Module 9: Ancient Chinese Herbal Medicine, Diet Therapy, Spices and Cookware

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Han developed the concept of using food as medicine. China's oldest preserved medical books are Han date, and they have plenty to tell regarding nutrition and diet therapy, which is often significant in starving China.

Asians perceive food as having either "hot" or "cold" properties, fulfilling both medicinal and nutritional purposes: three meals a day, each with tea and flatbread (nan or naan). The main meal is typically at night.

Herbal soups are standard and made with peony or rheumannia root, angelica, star anise, wolfberry, cassia bark or prickly ash/fagara. They and other plants present as tonics, concentrates and pastes.

A significant feature of Cantonese cuisine is medicinal food. Dozens of foods are consumed primarily for perceived healthy qualities: snake for winter warmth, watercress for cooling, wild ducks or pork liver for strength and energy due to its strong iron content, certain herbs for cleansing the system, and chicken soup for just about everything else. In Chinese medicine, food is heating, cooling, or neutral. Heating foods are high-calorie, fatty, reddish, or spicy and make the body heat up and produce rashes and sores. Cooling foods are low-calorie, watery, sour, or cool-coloured and make the body colder and cause unnecessary energy and power loss. Neutral food is balanced, such as rice, noodles and whitefish. Chinese wolfthorn fruits and leaves are the strongest traditional foods regarding vitamins and minerals and are used as dietary supplements. All foods have health value in Chinese medicine. Food and medicine are on a gradient scale together. Many foods, including wolfthorn, are consumed for their therapeutic benefit. White fungus, dried scallops, are borderline products on the gradient scale. Moreover, medicinal herbs like ginseng could be considered foods. Food has always been the first course of action when a person feels unwell. After giving birth, women consume foods that are considered reinforcing and warming, and modern research reveals that these foods tend to be rich in iron, calcium, and other minerals, vitamins, or readily digestible protein. These foods restore health and promote breastmilk production.

Pangolin is a superficially anteater-like beast with fur matted into rough scales. It is powerfully nourishing and consumed as medicine rather than as a delicacy. A Gueizhou recipe includes frying it with almost any strong-flavoured component in the Chinese arsenal, implying that the animal's taste must be overpowered. The pangolin seems to have no verifiable healing properties and may be considered therapeutic because of its strange characteristics, implying a powerful qi - spirit or energy.

Another system originated in ancient China and centred on The Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic, written by one of the so-called celestial emperors, Huang-ti. Possibly written during the Han dynasty, it is relatively contemporary with the other systems. In this system, the first essential principle is qi, which translates to energy, life, or spirit. Qi promotes life and combats malignant outside forces. It also flows across the cosmos, binding the human microcosm with the macrocosm—health results when there is unity between the two, as do prosperity, security, and healthy crops. Two fundamental universal powers, yin and yang, work together in the Chinese structure's core guiding theory. Yin is female: dark, cold, soft, empty, night. Yang is male: bright, light, warm, firm, full-day.

Universal and physical equilibrium relies on combining these two powers, as do the stages or cycles of changes that occur within nature. The building blocks of nature are five kinds: earth, fire, wood, metal, and water. As nature shifts, these forces govern shifting processes, such as generation. Water produces trees; burnt wood creates fire, fire creates ash. Earth is the metal source, and when heated enough, metals move like water. All physiological roles may be defined by such transformations, like breaking down and processing foods. Unique foods or medications support particular transformations, create positive qi, or encourage qi through the body, as does acupuncture. Much like the other systems, this is a natural medicine that considers exercise, air quality, sleep cycles, sexual behaviour, and nutrition to maintain the right balance between the yin and yang energies, keep the qi moving, and maintain physiological transformations.

The notion that foods are heating, cooling, drying, or moistening seems to have been brought from India about the 6th C.E. In the Modern West, the definition of diet is far more restricted than in ancient structures since it only considers food consumption, calories, and vitamins. Little attention is granted to living holistically under external forces. Diet is not carefully regulated according to a person's particular complexion or behaviours. The energy expenditure rate describes caloric needs, and all bodies are believed to require the same nutrients of a given variety to allow for genetic and other sources of variants. This thought process comes from perceiving the body as a food-fuelled motor, an idea that emerged in the nineteenth century after the chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and later Justus von Liebig's study. This transition was complete only with vitamin discovery in the early twentieth century. The diet definition was even more narrowly described as food consumption or as a rigid weight loss programme.

The Chinese tradition of healing is based on a central idea—balance—and three primary forms of delineating the forces involved in this balance: yin and yang, the theory of opposites that are interconnected and mutually dependent; the Taoist concept of the five elements or five evolutions; and the concept of qi, or "intrinsic energy." Traditional Chinese knowledge of digestive anatomy is relatively precise. However, physiological principles focused on these theories vary considerably from their Western equivalents. Both body parts and physical acts performed by the body have either yin or yang characteristics. Food is yin, whereas eating is yang. For example, overeating induces a surplus of yin that can only be offset by compensating for the lack of yang by exercising. Foods themselves also have yin or yang attributes, but a well-balanced meal is one that chooses foods to match their yin and yang qualities. Digestive organs are either yin, like the liver, or yang, like the stomach, small and large intestine, and gallbladder. Emotions influence both organs' balance of operation, where rage influences both the liver, the yin-related organ, and the yang-related gallbladder, causing both to malfunction. The Taoist five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water may be used to identify digestive system organs, tastes and smells, body orifices and tissues, emotions, and natural phenomena like the seasons. The order of the elements often gives directionality in the sense that the elements obey each other in the order of their respective seasons, and the role of one organ relies on the proper function of the previous organ within the chain.

Furthermore, the five Taoist elements operate in conjunction with the yin/yang system, such as the liver, a yin organ, and the gallbladder, a yang organ, which both correspond to wood, and anger, which is connected with both organs, therefore also corresponds to wood. As the body's "intrinsic energy," qi is essential to processes and transitions that transfer food to the proper location within the body, converting it into nourishment. Each food offers a qi quota or qi activation, or qi stagnation if poisonous foods are consumed. In fitness, food will help qi pass down through the "triple burner," consisting of three torso divisions:

  • the upper burner, devoted to respiration, containing the lungs and the heart

  • the middle burner, devoted to digestion, containing the spleen, the thyroid, the liver, and the gallbladder

  • the lower burner, devoted to expulsion, containing the kidneys, the bladder, and the lower intestine

For example, radishes are thought to help qi travel downward, facilitating digestion and wellbeing. Thus, these three interlocking structures help coordinate and guide eating activity by offering a system to perceived features of each food eaten and each health condition observed.

The Chinese approach to health rests in its "food and medicine sharing the same roots" ideology. The firm conviction that food has medicinal properties and beneficial benefits have contributed to adopting many edible plants and herbs. Moreover, with the advantages of disease control and health protection, Chinese homes have become daily dishes. At the same time, cooking pursues refinement. The amount of food and ingredient blending is critical, and it is advised to blend meats and non-meats. If producing recipes or soups, foods with good nutritional content are mixed to reach a healthy nutritional intake target.

Furthermore, dining is advised until the stomach is around 70 to 80 percent full since this tradition is passed down to generations as a secret to long life. The Chinese were granted the ability to learn about several edible plants unfamiliar to the West, and they found that plants can receive many of the vital nutrients of the human body.

In traditional Chinese medicine, duck is a luxury tonic food. It is believed that routinely eating duck improves health.

Laba porridge is now much more refined and has a better nutritional value. Top-quality laba porridge has therapeutic results ranging from benefitting the spleen, stimulating appetite, replenishing qi (chi), cleansing the blood, battling cold weather, and more. It is the usual winter tonic fare.

The selection of ingredients for any dish considers health benefits above all else. Turnip can relieve excess body heat and, therefore, is a fitting complement to lamb dishes, which cause high body heat. Spinach and tomatoes contain acidic qualities, so being coupled with calcium-rich bean curd would cause calcium salt (calcium hypochlorite), being unfavourable for digestion and absorption.

The backbone of Chinese food culture is diet therapy. The tradition of combining food and herbal medicine has existed since ancient times. The God of agriculture in Chinese legends, Shennong, taught people how to grow crops and mastered medicine by tasting hundreds of different herbs. Although it is a legend, it reflects a basic traditional Chinese philosophy, that "food and medicine share the same roots." So people's dietary intake and disease prevention and treatment have a very close relationship. Since days have gone by, Chinese people have paid close attention to health preservation and prolonging life. Huangdi Neijing's book first introduced a comprehensive view of dietary nutrition. Nutrition can be whole and balanced when the diet is comprehensive. The "five tastes" are included in the diet so that no particular taste is excessive enough to harm the internal organs. China's food culture's essence is to rely on daily diets to improve physical health and fend off illness. Compared to medicine, food is more gentle on the body. Each type of food contains a specific "fine extract" that can affect the body. When expelling excess heat from the body, the medicinal belief is that pears work for the lungs, bananas help the rectum, while kiwis work for the bladder. Different tastes have different influences on the body, and sourness usually goes to the liver, and pungency goes to the lungs, bitterness to the heart, saltiness to the kidneys, and sweetness to the spleen. Different elements are absorbed by different internal organs and have different effects on the body. Relying on food's nutritional content to influence the body is a feature of Chinese food culture, where hot and spicy food moves the flow of qi (chi) through the five primary organs.

With the peak of humidity and heat in the summer, drinks like lily bulb soup, chilled tea, mung bean soup, sweet-sour plum juice, and more can protect against heat fever. In autumn, when the air is dry, it is beneficial to eat food that moisturizes the lungs, like pear, persimmon, olive, turnip and tremella. Turnip is often eaten daily because it is cheap and has health-enhancing effects. Turnip with braised ribs or simmered lamb have tonic effects, and Chinese chestnuts, Chinese yams and river snails are also essential medicinal products for the fall season. The best time for tonics is winter. Upon entering the winter season, the Chinese like chicken, pig legs, beef, lamb, longan, walnut, sesame and other high-fat and high-calorie foods.

