Chinese Cooking Art

A nation's cooking culture reflects its food traditions, from the food-preparation and eating habits of the countryside to the food-preparation and eating habits of the city, notwithstanding the increasing introduction of foreign fare that is not only served in "foreign" restaurants in the city, but which today is also found in the freezer section of most supermarkets even in the countryside.

What makes Chinese cooking "Chinese Cooking", you may ask? Well, while some of the following features may apply to just about any national cooking tradition, they all come together in "Chinese Cooking" (note that the description below does not delve into the particular "How-To" techniques of "Chinese Cooking", but rather, looks at the phenomenon of "Chinese Cooking" from a more generalized perspective). 

Distinct Regional Flavors - Since China is a very large and a very ancient country, with varying ethnic and cultural traditions, and since China possesses an abundance of agricultural resources that reflect local and regional differences in climate, products, customs and habits, it has developed a variety of local and regional food flavors over the course of its long and illustrious history. One of the most common - and generally accurate - generalizations regarding China's eating habits is the saying "rice in the south, noodles in the north".

Seasonality - The Chinese people have a long tradition of consuming local foodstuffs, implicit in which is the notion of consuming produce that belongs to the particular season. The easy availability of a particular foodstuff is of course related to its consumer price, and since local foodstuffs are readily available in large quantities "in season", the price range is generally low. Morever, consuming seasonally available (read: locally available) foodstuffs means that one is assured of obtaining fresher foodstuffs, all other things being equal, than purchasing non-seasonal foodstuffs which have to be transported over long distances. The third factor is intricately linked to the other two: seasonal/ local availability means that people have become adept at developing recipies that make the most of particular foodstuffs at specific times of the year.

The Inclusion of "Medicinal" Foodstuffs/ Herbs - The cooking tradition of China, since time immemorial, has been intricately linked to the use of herbs and other foodstuffs and/or spices that are believed to have a beneficial effect on the body, and in some cases may be considered as part of a traditional ("folk" or "ancestral") treatment. Some of these foodstuffs/ herbs may be quite tasty in and of themselves, and might be desired as a taste enhancer even should their putative medicinal value be proven to be nonexistent.

In sum, while "Chinese Cooking" combines several features that may be common to many other national cooking traditions.