Armies march on their stomachs, and so do I!
Hello again everyone! Today we are going to taking a look at a topic which I have particular interest in, and that is, yes you’ve guessed it, Food. Food, Cuisine, the taste of a country and when it comes down to it the worth of a man. Yes, food is something which is so integral to our very lives, that it often sums up who we are not only as individuals, but also as a people. As it goes without saying, China, one of the oldest living human civilisations not only holds the longest living history, but also boasts one of the longest existing cuisines of all humanity. It sounds ostentatious but I assure you, in this case, this pomp is rightly deserved. So, let’s jump right into this section, which I’ve entitled,“ Armies march on their bellies, and so do I; Food Travel around China.
As we have learnt in our previous issue, China is exceptionally large. It is so large in fact, that the entire landmass that is China, could swallow up all the Islands of the Caribbean many times over. However, while the flora, fauna and various vistas are astounding in their scale and beauty, they stand in pale comparison to the diversity and tastes which is “Chinese Cuisine”. Sadly, because of the sheer varieties and styles of Chinese Cuisine, It would take volumes to even attempt to list and explain them all. In order to avoid that arduous task, we shall take an easier routine, a sort of crash course on Chinese Food if you like. To do that we must cast our gaze towards the “Eight Great Styles” of Chinese Cuisine。
川菜: (Chuan Cai): Sichuan cuisine: Sichuan and Xiang (See below) cuisine are famed for “abounding with bountiful and fulfilling flavours”. Sichuan cuisine is one of the oldest and most popular culinary styles in China. Created in the Qin-Han Dynasties, developed during the Tang and Song dynasties, and finally gaining national popularity during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Sichuan style cooking lends itself to the use of various spices, herbs and peppers, which makes it not only very flavourful, but also extremely spicy. Particularly famed for it’s Numbing spice, which makes many Sichuan meals not only delicious but also, exceptionally spicy.
湘菜: (Xiang Cai) Xiang cuisine: Like Sichuan cuisine, Xiang cuisine is also famed for its “innovative use of spices and herbs,” and also lends itself to the spicy side of the taste palette. If you cannot eat spicy food then if visiting Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei or Guangxi, you must order only mildly spicy or not spicy dishes, for even these variations are often too spicy for the everyday joe. However, Unlike Sichuan cuisine, Xiang style does not employ the use of Numbing spice, so the flavour of the meal is both spicy and flavourful, leaning towards a salty, savoury or sweet & sour palette.
鲁菜 ( Lu Cai): Lu cuisine: Known as the “simple and unsophisticated Northern man,”Lu cuisine came into popularity after the fall of the Song Dynasty. Historically the main style of cooking used in Northern founded dynasties such as the Qing and Ming, Lu style is known used as the broad heading under which all Northern style cooking falls.Primarily based in Shandong Province and the surrounding areas,Lu cuisine favours basic cooking techniques such as; Fried, Stir-fried, Barbecued etc, and uncomplicated recipes. Lu cuisine leans towards standard flavours instead of posh culinary creations
粤菜: ( Yue cai): Yue or Guangdong cuisine: Guangdong and Min (see below) cuisine are known as the,“Cultured gentlemen of Chinese cooking.” Guangdong cuisine is the type of Chinese food most common in the Caribbean for example, most of the Chinese restaurants in Barbados, are examples of the fusion of Guangdong cuisine with local Caribbean flavours. More influenced by Western cooking methods than any other style of Chinese cuisine, Guangdong cuisine is thus, more familiar in taste and flavour to what most “Western” Non-Chinese peoples are accustomed to. Guangdong cuisine is also famed for its wide range of soups and ability to make any item into a culinary delight.
闽菜: (Min cai): Min Cuisine: Popularly known as the second gentlemen of Chinese cooking, Min cuisine was developed and is primarily located in the province of Fujian and surrounding regions, such a Fuzhou, Jianzhou , etc. Min cuisine boasts delicate flavours, but what makes its stand out is the importance placed on the colours and presentation of the meals prepared. Min cuisine is not a mere means to feed your body, it is also a way to stimulate ones visual palette.
浙菜: (Zhe cai): Zhe cusine: Zhe and Su(See below) cuisine are commonly called the “ graceful beauties of Jiang nan.” Hangzhou, Ningbo, Zhaoxing and Wenzhou, all in Zhejiang province are the main areas representative of Zhe cuisine. Zhe cuisine is famed for its intricate and complicated recipes as well as it appreciation of delicate and light flavours. Zhejiang, being the home of Rice, Fish and Green tea, these ingredients therefore, play an integral role when preparing a Zhe meal.
苏菜: (Su cai) Su Cuisine: Popularised during the Northern Song era, Su cuisine became the foundation of most Northern Song cooking styles which are inclusive Suzhou and Shanghai cuisine. Su Cuisine, places great emphasis on flavours which are either very light and delicate or lean themselves towards a sweeter palette. However more importantly,Su cuisine is renown for its appreciation of shapes and forms which form the back bone of its presentation.
徽菜: (Hui cai) Hui cuisine: The cuisine of the river lands; including the Yangzte River basin, Huai River basin and Huizhou, Hui cuisine is known for its robust flavours, plain ingredients and relatively uncomplicated preparation methods and recipes. Hui cuisine, known as “the taste of wild mountains and rivers,”is especially known, and is a personal favourite of mine as well, because it captures the natural flavours of the ingredients being prepared. Hui cuisinei also boasts the most extensive used of “Open-fire” cooking techniques.