Every generation has different dietary therapies. Middle-aged people experience the body slowly shifting from energized to weak and need high-energy foods with protective health qualities and age-defying properties to slow down the ageing process. With a slower metabolism, middle-aged people should eat less meat from four-legged animals, such as beef and pork. Instead, they should eat "two-legged" animals, such as chickens or "one-legged" fungi or "no leg." fish. Medicine falls short compared to food in terms of providing nutrients to the body, and food works equally as well as medicine to treat illnesses. Every family knows that common fruits and vegetables can prevent and cure diseases. They believe that if a family member falls ill with a cold, to cure it: cut a few slices of ginger and add a few scallions, then add brown sugar to boil in water and drink while it is hot, then sleep under thick blankets to cause sweating, and the cold will be gone. Hen stewed in clear soup, brown sugar millet, and stir-fried sesame seeds are an excellent option for women after work that helps them quickly restore physical energy and function, relieving excess heat and revitalizing the body and mind.

Therapeutic diets combine traditional Chinese medicine with conventional food and cooking. Variety and dosage are strictly controlled. Using food instead of medicine is different since therapeutic diets make medicinal herbs taste delicious and are easier to consume. The combination of medicine and food forms a new kind of food by taking medicinal properties and the taste of great food, bringing Chinese food therapy to a new height. Popular medicinal diets include pastry, porridge stews and dishes like Duck with Chinese caterpillar Fungus, Whole Chicken Stewed with Ginkgo Nut, Stir-fried River Snails with Rice Wine, Pig Stomach with Lotus Seeds, lily bulb porridge, edible fungus cake, Chinese yam and more. Today, both large and small, Chinese cities have specialty medicinal diet restaurants, and business is prosperous. Not only did Chinese medicinal diets radiate domestically, but they are also being introduced overseas. It has been widely accepted and imitated by foreigners and is becoming part of their local food culture.

Wine made from slender acanthopanax bark, chrysanthemum wine, ginseng wine, oolong tea, ginger juice candy, sour plum and other traditional Chinese tonic drinks and foods have a large market in foreign countries. The famous western drink gin's main ingredient is a Chinese medicinal herb—the seed of Oriental arborvitae, making people calm and relaxed. Chinese Food Therapy and Medicinal Diet Practice are gaining more and more Western followers in a unified desire for health and longevity. Although Western medicine can cure many pains and illnesses, its chemical compounds' and properties can have strong side effects and have no nutritional value. However, Chinese medicinal diets revolve around natural plants and herbs, with long-term use being an accurate and safer dosage, and it can nurture the body and preserve health by strengthening the body's immune system, achieving the goal of slowing the ageing process and prolonging life. Taste usually represents the uniqueness of different regional cuisines. However, from a health preservation point of view, diets heavy on saltiness, sweetness, sourness or pungency are physically unfavourable for the body. Consuming excess salt damages the heart, spleen, and kidneys. Too much sour and pungent taste can cause ulcers. Achieving good health requires a harmonious balance of "five tastes" and light seasoning.

Since ancient times, the Chinese have eaten porridge, or congee, to prolong their lives by having a bowl of thin porridge on an empty stomach every morning. Porridge is said to prevent disease and maintain health, and carrot porridge can prevent high blood pressure. To increase essential vitamins to improve kidney function, which are organs with the nature of Yin, those who consume excessive meat and seafood should eat vegetable or wild herb porridge. Having less meat and seafood but more vegetarian dishes and porridge has always been a good option for people looking for health benefits. Vegetarian dishes with vegetables, bean-based ingredients and fungi are easy to digest and nutrient-rich. However, eating only non-meats is also not appropriate, as it is not sufficiently balanced and well rounded in nutrition for the essential nutrients the body needs—for example, calcium is rarely found in vegetarian foods. When using the five tastes in harmony and with a balanced diet, a reasonable dietary structure can be made, but it is increasingly dependent on dietary and nutritional health studies.

Having pig feet can strengthen the body and slow down the ageing process, keeping the skin smooth. People believe that having a fish head can help slow down the ageing process as well. Ginseng is an excellent tonic, and depending on the season, there are significant differences when taking tonic foods. Foods made from sticky-rice have a good texture but are not easy to digest, so most people try not to have too much. Bean curd is easy to make, rich in nutrition, and can be made into a wide range of dishes. People who believe that "food and medicine share the same roots" prefer tonic foods.

Chinese philosophy emphasizes "nature and the people as one." This kind of cultural mindset is expressed in the harmonious co-existence and development of diet and food. As a result, there are several limitations in the Chinese daily diet. These involve a proper variety of foods, seasonal or daily taboos, and "catalysts" or foods that are not appropriate when ill. Prohibitions have been passed down over centuries and discovered by experience, while others have been learned from modern empirical results. There is a strong emphasis on mixing and combining foods. For example, dumplings go with vinegar, scallions wrapped with pancakes need dips, deep-fried twisted dough sticks must go with soya milk, and noodles cannot be enjoyed without toppings and dressings. A table full of home-cooked meals must have meat and non-meat dishes, matching the Yin and Yang. For example, the mixture of main foods and supplementary foods, such as rice and beef, where beef tastes sweet and cold and rice is slightly bitter and wet. The two items are offset when sweetness is paired with bitterness to complement each other.

On the contrary, some foods do not pair well, and when combined, they can cause health problems. Examples include plums and white honey, as they attack internal organs, soya and pork, mustard and rabbit meat and more. Combinations like these can leave a diner unsatisfied, or instead, nauseous or in pain since they overate and ingested too many kinds of foods or contradict each others' properties. Food taboos among the general Chinese public have a lot to do with seasonal characteristics, meaning that the diet needs to change when the seasons change. The general population assumes that eating leek in winter and spring will 'warm the back and the knee.' However, in summer, leek leaves people 'dizzy with lousy vision.' People in Jiangxi Province enjoy spicy fresh peppers in the summer. Dry, hot peppers can also be used for the winter. However, there are no hot peppers in the typical diet for autumn. Other such taboos include:

- Breakfast cannot be dry food or eggs only.

- There should be no smoking during meals or watching T.V.

- When eating, one should not be angry.

- Do not drink too much water before and after meals.

- Have cold drinks, strong tea and fruit.

- After working the vocal cords, cold drinks harm one's throat.

- Do not get a full stomach when going on holidays and riding on motor vehicles.

- Too much sugar is unsuitable after physical exercise.

For some individuals, these everyday eating taboos are not worthy of consideration. However, as soon as one experiences discomfort or special occasions like pregnancy, these taboos must not be taken lightly. As the famous saying goes, "thirty percent treatment, seventy percent prevention." If one does not recognize "catalysts" or avoid "tabooed foods," one can experience adverse reactions in the body or even severe illness. The so-called "catalysts" are foods that may stimulate disease. The selection is broad, including chicken heads, pig heads, seafood, fish, beef and lamb, and various spices and seasonings. Depending on the body's state and the type of disease endured, the "tabooed foods" vary accordingly. For example:

- If one is frail and cold in all four limbs, one must have no watermelon, banana or pear, which has a chilling effect.

- When one has excessive body heat and hunger, amnesia or anxiety, it is best not to consume ginger, black pepper, rice wine and more.

When asthma attacks, eggs, milk, fish and seafood with high proteins become 'tabooed foods.'

- If one has a cough, he should stay away from cold beverages and cold foods, greasy and thick-boiled foods or pungent foods.

- When taking tonics, tea and turnip should be avoided, or the tonic effect will be known.

As for scallions and garlic, they are popular spices used in household cooking, and even northerners like to eat raw garlic. However, they are also considered "catalysts." It is beneficial for illness, but those who suffer from extreme internal heat should refrain from eating them. Especially for the elderly, having too much scallion or garlic causes dry eyes and hinders vision. The key concept to be followed is that there is no overall nutrition for some foods during pregnancy. However, due to the prenatal environment needed for the child's development, a pregnant woman's body is usually high in Yang's qi (chi). So spicy, pungent, greasy, and hard-to-digest foods should be avoided. After labour, foods such as crucian carp, pigs feet and eggs are frequently introduced into a woman's diet to induce milk production. However, vegetarian diets are recommended in the few days immediately after birth.

Meats, mainly carp and crucian carp, are not favourable to the healing of cuts. However, the tortoise can warm the body, fill the qi (chi), and is perfect for healing wounds. Of course, certain Chinese abstentions in food are only customary among ordinary people and have no clear scientific basis. Some places in China, for example, assume that a pregnant woman cannot eat rabbit meat or the child will be born with three pieces to the lip like a bunny. She cannot eat the donkey's meat; otherwise, the child's face will be as long as a donkey's. Tortoise meat, eel and loach are often believed to give the baby a little head, face and eyes. However, looking at these views with practical experience, it is clear that these food taboos are nonsense, but it carries the peoples' beautiful hopes for the next generation and can also be seen as a reflection of Chinese folk culture.

The study of diet is an extensive area of expertise since diet and culture have a strong connection. The preferred food of a specific culture may be frowned upon in another culture. Diet taboos in the diet can also also be used as a culture of abstention in the food culture. However, apart from daily life reflections, abstention culture is often closely intertwined with religious beliefs, nationalities or customs and practices of a particular country or region.

