically rich areas exist. Outside the wet tropics, thick woods have a range of mushrooms and fungi.


Xiamen is an important upstream port city shielded from typhoons, helping the province become a big maritime trade hub.


Soy dates back to 1,300 B.C. Fish would be fermented in salt. Once soybeans were added to the fermentation process and the fish was left out, the soybeans and salt created what is now mass-produced on a seriously large scale: soy sauce. Soybeans are legumes that have very nutritious properties, since they provide a good source of food, as well as provide nourishment for the soil they are grown in.

Fish fermented in salt, called Jiang, was considered one of the most popular salt-based condiments in ancient China. Once the soybeans were added to ferment with the fish and the fish was eventually removed altogether, the salty-soybean fermentation was called jiangyou, or, soy sauce. Soy is a legume that produces two or three beans within a small, but long furry pod. These soybeans come in a variety of different colours, including yellow, green, purple, born, spotted, black, etc. Chinese cuisine tends to make a large contrast between all the different varieties of soybeans. Jiangyou specifically, is made with yellow soybeans, but other varieties of soybeans are also fermented with salt to create other types of condiments and pastes. The earliest record of soy is writing from the 6th century BC, characterizing soy as a plant that is a 700-year-old crop from the north. Soy was actually taken to Japan by Chinese Buddhist ministers in the 6th century AD however, the Japanese did not begin making soy sauce until the 10th century, eventually naming it shoyu. Shoyu became mass-produced and sold around the globe. Although jiangyou and shoyu are pronounced differently, both words use the same character in both Chinese and Japanese writing.


Soy replenishes nutrients within the soil it’s grown in, and can help to restore fields that have been spent by the planting of different crops. The soybean has so much nutrition that one person could live on nothing but water, soy and salt alone for a surprising amount of time. The Chinese employ a technique of fermenting beans in earthen pots, which causes lactic acid fermentation. This fermentation process occurs between 64°F-71°F, which can be easily achieved in many climates around the globe. Once a vegetable being to rot, its sugars begin to break down and produce lactic acid, acting as a form of preservative. Theoretically, this process could occur without salt however, the proteins and carbohydrates in vegetables spoil too quickly to allow them to be preserved by the lactic acid. Without the presence of salt, it becomes possible for years to form, which results in more of an alcohol than a pickling or fermentation process. Ensuring that oxygen is not present within this process is crucial to its success. Often, the items will be placed in a sealed jar or by placing a weight on top of the vegetables so that they are completely submerged in the liquid, which will help produce a successful lactic acid fermentation process. The Ancient Chinese would pickle items using earthen jars, which would create a white film called kahm yeast on the top. Kahm yeast is non-toxic but has an unpalatable flavour, so every two weeks, the board, stone weight, and cloth needed to be washed or sometimes boiled to get rid of the kahm film. This process became laborious and is a large reason why pickling using earthen jars fell out of practice in most places in the world.


Pickled vegetables are a staple in Sichuan, and provide a pleasant counterbalance with the mild flavour of unsalted rice that is often eaten as a breakfast food. The rice is left unsalted since the pickled vegetables provide the saltiness within the dish. South of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, is a hilly salt town called Zigong. Due to the prominence of the town’s brine wells, the town grew into a city. In the centre of the city is a market that sells salt, as well as jars used specifically for pickling paocai and zhacai. Pocai is usually only brined for about two days, which has more of a focus on flavour, rather than preservation or fermentation techniques. The vegetables still remain crisp, and the salt lends a hand to maintaining and brightening the colour of the vegetables. Zhacai is a similar dish, but it uses salt as opposed to a brine, wherein the vegetables are alternated within layers of salt crystals. Since salt dehydrates vegetables, the juices seep out and combine with the salt, effectively creating a brine. This is a similar process to Sauerkraut if you will.


A tradition in Zigong is when a baby girl is born, family members will place a vegetable in the jars every year, and once the peasant girl gets married, she is given the jars of Zhacai. The antiquated philosophy was to have the peasant girl married after twelve to fifteen jars.


The Chinese also discovered that they could transport eggs once they had been preserved in salt. If the eggs are soaked in a brine for over a month, the egg observes the consistency of a hard-boiled egg, with a bright orange yolk that will not spoil or break. Sometimes the eggs would be soaked in the brine for a shorter amount of time, then encased with salted mud and straw to preserve them. The “1,000-year-old-egg,” is a similar, but more complex fermentation technique, that requires ash, lye, salt and tea. The eggs take 100 days to ferment and will not spoil for 100 more days after that. The yolk of the egg takes on a green tinge with a strong odour.


Sophisticated pickling and preservation techniques helped to ward off the long, cold winters. Pickled vegetables, sausages, dried meat, salted foods and fruit preserves are valuable.


Soybeans joined during the early Zhou Chinese archive, supplementing adzuki beans grown for centuries, and perhaps even millennia. Soybeans arose in northern China and Manchuria, and they appear to have been domesticated by non-Han cultures, probably the Hongshan civilization around 2000 B.C.E. In the Zhou texts, it describes bean curd and soy sauce development that appear to have begun. Fermented sauces were recognized in Zhou, but their actual existence is unclear.


