Chinese food is popular throughout the world. You can find a Chinese restaurant in all major citys and in many smaller towns and villages over the world as well. When people in the west speak of Chinese food, they probably mean Cantonese food. It's the best known and most popular variety of Chinese food. Cantonese food is noted for the variety and the freshness of it's ingredients. Dishes are usually stir-fried with just a touch of oil to ensure that the result is crisp and fresh. All those best known 'western Chinese' dishes fit into this category - sweet and sour dishes, won ton, chow mein, spring rolls.
Why is Chinese food so popular? Is Chinese food healthy? What is the history of Chinese food?
The history of Chinese food is an interesting one. Unlike many cultures the Chinese believe that the preparation of food is an art and not simply a craft.
The art of cooking Chinese food can include dishes and food preparation techniques which are difficult to develop and may require the expertise of a chef with lots of experience. One such technique is noodle pulling. Noodle pulling requires skill and lots of practice and results in a delicious noodle dish.
Chinese food and the way it is prepared is very much influenced by the two major philosophies, which influence the entire Chinese culture. These dominant philosophies are Confucianism and Taoism. Both have these philosophies have influenced the way that the Chinese people cook and the way that they enjoy their food.
Confucius was the man behind the Confucianism beliefs. Among many other standards Confucius established standards for proper table etiquette and for the appearance and taste of Chinese food. One of the standards set by Confucius (you might have noticed this at an authentic Chinese restaurant) is that food must be cut into small bite size pieces before serving the dish. This is a custom that is definitely unique to the Chinese culture.
Knives at the dinner table are also considered to be a sign of very poor taste by those who embrace Confucianism beliefs. The standards of quality and taste that Confucius recommended required the perfect blend of ingredients, herbs and condiments--a blend which would result in the perfect combination of flavor. Confucius also emphasized the importance of the texture and color of a dish, and taught that food must be prepared and eaten with harmony. Interestingly enough, Confucius was also of the opinion that an excellent cook must first make an excellent matchmaker.
Those who follow the Taoism beliefs focus on the health benefits of particular foods vs. the presentation of the same. Taoists search for foods that will increase their health and longevity. They search for foods that have healing powers. Many times these benefits were often referred to as ‘life giving powers’. For instance, the Chinese found that ginger, which can be considered to be a garnish or a condiment was found to be a remedy for upset stomachs or a remedy for colds.
Chinese food, when authentic is probably the healthiest food in the world. Some restaurants, which are not authentic, prepare their menu with highly saturated fats or with meats that contain unhealthy amounts of animal fat. These Chinese restaurants are not recommended and they are both neither authentic nor healthy.
Good Chinese food however, is prepared and cooked with poly-unsaturated oils. Authentic Chinese food does not require the use of milk-fat ingredients such as cream, butter or cheese. Meat is used, but not in abundance, which makes it easy for those who love authentic Chinese food to avoid high levels of animal fat. Many believe that authentic Chinese food is really the ideal diet.
With Cantonese food the more people you can muster for the meal the better, because dishes are traditionally shared so everyone will manage to sample the greatest variety. A corollary of this is that Cantonese food should be balance: traditionally, all foods are said to be either Yin (cooling) - like vegetables, most fruits and clear soup; or Yang - like starchy foods and meat. A cooling food should be balance with a heaty food and too much of one it would not be good for you.
Another Cantonese specialty is Dim Sum or 'little heart'. Dim sum is usually consumed during lunch or as a Sunday brunch. Dim sum restaurant are usually large, noisy affair and the dim sum, little snacks that come in small bowls, are whisked around the tables on individual trolleys or carts. Beijing (Peking) food is, of course best known for the famous 'Peking Duck'.
Beijing food is less subtle than Cantonese food. Beijing food is usually eaten with hot steamed bun or with noodles, because rice is not grown in cold region of the north. But in Malaysia, it is more likely to come with rice.
Shanghai food are not easily found in Malaysia. Since most of Malaysia's Chinese are from the south, particularly from Hainan and Hakka it is quite easy to find food from this region. Throughout Malaysia one of the most widespread economical meals is the Hainanese Chicken Rice which cost around the figure of RM3.00. The Hainanese also produced steamboat, sort of Oriental variation of the Swiss Fondue, where you have a boiling stockpot in the middle of the table into which you deep pieces of meat, seafood and vegetable.
Whether it is in a Tennessee Chinese Restaurant to a New York Chinese restaurant you are going to find culinary dishes that are both healthy and delicious.