Chinese secular food taboos are generally reflected in Buddhism, Daoism, and Islam. For example, Chinese Buddhists are forbidden to eat meat because eating meat is considered the same as killing, a defile of religious discipline. However, in India, Sri Lanka and other countries, and in the Mongolian, Tibetan and Dai minority nationalities of China, the monks do not follow such a religious order. It is more in line with ancient Chinese courtesies during sacrificial ceremonies when people bathed and changed clothes but did not eat meat or drink wine to demonstrate their devout faith. What prohibits Buddhist monks from consuming meat or drinking alcohol is due more to the beliefs and customs of Han Chinese culture. The Daoist religion, which is native to China, also refrains from consuming meat and drinking alcohol. However, unlike the Buddhist approach, Daoists concentrate on maintaining the inner organs and cultivating the soul. They do not promote complicated taste in foods because immortals are expected to become who they are because they do not consume earthly foods. Islam prohibits its followers from consuming animals that died naturally or from having blood or pork, as well as animals that died as a result of strangulation, fall, or the remains of other carnivores. Muslims consider the types of livestock, as described above, to be "unclean." However, if the product, other than pork, has been cared for, it is suitable for consumption. Aside from these species, domesticated animals, such as horses, mules and donkeys, plus small-scale fish, such as crabs and eels, are all on the prohibited foods list.

Folk beliefs, local customs and some occupations or industries have also led to dietary abstentions. Some southern regions of China are happy to enjoy wild meat and seafood. However, consuming snakes, a common practice in these regions, is considered an act of sacrilege in other places where the snake is thought to be a guardian of humans. Instead, it should be cherished and cared for so that man and snake can live in harmony. Fishers living along the coast often have many food taboos because of their particular occupations. For the first meal of fish in the new year, raw fish must be brought to the boat's bow and offered to the King of the Dragon and the God of the Sea. When eating the fish, after finishing the meat on the side of the fish that faces up, the entire carcass must be removed before eating the underside, but the fish must not be turned over. Each meal must have fish leftovers, with a bowl of fish soup to be poured into the pot to cook the next meal. The importance of these customs is to symbolize the constant availability of fish. The food leftovers, including carcasses of fish and muddy waters, should not be poured into the sea. The Tibetans on China's western border have many meat-related taboos, and snake or marine species are seldom eaten. Some people do not even eat eggs or birds.

Tibetans never hunt for food, particularly snow pigeons, and consider them to be sacred beings. Even with beef or lamb, they never eat fresh meat from livestock killed on the same day. It is assumed that while the animals have been killed, their souls remain. So people have to wait until the second day before eating the meat. Garlic is also a taboo topic for the Tibetans. When worshiping on sacred grounds, garlic will taint the holy place. Different nationalities may have opposite abstentions when it comes to food.

Chickens and ducks are also used to treat guests at the Miao people's banquets; chicken hearts and livers are the most precious parts and are first given to elders or guests. However, Nu nationality refrains from killing chickens to treat visitors. The Yi nationality of Yunnan Province has not only numerous but also unusual taboos. If the chopsticks split when one stirs the food with them, then the food is no longer edible. It is also not possible to make flour if the mill spindle breaks during the milling process. If a sheep unexpectedly cries out before it is slaughtered, its life should be spared. If the table has just been set full of food, and a chicken mistakenly hops over the plates, the meal must be re-made. Kids cannot eat chicken stomach and tail, pork ears, sheep ears, and more.

Forbearances in the diet have unwittingly produced a line-up of very distinctive and unique foods and beverages, and Chinese vegetarian dishes are the most typical of this category. Many Buddhist temples and Daoist monasteries have specialty vegetarian dishes, with a fresh taste, an elegant look, a great variety, and colours and shapes that all rival meat dishes. Fa Yuan Temple of Beijing has Koumo (a form of dried mushroom) potstickers; Nanjing's Bao En Temple has Soft Fragrant Cakes; Nanjing's "Cow Head" Tofu by Monk Xiao Tang is very popular, and in Xiamen City, there are Soup Vegetables from the South Pu Tuo Temple. All the dishes are the special pride of the various holy places.


Cinnamon is one of the earliest spices known in China, and is mentioned in the first Chinese herbal book in 2,700 BC. Southwestern Szechuan and Hunan cuisines use more chilli peppers than any other region in China due to the exportation of "New World" or American foods travelling from the Ganges River across Burma and into Western China.

Ginger, sliced scallions, garlic, sesame oil, Chinese "wine," and soy sauce are typical northern flavours. Traditionally, spices were uncommon. Coriander leaves (cilantro), imported from the Near East in early medieval times, are frequently used as a seasoning or garnish.

Piquant seasoning is an ancient custom. Chile peppers take the forefront, and as a result, is China's spiciest cuisine. In the seventeenth century, chiles reached China from the New World, possibly overland from India or upriver from Macau and east China. Before this, however, the region already enjoyed piquancy. The Songs of the South, a collection of poems from Chu's old state, references smartweed, southernwood, and other potent herbs and spices. Ginger and garlic were widely used. Dry daylily buds, which are also peppery in the mouth, have been used since ancient times.

At some stage in ancient history, Southeast Asia started to trade real pepper into China. It was eagerly welcomed in Western China. As elsewhere in China, white pepper is used almost exclusively and is produced from young fruits with its dark coating rubbed off instead of the black form made from completely mature fruits, used in much of the world.

The white pepper allowed western Chinese cuisine to be fiery even before chillies arrived. Today, Hunan-Sichuan cuisine is the only cuisine globally that extensively utilizes all three forms of pepper—brown, white, and red, and uses all three simultaneously in a single dish. Like English, Chinese classifies all three as "peppers" or Jiau, initially referring to brown pepper, although they are botanically unrelated. Only black and white pepper are in the Piperaceae family, whereas brown pepper is in the citrus family, and chillies are in the Solanaceae family, along with tomatoes and white potatoes. A complete meal typically consists of a starch staple, generally rice, with a topping of steamed or stir-fried dishes and an accompanying broth or soup. Lighter meals, such as breakfasts, small lunches, or snacks, contain dumplings or noodle soups. Chillies, brown pepper and other hot spices are used in the stir-fried dishes and soups.

Shaansi cuisine utilizes few vegetables, and the seasoning is simple: chillies are used, but not as often as in Sichuan. A variety of "fish-flavored" dishes, especially eggplant dishes, are named not because they taste like fish, but because they are flavoured like fish, using: garlic, ginger, scallions, oil, and sometimes Chinese "wine." Some of the cuisine's typical dishes include stir-fried bean curd dishes with garlic, brown pepper, and chillies. Today's most famous of these is ma po dou fu, meaning "hemp woman's bean curd." These dishes consist of small cubes of bean curd stir-fried in sesame oil with garlic, brown pepper, chillies, and fermented broad bean-chile paste; ground or finely chopped pork and white pepper are typically added as well. As expected, this recipe has numerous versions, including products like mushrooms and fungi. Some are relatively moderate, but real Sichuan varieties might leave a burning sensation in the mouth.

From China came spices, especially cinnamon and silks, ceramics, paper, peacocks, goats, saddles, felt, and rhubarb.

Hot pepper, a common form of spice for Chinese dishes, has only had 300 years in China. Historical records indicate that hot peppers arrived in China from Peru and Mexico during the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.). Even though hot peppers only have a 300-year history in China, the tradition of hot food has always been common.

If we were to suggest that the purpose of eating and drinking is to improve health, then the essential factor of food is nutrition. The Chinese emphasize colour, aroma, taste and shape in food, finding refinement in food vessels and elegance within the dining atmosphere to demonstrate an artistic spirit, and as a result, the Chinese have long promoted the "five tastes in harmony" theory. They have pioneered ways to adapt blended ingredients and spices into a wide range of tastes around the "five tastes": sourness, sweetness, bitterness, pungency and saltiness; dishes will turn into more than 500 different flavours. Of the "five tastes," the critical flavour is saltiness. Salt is required to increase the texture of any food, and without it, no delicacy will emerge in its full glory. However, from a health perspective, salt should not be consumed excessively.

Sourness is also an indispensable taste in food, particularly in China's northern part, where the water is heavy in minerals. Therefore, to induce better digestion of food, vinegar is used in cooking and contributes to appetite. Sour tastes can also neutralize the smell of fish and fat. At banquets with high-fat content and meat dishes, sour dishes are typically complemented and available in multiple variations. The sour taste of plums, fruit and vinegar are distinct from one another, but the different forms of vinegar are differentiated by their processing regions, different ingredients and different production techniques, resulting in varying flavour profiles. Typically, the northerners consider the mature vinegar made in Shanxi as orthodox, while the people of Jiangsu-Zhejiang consider Zhenjiang-made rice vinegar authentic. The province of Shanxi is the most well-known for its vinegar. Many families are skilled in producing vinegar from crops and fruits, and their daily meals rely on it. In Chinese, the word "vinegar" represents feelings of envy between men and women.

Pungency is the most relaxing and involved of the "five tastes." There are considerable variations between pungency and hotness. Hot is a sense of taste that activates the tongue, mouth, and nasal cavity. Instead, pungency is mostly obtained from ginger, while hot and spicy typically refer to hot pepper or black pepper. Since hot peppers were once a foreign commodity, there was no mention of "hot" in ancient Chinese cooking. Instead, they were generalized as pungency. Ginger not only neutralizes the tastes and smells, but it also brings out the great taste of fish and meat. There are also principles for the use of hot peppers. The degree of hotness should be balanced with saltiness and the natural essence of raw ingredients so that the hot and spicy taste is multi-faceted, providing full aroma, flavour and texture. Garlic, scallion, ginger and other spices can also kill bacteria, making them perfect for cold dishes with dressing.