Chinese foods depend heavily on soybeans. Soybean appears to have been borrowed by the Chinese in the Zhou Dynasty from non-Chinese communities in northern China. At first, it was a low-class food, but soon cooks learned to profit from it. The first gourmet usage was in thick fermented sauces (jiang), ancestral to Japanese miso. At some early stage, brewed liquid soy sauce (dou yu) and common black-fermented soybeans in south China were invented. These simple goods have spawned a range of local ferment products, sometimes utilizing wheat flour, other bean varieties, vegetables, chillies, spices, or other ingredients. Soy ferments were sometimes the only supply of vitamin B12, a required nutrient for people with dietary deficiencies. Bean curd (tofu, doufu) was invented in the Han Dynasty. There are no unambiguous sources; however, recent data confirms Han date. Tofu is produced by grinding soybeans with water, boiling the resulting milk, and coagulating with calcium phosphate, alum, or a related coagulant. The result is exceptionally healthy and if produced with calcium, a significant calcium source. The oil and some diet inhibitors leave a low-calorie, high-nutrient substance of wastewater. It has served the poor's protein supply over much history. All skin forming on boiling milk, lees, and other related products are used, particularly in vegetarian cuisine. With increasing income, tofu consumption has decreased in China—but has exploded in the health-conscious western world.


In the past, soy goods, including bean curd, soy sauce, and fermented black beans, provided more protein than meat in Cantonese cuisine. Condiments include vinegar, potent mustard, white pepper, chilli sauces, soy sauce, and soy sauce variations. Chinese cuisine is impossible without soy sauce. Rice alone is not a meal, but rice with soy sauce was the only meal for the poor in earlier days. Distinctly Cantonese, and an accurate marker of the cuisine, are tau si, boiled, salted, and fermented soybeans that turn black and develop a rich, meaty taste.


Soybeans do reasonably well when complemented by broad beans, which entered from the Near East in the early medieval days. Shortly after, lima beans came to the region and are essential in Yunnan locally. Many fermented bean items are prepared elsewhere in China, but this area is distinctive for its widespread usage of broad beans and enormous quantities of chilli peppers in many fermented sauces. Distinctive, high-quality pickled and salted vegetable varieties, particularly garlic, Chinese cabbages, and bamboo shoots, are typical of Sichuan and are widely exported.


Soy sauce in Fijuanese cuisine is made with local water, is used sparingly in foods themselves, but they use significant quantities for dipping sauces. Fujian cuisine influenced other southeastern countries, which inspired the use of fermented fish sauces and soy sauce in Fuzhou.


Soybeans can be cultivated best in northern climates.


In Zhejiang, some fascinating ferments are made, and China's best vinegar, Zhejiang's aged vinegar, is from Jiangsu. This vinegar takes the same place in Chinese cuisine as balsamic in Italian cuisine and is vaguely visually reminiscent of balsamic. A bright purple-red fungal ferment is produced in Fujian and is added to nearly everything. Unique is a fresh crab dish marinated with the grain "wine," vinegar, and other flavours, resulting in an acquired taste.


Ancient China and Southeast Asia have produced fermented condiments, where fish and other fermented sauces played important culinary roles. By the seventeenth century, sauces were developed throughout East and Southeast Asia. Today, China, India, and Japan manufacture limited amounts of fermented fish sauces, but Southeast Asia remains the development and consumption core.


About the 3rd century A.D., the Chinese learned flour fermentation methods using the quickly fermented rice soup as a catalyst. Later, when producing dough, bases were experienced to neutralize fermentation. The most popular food produced from flour will be mantou, or a simple steamed bun after introducing fermentation techniques.


Of all "rough foods," soybeans made the most significant contribution. Soybean planting's earliest record was in West Zhou Dynasty. Soybeans were farmers' food then. It was not until the West Han Dynasty (26 B.C. – 25 A.D.) that it became appropriate to the bureaucrats and the literati community of Chinese culture. There are well over a hundred forms of tofu and foods produced from soybean milk. Chinese-grown soybeans and soybean items have an essential vegetable protein supply and can be rendered into several luxury sauces. Bean curd is somewhere in the primary and supplemental food types. After its development, it has developed into several styles of dishes, becoming traditional Chinese home cooking.


A common and easy way to cook bean curd is to serve it cold with sauce or boil it in water, then dress in soy sauce, sesame oil sauce or other sauces. Tofu baked with sauce or stewed with vegetables is also very popular. Mapo Tofu, meaning numb-hot bean curd, can be found in Chinese restaurants globally. Mapo Tofu is made by placing diced bean curd in pre-cooked minced meat and, once thoroughly boiled, applying some hot sauce and Chinese prickly ash powder. Besides tofu, other foods made from beans, which belong to the same family as bean curd, are also popular dishes during the year.


All regions of China dry or pickle vegetables, beans, eggs and meats. These foods are designed for extended storage and have become less of a main course during meals as living standards have changed, but are now more of a delicious treat. In several countries, farmers dry vegetables. Home-style cuisine stresses the mixture of meat and non-meat to create a good dinner.




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