Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Real Chinese Food

Americans love Chinese food, or so they think. Take out Chinese restaurants and delivery services can be found in almost every large town. These restaurants have menus containing the well-liked General Tso’s chicken, Lo Mein and Won Ton Soup. However, this selection of “Chinese Food” will not be found in stores in China or on the dinner tables of the Chinese in China. All of these foods have been “Americanized”, and the only pure Chinese choice on an American Chinese restaurant's menu will probably be the white rice (if it’s not fried). Authentic Chinese food is not recognized as “Chinese food”, as food in China is unique to certain regions, not the entire country. Authentic Chinese dishes are recognized by regions, such Fujian,  Cantonese and Xinjiang.

Fujian dishes are derived from China’s Fujian province. Fujian dishes stress unami taste, and are light but flavorful. Since the Fujian is a province located along the ocean, fish are an important staple in Fujian’s people diets, and thus in their cooking. Woodland plants, such as mushrooms and bamboo, are also an important ingredient in many Fujian dishes. Fujian's are known for creating soups and stews with their food, and serve a stew or soup with every meal. When preparing the food, special attention is given to the knife skill and cooking techniques, believed to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of the soups. A popular Fujian soup is Buddha Jumps Over The Wall. This dish was created during the Qing Dynasty, and has remained a Fujian delicacy ever since. The soup requires two days to prepare, and includes: shark fin, quail eggs, bamboo, sea cucumber, chicken, pork and mushrooms among other ingredients. The process for preparing this meal is long, because the shark fin has to be soaked in a special mixture for several hours. 

A bowl of Buddha Jumps Over The Wall

Another Chinese province famous for their cuisine is the Guangdong province. Food from this region is known as Cantonese cuisine. Although the Guangdong province is also located on the ocean, important ingredients in the Cantonese dishes include pork and eggs. A famous Cantonese dish is known as Chinese Steamed Eggs. In this recipe, eggs are consistently beaten, as they would be for American scramble eggs or omelettes. The egg mixture is then steamed. The mixture, after steamed, is then added to chicken broth or water to create a more tender texture. 

Chinese Steamed Eggs

The Xinjiang region is the northwestern region of china that lines the board of neighboring Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Since Xinjiang is not located along a large body of water, fish is not a staple food in dishes or diets of people of Xinjiang region. Instead, a popular Shou La Mian, a home made noodle, is an important dish. The noodle is made from flour, water and salt. The dough is rolled into balls, and then stretched by hand into long strips. They  are then boiled until very soft, and then served with meat or vegetables. An important dish in many Xinjiang dishes is soup, so Shou La Mian compliments these dishes well.

Shou La Mian served with soup

Authentic chinese food; created, served and enjoyed in China, hardly resemble the popular dishes in American take-out Chinese restaurants. Instead of friend American Chinese food, such as fried rice and General Tso’s, Chinese enjoy dishes authentic to their regions. Authentic dishes contain ingredients important to their region; seaside regions such as Fujian and Guangdong incorporate fish into their dishes, while wood regions such as Xinjiang include noodles and woodland plants. 

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