Bitterness is seldom used alone in cooking, but it is a valuable asset. When making simmered or roasted meats, adding tangerine or orange peel, garlic, almonds, and other seasonings with a faint bitter touch can refine food's taste. Traditional Chinese medical theories suggest that bitterness improves stomach health and creates saliva. Some people like a bitter taste in food, such as the Sichuan-style "Strange Taste" type of food with bitter ingredients. Sweetness acts as a cushion to the effects of other essential tastes, while saltiness, sourness, pungency and bitterness are all intense and can be remedied by sweetness. Sugar can enhance and beautify dishes that incorporate other tastes. However, similarly to salt, it should not be used in large quantities. Since many spices can create a sweet taste and taste very differently, much of the culinary world uses cane sugar for sweetness.

What is not mentioned in the "five tastes" but still holds a significant position in the culinary world is "fresh essence." "Fresh Essence" is the most enticing food taste, and most foods all contain "essence" but are often dormant, so making soup is an excellent way to enhance natural flavours. Poultry, pork, beef, fish and game can all be used to make soup stocks. When the unpleasant tastes and smells are extracted during the soup-making process, its robust flavour is entirely revealed by adding a pinch of salt. Essence soup can be consumed directly and can also be used to enhance other foods. Such foods include shark fin, sea cucumber, bird's nest, bean curd and gluten, all of which must be cooked with necessary soup to achieve its mouth-watering taste.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a human-made product. The synthetic nature makes it difficult to equate it with the natural essence of the soup. So professional chefs are not usually interested in using it as a substitute. Chinese cuisine shines with the mixing and blending of flavours, which is assisted by superior culinary techniques that combine natural flavourings and aid the entire range of seasonings. Apart from salt, vinegar, sugar and essence soups, which are representative seasonings, pasta, soya sauce, wine and smelly tofu are widely used as seasonings in Chinese cooking. The paste produced from the fermentation of beans was highly regarded in ancient China and was food for the upper class. Bean pastes must be served at banquets since each meat has a corresponding paste.

In time, pastes became essential seasonings, and a whole series of seasonings emerged as a result, including soya sauce, bean paste, black fermented beans and more. A paste from beans is a Chinese specialty sauce with a significant role in Chinese cuisine and even in the world's culinary timeline. The use of wine for enhancing flavour is also a brilliant innovation. Wine not only kills the rank stench of fish but can also create a genuinely appetizing aroma. Adding a little cooking wine will carry the seasonings and exude the delicious fragrance of the food in the evaporating wine, creating a texture of melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.

Cheese from the Western world borders on a foul smell, but there is a considerable contrast compared to Chinese tofu. Stinky tofu sounds horrible, but taking a bite makes all the difference; it is utterly delicious. Northern and Southern China produces smelly tofu with various flavours and levels of stench. The northern type is used as a sauce, while the southern type is a full dish. It is a delicate operation, from ingredients to production, since Chinese food methods are the art of taste. The bland taste gives the diner a sense of imperfection, so the five tastes must be combined to balance the other's strong points, leaving the diner with a lasting and fulfilling aftertaste. In actual cooking activities, the chef must be versatile in combining the flavours to fulfill tastebuds, seasonal characteristics, and balance. For example, salt on a table full of courses, the first dish to be served would have a regular amount of salt added. However, salt is progressively reduced by the last dish. Usually, the broth that comes at the end has no salt. Of course, the diners do not notice the slight variations and believe that the food is tailored to their tastes.

Cuisines with various taste groups use everyday ingredients, and the standard cooking methods are stir-fry, fry, steam, boil and more. The main difference is the mixing of tastes. Taste blending is a very subtle and delicate art; the portions of different seasonings, order of application and timing (before, during or after cooking) must be precise.

Some people prefer natural flavours and juices through light simmering or steaming. Chicken must maintain its original flavour, and ducks must taste like ducks. Some people like the "strange taste" duck, and some like a rich, decadent taste, while others like light and mild tastes. Modern Chinese, particularly urban people, are becoming increasingly mild-taste-oriented.

The Yue style, or Cantonese food, emphasizes original taste and tender texture to match this trend. No heavy vinegar or soy sauce is used in Cantonese dishes, just minimal oil, salt and sugar. The dishes depend on the fresh essence of the food, so finding the perfect balance of seasonings is essential. This kind of taste choice by urban Chinese most definitely has to do with living improvements. In the past, when food supplies were scarce and freshness preservation technology for food was minimal, using potent seasoning was the only way to make up for the lack of fresh food flavours. Nowadays, thick soups, rich taste and fatty oils are a thing of the past and are no longer the standard for delicious dishes.

Moreover, due to variations in regional climates and living customs, tastes vary considerably. There is a culture and tradition of mixing and combining tastes according to the seasons. When all plants bud in the spring, and life begins again, food is the most vulnerable to bacterial contamination. When making cold food with dressings, vinegar and crushed garlic can contain bacteria. Summer heat accelerates dehydration, so people prefer foods with a good base or slightly bitter flavour, such as bitter gourd or leaf mustard. High-calorie foods and hot and spicy foods are most often eaten in the fall. In winter, high-calorie and dense tasting foods are a healthy supplement, and salt intake can be increased to aid in the digestion of meats. The Five tastes work in harmony, giving importance to the palate's taste and enjoyment, and it is also a good health restorative and body-regulating process. Traditional medicinal theories claim that pungency can control bodily fluids, blood and qi (chi), treat bone and muscle pain due to coldness, and even help with kidney problems. Sweetness nourishes, soothes, and enhances mood. Red jujube and honey are excellent tonic foods for frail physiques, and a sour taste relieves diarrhea and induces saliva to quench thirst. Sour vinegar prevents colds, while eggs boiled in vinegar will prevent coughs. These folk remedies also have significant modern medical recognition.

Bitterness releases excess heat from the body, improves vision, and detoxifies the body. Five tastes in harmony are a vital factor for excellent health and long life. The "five tastes in harmony" should include the following three phases of its meaning:

Each dish must have a unique flavour, and different courses should have different flavours to complement each other and create balance.

It is essential to adjust the thickness of the taste so that the seasonings can work to change tastes from dish to dish.

When eating, it is suggested to eat a variety of foods with different tastes.

"Harmony" is the nature of Chinese philosophy, with multiple meanings like "harmonious," "peace," and "unison." "Harmony" is also the highest transcendence of the culinary arts. The "Five tastes in harmony" reflects the pursuit of moderation, equilibrium and balance, while respecting the forces of nature.



Hot red Sichuan peppers are an important ingredient within Sichuan cuisine, but it was not present within the area until the 16th century, after it was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, then traveled to India by the Portuguese. It then made its journey to China as a result of either the Indians, the Portuguese, the Andalusians or the Basques.

Huajiao, known in English as "Sichuan pepper," "brown pepper," or "fagara," is a large shrub or little tree. Since it is thorny, it is often used as a living barrier that happens to produce little brown berries. The berries grow twinned on a small stalk, giving the male genitalia an ancient poetic euphemism. They have a pungent, rich flavour of citrus and peppery overtones, and when chewed, they create a strange numbness in the lips.


Chopsticks first appear in Zhou Dynasty documents. These little sticks used to pick up food, presumably date to a distant past. They have conditioned Chinese food preparation; food gets quickly manipulated when chopped or rendered into tiny enough bits. The Chinese word is kuaizi, "little quick ones," from which the English name—"chop," meaning "fast," in pidgin English.

A characteristic Chinese cooking method is a wok. It is a round-bottomed or curved pan, traditionally made of cast iron, but is modernly made of aluminum. It first appears—as far as we know—in the Han Dynasty. Pottery figures of woks found on tiny pottery stoves found in tombs. The wok fits into holes on tops of typical Chinese houses' large clay stoves. It suits perfectly over a gas ring today. The wok design allows it to heat to high temperatures quickly, and it traditionally sat in holes on top of the large clay stoves in traditional Chinese homes. Its rounded bottom transfers heat quickly along its sides, which makes stir-frying (chao), possible. Stir-frying is when food is cut into little, thin bits and easily stirred in smoking-hot oil. As the wok cooks the food in the hot oil, the cook will shake it vigorously and toss its contents in the air to cause rapid cooling and prevent the food from burning. Stirfrying rapidly cooks the exterior of the food while keeping the inside crisp. The wok, wrapped and placed at lower temperatures, can be used for slower cooking, although flat-bottomed cooking pots are preferred. China's cold regions had a traditional dish known in the West as the Mongolian hot pot, named for its distinctive cooking utensil.

Chinese food products are sliced or otherwise packaged as bite-sized for convenient use with chopsticks. Since the earliest known times, consuming large pieces of food was regarded as barbaric.

China's cold regions had a traditional dish known in the West as the Mongolian hot pot, named for its distinctive cooking utensil, and a significant modern Japanese modification called shabu-shabu.

The diner who lets his fan (rice) bowl sit on the table and eats by picking up fan lumps from the bowl expresses disinterest or disappointment with his food. When they are a visitor in someone's home, it is seen as an insult to the host. If one is good enough, as a visitor, to be offered a slice of fruit by the emperor, one must suck the pit clean and place it down the front of his robe, indicating that his gift will not be wasted or given away.

Hot foods are best when hot. The eating strategy is to pull air over a small gap to accelerate evaporation and disperse taste. It is the most efficient when the air roughens the liquid surface. That is why hot broth, hot soup noodles, and hot congee are best when sucked in as noisily as possible.

The Chinese have collective traditions at the dinner table. The eater must be seated while eating. When citizens of both ages and all races are at the same table, the elderly must be prioritized. One must consume chopstick-held food; a soupspoon must be used while eating soup. There is no noise when feeding, and so forth. These brands have persisted to this day, but the most remarkable shift is none other than the reality that more and more Chinese have proactively discarded "No talk when eating."

Many people with full mouths also expect to talk, which may be because contemporary Chinese have begun to regard dining as a significant social opportunity. People need to relax and chat about some calming and joyful issues to improve empathy between those at the table. Thanks to the rapid growth of industries and trade, Chinese fast foods have dawned on the scene in recent years, alongside conventional menu-ordered foods.

