There was a time when people used to say that the Chinese ate ‘anything under the sun that moves’. A visit to the 21st century China will show that this is no longer true, with many Chinese nationals keeping exotic and expensive pets as a sign of affluence.
Still, there’s no denying that food and eating plays an important part in Chinese culture. Many older generation Chinese around the world still greet one another with ‘Have you eaten yet?” instead of ‘How are you?’, and Chinese people are still known to travel to the deepest jungles and valleys in search of good food!
Chinese cuisine is highly varied, considering the huge geographical size of the country. The more renowned cuisines include that from the districts of Guangdong (Canton), Shandong, Jiangsu and Sichuan.
Although each of these districts have different cooking styles and specialties, they share some key ingredients such as garlic, shallots, mushroom, ginger and sesame oil.
A typical meal would consist of rice, soup, a main dish of meat or fish and other side dishes of vegetables or tofu. Soups are a key feature in Chinese meals – traditionally, a woman’s worth is based on how well she can cook different types of soup. Pickled vegetables and salted foods are also favourites, while one-meal dishes such as porridge or noodles are usually eaten for breakfast.
Traditionally, the Chinese are fast eaters, with their chopsticks moving deftly from one dish to another and back to their bowl of rice. Conversation is not encouraged and only begins after the last morsel has been finished and Chinese tea, usually warm, is served at the end of the meal.
Tea drinking or yum cha is a whole work of art in itself, with elaborate tea sets and a bewildering range of tea from different districts. The yum cha culture involves more than just enjoying a cuppa with friends and family; tea drinking ceremonies are often conducted at weddings and ceremonies as part of the official programme.
- Easy to cook
- Easily to digest
- High vegetable intake provides antioxidants and phytonutrients
- Keeps weight down
- Soups are not just nourishing but fills the stomach, making one eat less
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Sugar-free tea is healthiest beverage, second only to water
- High intake of salted and preserved ingredients
- Tend to get hungry fast which leads to snacking
In some societies, over indulging and obesity is seen as a status symbol.