The invention of the steam basket, Chinese griddle and other cooking utensils and fermentation techniques have managed to provide countless possibilities for pasta and pastry dishes.

Pottery dings have been used as primary utensils since the Neolithic Period. By the late Xia Dynasty (about 18th-century B.C.- 16th century B.C.), rather than still serving as a cooking pot, bronze dings were often used to carry meat dishes during sacrificial rituals. Gui is an ancient vessel for millets and rice.

Yan is an ancient cooking utensil, and bronze yans were created around 13th-11th century B.C. Thermoses are still the primary vessels for water. Human beings were primitives who plucked hairs and feathers from livestock and drank blood, which evolved into intelligent and skillful creatures who can produce gourmet food today. The days of bare-handed cooking are gone. People now dine with chopsticks, knives, forks and spoons. Improvements in eating and dining utensils represent the course of human development from primitive to modern humans. Chinese cooking and eating utensils are inseparable from their culinary methods and eating patterns. Today, people study history through artifacts and a written language. Chinese dining ware has modified products, from stone and pottery to copper, iron and other metals. The one type of "made in China" product widely established worldwide is porcelain or fine china. As productivity levels improved, dining utensils witnessed material and craftsmanship improvements and traditional changes from broad to small, rugged to delicate, and thick to thin. The earliest cooking utensils contained ding, li, huo, zeng, yan, and more. Later, more sophisticated and more prominent predecessors arrived with the same names, albeit built of bronze and iron. These cooking utensils served as food containers, like the ding used to roast and carry beef.

The ding is typically triangular and has three pedestals for support; others are square with four pedestals. Firewood and fuel were placed between pedestals for direct burning and heating, and it had a handle for quick handling on either side of the ding's upper exterior. In the Bronze Period, the ding's purpose changed when some were used as instruments during sacrificial rites. A Li is used for preparing porridge (congee). It is identical in shape but smaller in scale, and its three pedestals are hollowed, connecting to the belly. Therefore, food in the hollow legs may be heated and cooked more quickly. Huo is used for meat preparation and is more modern than ding. It has a round belly but no feet, much like the "wok," which came later. A Zeng is used to steam food, with its mouth folding outward and has handles. The bottom is smooth with several apertures to allow for steaming. Some zengs have no foot, just a grating underneath. As used, the zeng is put over the li, a water-filled cooking tripod. What combined the zeng and li is the yan. The Chinese had earthenware zeng since the Neolithic Period. After the Shang Dynasty (17th-11th century B.C.), bronze zengs emerged.

Besides the plates and pots, which vary little from today's variants, there are gui, fu, dou, dan, bei and more. The gui is similar to a large bowl, with a round mouth and broad belly, and an underside circular or square base. Some have two to four outer rim handles. This form of vessel was initially used to store grain and was later used as a dining utensil and ritualistic instrument. The ancient Chinese usually fill the gui with rice from the zeng before dining. Fu's purpose is identical to the gui's, and its shape is comparable to that of the later high-legged plate, but most fu have a lid. The distinction between dou and fu is that the dou has hanldes at the bottom. Earthenware dou surfaced during the Neolithic Period as well. There were wood-painted dou and bronze dou after the Shang Dynasty. The dou is not just a dinner utensil, but a measuring instrument: in ancient times, 4 sheng measure one dou). Dan is bamboo or straw container for holding rice. The bei is not that distinct in shape or purpose from today's cup, and it is mostly used for holding soup. Regardless of meat or rice, a bi is used. The bi used to get meat from the huo is larger than the smaller bi used to get rice from the zeng. The bi's role is the same as the modern-day spoon.

China's winemaking history is lengthy, but countless Shang Dynasty wine vessels have been uncovered. From these, we can assume that consuming alcohol was trendy. The zun has a full round belly, protruding stretched mouth, long neck, and spiral pedestals at the foot, and comes in various styles, using different manufacturing methods and materials. The most common during the Shang Dynasty was the "bird and beast" design. The hu has a broad-neck and narrow opening and is deep-bellied with a round base or handles. The lei is either round or square, with various mouth sizes, and typically has a small neck with square shoulders and a deep belly and curling feet or a round base, plus a lid. Wine vessels are made of earthenware and called fou. When drinken, wine is poured into hu or zun and put next to the seat and table, then poured into jue, gu, or zhi for drinking. The gu is the most common wine-drinking utensil, typically used with the jue, which is slightly larger and has a bugle-shaped opening, long neck, small waist and tall, curling feet. The zhi takes the shape of the zun, but it is smaller and some have lids.

Significant innovations such as gunpowder, the compass, movable-type printing, and many others emerged, bearing witness to Chinese scientific and technological development. Simultaneously, Chinese porcelain manufacturing achieved unparalleled heights in the Song Dynasty as making celadon porcelain, white porcelain, black porcelain, overglaze or underglaze enamelling both underwent significant improvements. Modelling, designs and artistic drawings and enamelling emerged with further innovation. During this time, many fine and rare porcelain pieces famous today in China and the West were made. Along with the Chinese custom of "pursuing refinement" in cooking, elegant porcelain vessels for food and wine became part of Chinese food culture's history.

One of the most popular characteristics of Chinese food history is the use of chopsticks. The three primary forms of human instruments are the fingers, the fork, and chopsticks. Using the fingers to eat is a tradition performed primarily in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent. Europeans and Americans prefer to eat with forks. The countries that prefer to use chopsticks include China, Japan, Vietnam, and North and South Korea. Because of Chinese influence overseas, chopsticks have become increasingly dominant eating utensils in Malaysia, Singapore, and Southeast Asia. There is a legend about chopsticks' history: during the reign of legendary sage rulers, Yao and Shun, the rivers overwhelmed the land creating catastrophes. Dayu was ordered to avoid flooding by using water control. One day, Dayu set up a meat-boiling cauldron inside. Meat cooked in boiling water typically has to be cooled before handling it, but Dayu did not want to waste time. He sliced two twigs from a tree and used them to clip chunks of meat within the boiling broth. His men saw that he could consume meat with the twigs without burning his hands, and his hands were clean from grease. They imitated him one by one. Dayu's mythical tale of inventing chopsticks was a way for the ancients to honour the hero. The primary motivation behind chopsticks may have been that cooked foods might burn the hands, but historical materials specifically record that the Chinese were already using chopsticks during the Shang Dynasty, about 3,000 years ago.

Today's oldest pair of chopsticks were made of bronze, and uncovered in the Yin ruins, the ruins of late-Shang Dynasty capital, located in present-day Anyang of Henan Province. It is the earliest capital city in Chinese history with a confirmed location. Oracle bone inscription used for divination was discovered there in 1899. Large-scale archeological excavations at the site began in 1928. Upon joining the Han Dynasty, the Chinese used chopsticks extensively. The chopsticks, the Chinese's brilliant creation, are synonymous with the Chinese diet's consumption of roots, stems, and leaves. Before chopsticks' invention, the main eating utensils were bi, the spoon; dao the knife; and zu, the chopping block.

Meat was cut with a knife and eaten by hand, so the ancient Chinese would wash their hands before meals. Chopsticks are much more critical in shaping the direction of Chinese dishes and dietary patterns. Getting foods like lamb hotpot, long noodles, and bean-starch noodles, for example, becomes even more enjoyable and comfortable when chopsticks started being used. Chopsticks are more challenging to manage than knives and forks since the two thin sticks have no primary contact point. Nevertheless, chopsticks can perform some pretty impressive feats, including lifting, stirring, nipping, mixing, and scrabbling, using just the thumb, index, and middle finger to performing the task. Chopsticks can pick up any food except soup, broth, and other liquid items. Relevant experiments reveal that it requires more than 80 joints and 50 parts of muscles throughout the body, including shoulders to arms to the wrist and toes, to use chopsticks. Chopsticks may help an individual become swift and dexterous, and most westerners consider using chopsticks an artform. Some also believe that the Chinese's outstanding table tennis abilities are due to their dexterity from using chopsticks. However, chopsticks do have a disadvantage to knives and forks or using the hands when it comes to circular and slippery foods like stuffed glutinous rice balls, meatballs or pigeon eggs. Many with less than average tool mastery can create embarrassing moments with more round and slippery objects. Westerners have a real cultivated way to dine, typically keeping the knife in the right hand, fork on the left, and dining ambidextrously. Chinese food also has a collection of rules. Chopsticks are for rice, and spoons are for soup, but only one hand may be used, unlike the west, where both hands are used simultaneously.

Typically, chopsticks should be kept in the right hand. The Chinese have already embraced chopsticks in the pointy-end Japanese-style.

In the past, people were instructed to use chopsticks right-handed. When done with the meal, the chopsticks should be placed across the empty bowl, firmly bridged on top in the centre. During recess at banquets, chopsticks were placed on the table beside the bowl but not positioned inside the bowl since only bowls containing sacrificial offerings included a set of vertically implanted chopsticks. It is often not permitted to stir around the food or poke items with chopsticks.

One who barely consumes regular meals should never tap on an empty bowl with chopsticks. One should not use two chopsticks of various lengths or a single chopstick. Chopsticks cannot be used as toothpicks. As an everyday Chinese utensil, it is not uncommon to see chopsticks crafted from various materials, including bamboo, wood, gold, silver, iron, jade, ivory and rhino horn. Former Chinese kings and emperors usually dined with silver chopsticks, as it has the strange property of responding to toxic chemicals by turning black, to ensure that the food being consumed was safe. Chopsticks are the most obedient "attendants" on Chinese dining tables and are also worthy of collecting as traditional folk art. Therefore, several areas in China manufacture "brand-name chopsticks" crafted of elegant materials by unique crafts. Chopsticks' particular creative value has captured the hearts of domestic and foreign visitors and enthusiasts alike. Shanghai collector Mr. Ling Lan had a clear vision as he established China's first family museum specializing in chopstick collection. One thousand two hundred sets of chopsticks of over 800 styles are on display, all in extraordinary splendour for tourist enjoyment. Hotel-worn chopsticks; chopsticks from specific tourism spots; chopsticks used to dry fabric in the countryside; Mongolian chopstick dance props; metal chopsticks used as weapons in ancient armies; bird-raising chopsticks, and more. In Indonesia, a Chinese elderly overseas has over 908 chopstick styles in his collection, including a pair of golden chopsticks used by a former Chinese imperial courtesan.

China has an extensive range of cuisines and exotic food in all its areas, but ordinary homestyle cookery has an abundance of unique recipes. The Chinese emphasize food aesthetics, refinement of dining ware, and sophistication of dining atmosphere, so eating food is an everyday pleasure. As a learning and art form, eating produced rich and excellent culinary techniques and represented the Chinese's cheerful essence. The Chinese have a long-standing dining discipline. Initially, it was a two-meal-a-day practice. The first meal, named zhao shi (morning food), was typically consumed about 9 am. The second meal, bu shi, was in the afternoon. The Chinese sage Confucius states that "bu shi bu shi," which means "meals do not have to be eaten if it is not the right time," which stressed meal punctuality.

During the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), with improved agricultural growth, citizens from every nationality steadily started to follow the "breakfast, lunch and dinner" tradition. Only dinners were held earlier than those of modern men, since "work begins with the break of dawn and rest is to be taken when the sun goes down." Three meals of the day must be cooked and consumed fresh, a way to display the Chinese's hunger and affection for food. In recent years, the urban Chinese lifestyle is becoming faster and faster. Dining out is increasingly popular, particularly for lunch. Many office professionals dine in local restaurants or school or work cafeterias. When cooking dinner, female household heads are typically attentive with preparation. Compared to the Western way of privately served meals, communal dining is seen as a distinguishable Chinese cultural trait. Whether eating with family or acquaintances and colleagues, people typically sit around the table and feed on the same served dish and soup bowl. However, this was not always the case, as long before the switch, the ancient Chinese practiced independently served dishes.

Most of the earliest cooking and dining utensils were earthenware put on the ground. Later, supportive equipment, including low wooden tables, were invented. In the Shang Dynasty (around 17th to 11th century B.C.), the character "su" can be found on oracle bone texts. The picture shows people sitting on a banquet seat (mat). The character "xi," a pictograph of a mat, shows that Chinese men sat low on the ground at the time. Most seats were rectangular or square of varying sizes and dimensions. The longer ones could seat many people, while the shorter ones could seat two at most. The square ones were called du zuo, used by the elderly or high-status citizens. Single or multi-tiered small mats may be adjusted as needed. The position of an individual may be observed by the number of people sitting next to them.

Elders and youth, or the noble and the vulgar, do not sit together. There are real accounts of people damaging the estate, and the dishonoured person would wield his blade to cut the seat in half and end the improper and degrading seating conditions. According to seating traditions, there was a table for each diner. The tradition of individual seating and serving persisted until the later Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). In Chengdu, Sichuan Province, unearthed from an Eastern Han Dynasty (25 B.C.-220 A.D.) tomb site were brick drawings of banqueting scenes. People were seen to be in groups of two or three, with tables in front. The dining habit of ancient Chinese cannot be clarified independently of their utensils. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), the eating patterns shifted abruptly. Big, long tables and chairs emerged. There are depictions portraying scenes inside a tent from the wall paintings in Dunhuang's 473 caves, where a long table stands, and tablecloth drapes from all four directions. We will see spoons, chopsticks, cups, plates and other utensils on the table. Long seats along the sides of the table with men and women sitting on them.

Using high tables and wide dining seats progressively substituted the ground seating tradition. Sitting on circular stools or high chairs with a natural posture around a table while enjoying a table full of delicious food is how the Chinese eat today and is the most typical of Chinese eating behaviours. The introduction of shared dining is due to improvements in dining utensils and seating. Chinese families and friends' vision is to share great food at a table full of comfort with a harmonious environment, which may be linked to China's close attention to blood ties and kinship. Traditional Chinese culture concentrates on "he" or peace. When eating together, they are also improving interpersonal awareness and communication, which may also be why they like to speak enthusiastically at dining banquets. Epicures are associated with individual foods that impair the protection of culinary aesthetics.

For example, when a whole steamed fish is divided into individual servings, with excellent colour, taste and aroma, how will it be split? Who has the head and the tail? It is no wonder why some epicures worry about returning to individual food portions, contributing to the unravelling majestic culinary customs. After the SARS epidemic in 2003, whether or not to provide individual food servings was an unprecedented issue widely discussed by the government and the general public. For a brief period, individual portions were forced into restaurants. However, after the pandemic was under control, citizens returned to their standard dining practices. With the increased prevalence of buffets and Chinese or Western fast meals, individually served foods have rightly reached the urban population's everyday lives.

Furthermore, special upscale banquets have universally adopted the tradition of separate meals due to increased foreign correspondence, albeit with a communal dining environment. Regardless of communal or independent eating, complimentary meat and non-meat portions are emphasized. Different foods such as cold, spicy, salty or sweet dishes serve a specific purpose and are served in a specific order. Official dining occasions have unique ways to order and serve meals. In the past, the first dishes to be served at relatively high-end restaurants were typically four cold plates of meat appetizers, which go well with beer. If there were a surplus of drinkers, eight appetizers would be served, followed by four hot plates, each significantly larger than the cold platters. Hot dishes were typically seasonal fresh vegetables. What follows are four mixed pots, with broth for both temperature and appetizing purposes. Finally, the actual main courses come; most are created of real delicacies from the high mountains and deep seas. Not only is the food tantalizing, but the culinary techniques and presentations still awe people. The containers that hold the main courses are often unique. Historically, broad and deep bowls were sometimes used and may contain as many as four plates. Dry and moist desserts, rice and congee, follow the main courses. The last served is soups and vegetables. If one had Yue (Cantonese) type cuisine, the first to be eaten would be soup.

Three regular meals that Chinese families enjoy are what we consider "common home gourmet." Most ingredients used in home-cooked meals are taken from ordinary groceries and spice lists. The only concept it embraces is a decent flavour. Everyday home-style cooking often implies it is fluid and ever-changing, full of variations, and comprised of multiple cooking techniques. Within the concept of a quick and non-luxurious lifestyle, preparing homemade dishes is no easy feat, as the meal must not only entertain family members' taste buds but must continually vary in variety and selection. In general, home meals do not distinguish between "regional styles." However, since China has an expanse of territories, with different food products and living habits in each region, it creates a circumstance where home-style cooking tastes different in every home.

Dinner is the one meal that is taken most seriously, whereas breakfast is the most simple. The most popular breakfast food is filled or steamed buns with a bowl of porridge (congee) and pickled vegetables and wonton, spicy soup noodles, rice and stir-fried dishes. While "deep-fried twisted dough stick" and soybean milk are regular breakfast products, few families make them at home, and they are typically bought from breakfast shops. Milk, oatmeal, or egg and ham sandwiches are no longer uncommon and are considered fancy among metropolitan populations. Eggs and bean curd are the primary sources of breakfast protein and are simple to cook. Apart from rice and noodles, stir-fries, soups, and porridge are available for lunch and dinner. The bulk of Han Chinese and most Chinese minority nationalities have few dairy drinks per day.

Nevertheless, dairy goods are an essential component of the regular diet for northwestern minority nationalities. Homemakers will typically use wheat flour, cornflour, sorghum flour, soy flour, buckwheat flour or naked oatmeal flour in places where pasta and pastry are the primary food components. Based on taste, pasta dishes may be stir-fried, fried, stewed, steamed, braised, baked, and more.


In ancient times, people who cooked for a living were called "pao" but are now called chefs. Compared to internationally recognized Chinese dishes, most of those who make the delicacies are anonymous. Peng Zu and Yi Yin are quite famous chefs in Chinese history. The first-ever documented chef, Yi Yin, was also the prime minister of the Shang Dynasty, who was not only a scholarly man but an accomplished political figure and military strategist. His superb culinary skills earned him a great deal of trust from other rulers. Whenever rituals were held in ancestral temples, Yi Yin would explain the study of food to the Shang King in great detail. He would mention everything from cooking to the names and descriptions of all the world's delicacies, organizing them into different classes. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Yi Yin incorporated many of the nation's principles of governance into his teachings on food so that the ordinary people recognized him as the "god of the kitchen." Later, there were also great chefs, through excellent culinary skills, who earned high ranks and generous salaries, but most of the "pao" were still servants of the nobility.

Chefs have always been seen as a respected profession among the ordinary people of China. The chefs in restaurants serve the general public, and in the old days, they were called "shi chu" or "city chef." As the foodservice industry developed, the classification of chefs' roles became more and more precise, resulting in titles such as culinary chef, pastry chef, and other roles within the modern kitchen brigade. The transfer of culinary skills is no longer through the unique format of the teacher to student. Instead, as a vital component of modern vocational education and training, cooking is now taught in specialized vocational schools, from which a graduate student can obtain the "Professional Qualification Certificate of the People's Republic of China." Majors of this profession must not only learn culinary skills but participate in fundamental nutritional studies. Promoting within the kitchen brigade requires further professional testing.

Housewives who were responsible for cooking were called "zhongkui" in ancient times. Although they were not considered chefs, their hands were exceptionally skilled, and cooking was compulsory for women before marriage. Modern women have taken steps outside of the family and into the professional world, but making a fine meal is still the family's blessed gift and pride. Others who also significantly contributed to Chinese food culture were the food connoisseurs and summarizers, the literati and great men of ancient China. Through their documentation, the skills and secrets of the chefs were passed down throughout the generations. With high levels of art appreciation and refined tastes, Chinese culinary techniques have become an art.

Su Dongpo (1036 – 1101 A.D.) was a great writer of the Song Dynasty. He was not only a man who loved to eat his creations, but Dongpo Pork became a highly praised and popular dish. These kinds of epicures and chefs of the past brought together the rich culinary arts of China. Qing Dynasty poet Yuan Mei (1716 – 1797 A.D.) wrote in his work, Suiyuan Shidan, a detailed account of 326 dishes from the 14th to 18th centuries, ranging from exotic meat dishes to exquisite seafood, including delicacies from the north and south. His work has become a valuable historical document in the history of Chinese food culture. Yuan Mei was honoured as an epicure of the highest taste and scholarship, with elegant commentary and an abundance of culinary knowledge.

Traditionally, however, wealthy families hired in-house chefs to cater their daily meals and lavish parties. Banquets prepared by wealthy families were usually held inside the home rather than in public restaurants. For a family, hiring a first-class chef is a display of wealth. Within the social atmosphere, chefs' skills have made plenty of progress. Cooking and cutting skills include mixing additional ingredients, knife work, duration and heat control, and specific cooking techniques. In daily life, the main ingredients used for food are vegetables, fish and meat, poultry eggs and seasonings. The culinary arts require a precise combination and proper cooking of these four categories of ingredients.

Dining in China is very different from dining in Western restaurants. For example, when ordering a steak, the diner usually chooses from rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well or well-done steaks so that the kitchen staff can existentially judge the person without ever having seen their face. The cook then prepares the steak according to the diner's preference and adds relatively few spices or seasonings. After the steak is served, the diner is then irresponsibly left to add salt, pepper, hot sauce, ketchup, or steak sauce. Chinese food, however, is prepared by what is stated on the menu. The dishes are prepared by being deep-fried or stir-fried, boiled or steamed, rare or well-cooked, hot peppers added, vinegar-soaked, oiled and salted, to the chef's preference, unless the customer requests otherwise.

Chinese cooking attaches importance to huohou, which is the duration and degree of heating. People of the Dong nationality in Guizhou refer to the kitchen range as a "fire pond." The blending of complementary ingredients is a Chinese chef's primary skill. Supplementary ingredients must be refined and thoughtfully added while retaining the main ingredient's original properties, like its place of origin, age of growth, cut, and the dish's overall combination of colours, forms, and textures. When making Beijing (Peking) Roast Duck, Beijing's homegrown "force-fed duck" is usually used when making Beijing (Peking) Roast Duck, which weighs approximately 2.5 kilograms. If the duck is too large, the meat will be stiff, but it would not be juicy and tender enough if it is too small. Sautéed Pork Slices in Starchy Sauce is made with pork loin; Steamed Pork in Lotus Leaf uses streaky pork (bacon cut). Tomatoes and Egg Stir-fry classic dish has excellent contrast with its bright red and yellow colours. In terms of foods' shape and form, usually diced pieces go with diced and strips with strips to maintain consistency. The same principle applies to texture: soft with soft; crispy with crispy; chewy with chewy. For example, simmered bean curd can be complemented with fish or garlic bolts with squid. Sometimes, special treatment is required depending on the ingredient and according to the cooking style.

The strength of heat and cooking time is called "huo hou," meaning "fire degree." It is the most important aspect of cooking and also the most difficult to master. Deep-frying or stir-frying requires high heat, or the food quality will suffer. When boiling foods in water, a moderate flame should be used. If heated under intense fire for an extended time, the food will become dried and shrivelled. When frying, if the food is cooked for too long, it will burn, altering its taste. Making fish requires the most control of fire. The best-made fish should be pure white, with tender meat but not loose. "Huo hou" changes all the time. Without many years of on-hand practice and experience, cooking to a perfect degree can be difficult, and controlling cooking heat is a fundamental criterion for competing Chinese chefs. Becoming a famous chef all depends on conquering this one barrier.

Experienced chefs can freely make their food tender or crispy; they can control the taste to be sweet, sour, salty, hot, mild or any combination of tastes. Take Stir-fry Pork Liver; for example, the oil must be heated until boiling. When white smoke starts to fume, the liver goes into the wok. The liver is quickly stirred around, followed by adding starch. After just being tossed around for a bit, the liver is done. If the fire is not sufficient, and the heat is not intense enough, the liver will become tough. Vice versa, if the fire is too intense and the wok is too hot, the liver will start to pop in the oil, and its texture will also be affected. Huo hou means the degree and duration of fuel burning, but it is not this simple in cooking. Ingredients, cooking utensils, and the material's heat conductivity all play a role with huo hou. Modern cooking uses natural gas or coal gas stoves, whereas ancient people used firewood, which has many stipulations: different woods produce different tastes and affect food taste. Using mulberry wood to roast duck or other meats will tenderize the meat faster and produce detoxifying effects. Rice spike can be used to cook rice, which is said to soothe people's minds. Using wheat spikes to cook can quench thirst and moisten the throat, and is beneficial for urination. Rice cooked with pinewood can strengthen the muscles and bones, but pinewood is not suitable for making tea, as tea requires a coal fire. Using Cogan grass can improve vision and detoxify the body, and if making tonic medicine, reed or bamboo is the best choice for making fire. Cooking customs surrounding fire-cooking are still preserved in rural areas but are no longer feasible in the cities. However, modern people have more choices for cooking utensils.

Stir-frying needs to have a concentrated fire and heat, so a round-bottomed wok is perfect. Deep-frying requires evenness of heat, so a flat iron pan works best. Some simmered foods need to be cooked on low heat, such as simmered hen, turnip soup with ribs, or tremella and lotus seed soup, for which the Chinese usually use an earthenware pot or casserole. Knife work refers to the ways a chef handles the cutting of ingredients. The differences between Eastern and Western culinary skills are apparent when it comes to knife skills. The Chinese meticulously cut everything into desired shapes and sizes before the food is cooked, but the food is mostly cut right before eating in the West. Chinese chefs pay more attention to knife work, as knife skills are a sense of pride. There are over one hundred different cutting techniques. Straight cut, levelled slicing, tilted cut, and retained cut (cutting but still keeping the ingredient partially intact) are not easy to execute. Take Stir-fry Kidney Bloom, for example, a ubiquitous dish that can be prepared with more than a dozen cutting techniques. The "kidney bloom" that is produced can look like an ear of wheat, a lychee fruit, the Chinese character of "shou (meaning long life)," a comb, an orchid, a straw rain cape and more. With different ingredients, different cuts are executed. Perpendicular cuts are for beef and chicken should be cut in the direction of the meat fibres. Beef fibres are thick, so cutting perpendicularly to the muscle fibre will make it easier to cook, reduce chewiness, and make it more tender. Chicken muscle strands are relatively thin, so the cut must be along its direction, which will preserve its tender and smooth texture. Otherwise, the meat will not withstand any stirring in the pot and will break apart. Westerners cook simply by frying, boiling, baking or roasting on the fire. In comparison, Chinese cooking also uses abundant techniques compared to Western cooking.

Each cooking technique has corresponding famous dishes. The technique most commonly used is still "chao" or stir-fry. "Stir-fry" means frying while stirring in a constant motion, but Westerners do not typically own "woks," which are explicitly made for stir-frying. Most Chinese home cooking does not require much more than a wok, which is the main cooking utensil. A wok can perform multiple functions, like making dishes or boiling soups. However, special stir-fry woks are reserved for professional chefs. The wok has a handle for easy handling and consistent tossing of food. Tossing food in a wok ensures that the ingredients are evenly mixed, making them the proper tenderness and evenness, but the tossing itself is a highly complicated skill. Colourful pieces of food slices, strips and dices are gracefully tossed through the air in an arc and caught as they fall back into the wok in order. This set of stir-frying skills is not executable with a flat pan, so it is unique to Chinese chefs. Stir-frying becoming the dominant Chinese cooking technique was no accident, as it is closely linked to China's general supply situation.

When roasting, baking, frying, deep-frying, simmering, or steaming meat dishes, meat's size and quantity should not be compromised. However, in this area, stir-fry gives much more leeway. When only a few tenths of a kilogram of meat is minced, pieces of turnip, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, peas, rice noodles, bean curd, and the like can be mixed with it to produce dishes that are cheap to make but still taste and look great. Before the Han Dynasty, the "chao" technique had not yet developed. The main cooking techniques were stews and soups, fire-roasting, boiling and frying. However, once stir-fry was invented, the technique gained massive acceptance. The word "chao" has become the general term for all forms of cooking performed with a wok, regardless of whether it is deep-fried, fried, boiled or steamed.

Color, aroma and taste are common standards used by the Chinese to assess the quality of food. Only when the dish is excellent in all three areas can it be considered a well-made dish. Stir-frying is the easiest way to achieve this goal. The quantity and type of ingredients do not constrain stir-fry since anything can be mixed and stir-fried in the same dish, producing the right colour. Stir-fries are usually rich in oils, with finely chopped ingredients cooked with high heat, and the taste of the oil seeps into the food relatively quickly, providing a wonderful aroma. Since stir-fries produce perfect colouring, it prevents loss of nutritional content.

Countries and regions that place a strong emphasis on diet and have a high level of food supply are all countries that have reached great heights in cultural development and have excellent social and economic prowess. With these conditions, a country has enough time and money for leisurely activities and can enjoy food and develop or refine cooking techniques. Refined culinary techniques allow Chinese food to have unique tastes and charm. This art of cooking, however, is tested and challenged by modern living. As the food processing industry becomes mechanized and automated, the culinary arts' survival is threatened. The heat-and-serve and frozen food in the supermarkets have gained a substantial market share, and more sophisticated or electronic cookware has been introduced. Much of home cooking can now be automated. Chinese culinary skills are becoming somewhat obsolete, especially large quantity cookery. However, their living habits, their pursuit of colour, aroma, and food tastes have led the Chinese to carry on their dietary tradition of "no such thing as too much refinement in food."

Before the present day, the Chinese ate far less meat since economic conditions did not allow for much meat to be eaten, but meats were also seen as supplements to crops and vegetables, usually combined with meats and non-meat, whereas Westerners place a heavy emphasis on meat being the main component of meals. Meats are not the central part of Chinese dietary make-up for health and nutritional reasons. Vegetarian dishes and Buddhism are all related. When Buddhism was introduced to China, there was no strict abstention on food. Later, however, in the Southern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.), the devout Buddhist Emperor Liang Wudi (ruled from 502 to 549 A.D.) believed that eating meat was equal to killing, so it was against the teachings of the Buddha, and the Buddhist temples forbade the consumption of wine and meat. The growing number of vegetarians has accelerated the development of vegetarian cuisine. Until the Song Dynasty, literati and men of outstanding achievement promoted vegetarian dishes, thus showing the world its glory.

Bean curd, vegetables, and gluten were the main ingredients of vegetarian food and gradually became revered delicacies. The food industry has begun developing and marketing vegetarian food to meet Buddhists' needs and has also influenced the monasteries' vegetarian food varieties. Because vegetarian dishes usually have little taste, it must be carefully cooked to be accepted by the general public to compete with the taste of other traditional delicacies.

There are several restaurants all over China, each of which has a uniqueness. In general, the foodservice industry faces the demands of our times and modern ways of living. In the 1950s and 1960s, Chinese businesses, including restaurants, implemented shared ownership and management policy by both state and private organizations. To ensure continuity in cooking standards, the restaurants that used to keep secrets from each other began sharing details and communicating to improve consistency. Some neglected skills and forgotten dishes have been rediscovered, welcoming a golden age of food culture. However, due to some societal behaviours and patterns that reject luxury and promote austerity, those who pay attention to food have been branded as corrupt and backward thinking. The desire to eat a delicious meal in restaurants was suppressed, and the decline of the culinary arts was unavoidable. Many state-owned hotels and restaurants have often served authentic styles with minimal options and high prices. However, customer facilities at most of the state-owned dining venues were unsatisfactory.

By September 30, 1980, the first private restaurant since China's reform was opened in Beijing, called the "Yibin Restaurant." At that time, all other restaurants were state-owned. Cereals, oils and tofu needed government-issued "food notes." So the new private restaurant stirred up quite a response from the international community. A few days later, the restaurant customers included ambassadors from 72 countries and press correspondents from 74 different media outlets. As living conditions changed, people always wanted to dine out for a change of taste and have some food that they did not know how to cook or did not have the resources to make at home. Restaurants of different tastes and grades work for survival as more and more entrants rush to the scene from different parts of the world. The foodservice industry has become China's investment hotspot. Investors and managers have sought chefs' support from older generations, or epicures of prominent schools and families, in creating traditional dishes. Restaurants that used to offer homemade dumplings or noodles expanded their menu selections, beginning to simultaneously sell other types of food. Attractive hostesses wore striking uniforms or qipao (a typical Chinese dress), elegant hats, and a band around the chests marked with restaurant names to welcome guests with a warm smile in front of newly opened restaurants.

Since private restaurants pay the utmost attention to quality service, waiters and waitresses treat customers with friendly, adequate courtesy to attract business. On the contrary, many state-owned restaurants in the noisy districts have steadily lost their competitive edge due to their rude service and lacklustre menus. The great-tasting food that had vanished from the cities returned once again. Some restaurants in northern China, serving traditional cuisine, began to use their "old brand names" again. Food houses in Shanghai used the term "authentic" to attract diners. Before the 90s, people only concentrated on food while they were eating out. Even for street stands and grills, people would form lines to sample the food, as long as the prices were fair with sufficient portions. However, as economic growth in China's cities and towns flourished, consumers turned their attention to more than just filling their stomachs. Besides great food, most customers are looking for atmospheric beauty, cleanliness and thoughtful service. Generous home-style food sampling once again ventured out of the homes and into the marketplace on restaurants' menus. The tastes once gone were now back in the cities. Compared to high-quality restaurants' rare delicacies, home-style dishes have no unique taste characteristics, but many were a customer magnet due to their great taste and affordability. However, the most appealing part is the home-like atmosphere it provides, making dining in restaurants no different from home, free and cozy. Most of the time, home-style restaurants are few and far between. Its basic menus serve only well-known dishes such as Gongbao (Kung Pao) Chicken, Yuxiang Pork, Fruit Salad and more.

In recent years, people's regular diets show noticeable shifts as birthday celebrations, events, and treating guests shifted to public areas. Snacks, home-style dishes and fast food are prevalent. The advent of home-style cooking has changed ordinary citizens' eating preferences and has brought new life to a highly competitive foodservice industry. All sorts of signs with the words "Home-style Food" written in all fonts and styles adorn the street, with an ever-expanding scope of operation. Famous names include "Mao Style Home Cuisines," "Guolin Home-Style Foods," and so on. Home-style gourmet evolved from everyday food for average citizens to commercial food and restaurant food. As home-style dishes evolved, the way home-style restaurants handled their businesses changed. Some restaurants have introduced more expensive food such as Beijing Roast Duck, while other restaurants have retained popular dishes like Simmered Pork Ribs in Soy Sauce, Casserole Bean Curd, Green Pepper and Potato Strips, and more. High-priced cuisines vary in simple ingredients from home-style dishes, but their production methods are often quite involved.

In cities with large numbers of migrants, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and more, most restaurants offer regional cuisine. Food culture has undergone significant changes every couple of years. The first to change was Yue (Cantonese) dishes, popularized throughout the country; followed by Fish with Pickled Vegetables of Sichuan style; Lamb Kabobs of Xinjiang; Mao Style Simmered Pork of Xiang (Hunan) dishes; Henan's Simmered Lamb in Soy Sauce; Mala (Hot and Mouth-numbing) Hotpot of Chongqing; Dumplings of the Northeastern Regions of China; Shanghai benbang food, and more.

A few years ago, places like Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei welcomed a new kind of home-style cuisine called "Personal Home Dish." These restaurants make original dishes and snacks for their guests while offering an intimate, all-to-your-self environment with a strong emotional appeal. Most of these places are small, and some have even implemented membership policies, while others require reservations. These restaurants with a personal touch are frequented and enjoyed by white-collar urban professionals. Buffets that allow Chinese people to enjoy a meal with freedom of choice contrast traditional Chinese restaurants. However, the greatest advantage of buffets is that people no longer have to sacrifice their taste preferences for others' benefit, and it is possible to be social when indulged only in their favourite food.

Most older food houses have a history of several decades to well over a hundred years. Although many have moved from the joint state to individual ownership to privatization, they have retained their competitive edge within the foodservice industry. "Old names" not only provide customers with unique dishes but rely more on their historical and cultural meaning.

The most famous of the old food houses in Beijing—Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant—is a characteristic example. Bianyifang Roast Duck Restaurant should be the oldest name in roasting ducks. Quanjude appeared a little later but surpassed the former in business. Particularly in the eyes of an outsider, Quanjude is the most acclaimed roast duck house. Based on preserving the hanging roaster stove, the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant business multiplied, with over a hundred locations throughout China. It even created a unique all-duck feast. Many people like to have Quanjude Roast Duck to enjoy its taste and its centuries-old history. In Beijing's most thriving district—Wangfujing, Donglaishun Restaurant evolved from once a small Hui national porridge stall to selling lamb hotpot and eventually becoming the number one "old name" in the business. Apart from its authentic Beijing Lamb Hotpot, there were no less than 200 other qingzhen (Hui Muslim) dishes such as Mixed Fungus and Tremella, Roast Lamb Leg, Innards Clear Soup and Hand served Lamb, Fired Lamb Tail and more. Its snacks, such as butter-fried cake and walnut cream, are also very famous.

Compared to home-style cuisine, regional dishes and "old name" restaurants, Chinese fast food, which has been adopting foreign business formulas, has only been around for several decades but has spread to every corner of cities of all sizes. These types of restaurants have been revealed to the public with all-new modes of management. With their long hours of operation and traditional tasting foods, fast food restaurants can meet customers' food needs at any time. With low prices, comprehensive selections, a wide range of tastes and clean individual servings, fast-food restaurants developed a strong momentum. With McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut and other Western fast-food franchises taking hold in the country, Western fast food, characterized by coke, burgers and pizzas, is doing quite well in China.

Ways to make Western food have been introduced in China. These foods, however, appeared only in Chinese overseas homes or Chinese imperial and noble families. From the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, accompanying foreign invasion by Western super-powers, Chinese people who worked for foreigners mastered Western food-making techniques. It was no longer a fancy practice to make and eat Western food and even developed into a separate business line. In the twenty-and-a-half years after China's opening-up policy, the number of restaurants selling specialty food from the East and West increased. Some of them are "old name" Western food restaurants located inside high-class hotels, and others have recently opened independent restaurants in places where foreigners gather to work and live. Some cities with tourist attractions even built specialty food streets, providing various ethnic cuisine to foreign tourists to dine with leisurely options.

During China's planned economic period, the government issued "food notes" starting in 1955 to guarantee citizens food in cities and towns. In addition to China's economic development, grain and oil prices were no longer tightly controlled. By the 1990s, food notes, which existed only in name, were abolished entirely.




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