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china Travel

THE MILLENARY CHINESE CUISINE

Traveler Ni continues his trip through China

Today it was a sunny day and a good weather. I looked at the map of the city and took a bus to the monument that marks the beginning of the Silk Road, it started in Xian and ended in Baghdad.

While exchanging a few dollars in the bank, I began to smell an unpleasant smell, I looked at the sole of my shoes, but there was no indication of having stepped on something unwanted, I noticed then that the smell came from the street, the so-called “stinky tofu”, the fermented soy cheese, a Chinese delicacy that usually emits an unpleasant odor.

From the monument I went to the center (“Bell Tower”), it was very crowded, some foreigners and especially many, many Chinese! The whole week would be like this, due to the holiday week. I finally found the Grand Mosque, which had a half-hidden entrance, but I decided to visit it in another day. Then I stopped by the “electronic mall” to buy a microphone for my computer.

I took a Cantonese class with Steven and last night I had dinner at a Cantonese restaurant, my favorite. I used to go there about five times a week. And always asked for something different in the menu of the day. To order the food, I had to look at someone’s dish at the table near by and point out that I wanted it, or I could read the ideogram of beef to make any request that had that ingredient. The restaurant was small and very dirty, the price was at the average local price, ranged from USD 0.50 to 1.20. And I had to share the table with any local, even if the table was already occupied, like it was in a college canteen, it used to fill up with students. It was in front of the XISU, where the “English Corner” took place, just across the avenue.

The next day once again made a good time. I tried to visit some temples in the south of the city, according to the guide, just take bus 215 until the end, and from there take a “rickyshaw”, the motorcycle cab with cabin, in South Africa it was called “rick”, but no one knew how to inform me anything. Frustrated, I went to the train station at the north gate of the wall, checked the tour package for tomorrow, for the Circuit of the Imperial Tombs, the western circuit. And not to lose the habit, I ended up strolling in the center.

I found a Taiwanese restaurant in the center, near the south gate, where I finally found the “zhong zhu” or “ba zhan” in Taiwanese, in Brazil they call it Chinese “pamonha”, but there is no similarity, the only similarity is the fact that both are wrapped in leaf of some plant. The “zhong zhu” was made of a kind of sticky rice. I thought it would be easy to find this food here in this country.

A funny thing is that sometimes on the city map it had a historical point, a tomb, but it couldn’t be found at all, as if it had been removed.

With so many daily walks, I’ve lost about 3kg in these two and a half months. Excellent, I was getting in shape!

The variety of ingredients and ways of preparing the dishes make Chinese cuisine one of the richest in the world. There are more than ten thousand dishes and about twenty different regional cuisines. In an immense country, with great climatic and landscape differences, there is a wide variety of dishes, dependent on an infinite range of products. Chinese cuisine has strongly influenced Japanese cuisine and many Southeast Asian countries, in addition to Central Asia, not to mention its influence on the world cuisine, after all noodles are a Chinese invention taken to Italy.

The hunger, poverty and wars that marked the country’s history caused the Chinese to set aside food taboos and take literally advantage of anything that could be taken to the mouth. Alongside rice, soy, pork, fish and vegetables, exotic delicacies often appear to the Western palate, such as shark fin, tiger penis, dog and cat meat, bat, snake, scorpion or locust.

In ancient times, the guests used the chopsticks and the spoons. There were no knives on the table because all the food was cut into small pieces so they could be caught with chopsticks. It was inconceivable to cut the food on the table while eating, it was considered something rude.

When preparing a typical Chinese meal, the cook is usually guided by various principles. The main one is the Taoist of Yin and Yang, the two complementary opposites. In the usual round table, where everything is arranged at once, soup, rice, pasta or bread, vegetables, meats, poultry or fish cooked in different techniques usually appear. One dish should be sweet (Yin) and the other salty (Yang); one cold (Yin) and the other hot (Yang); one soft (Yin) and the other crispy (Yang). The final picture is a feast that stirs all the senses. A good Chinese dish obeys four commandments: it has color, aroma, taste and presentation.

The Chinese believe that the meal should be a joint experience and this translate the cooperation that exists between family and friends. People serve each other in small portions.

Although they have a common base, it is possible to separate Chinese cuisine into four major regions:

•            from the North (Beijing), which was for years the capital of the Empire;

•            from the Central Maritime Region (Shanghai), where the handling of fish reaches its greatest refinement;

•            from Sichuan inland, sweet and very characteristic;

•            from Guangzhou (Guangdong), which mixes the elements of all.

The gastronomy of Guangzhou is the best known, due to its richness and diversity to a historical fact, the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 when emigration to the south was general. The venerable Beijing cooks and their kitchen equipment from the imperial palace made a long march. On their way they collected the great dishes from the kitchens of the mandarins of the provinces, which were thus incorporated into the Cantonese cuisine. In Guangzhou, breeding animals such as dog, cat, snake and monkey go to the plate. Even in China, this cuisine is considered very cruel. What the Chinese talk about this cuisine is that: “you eat everything that has four legs but the table, everything that flies except the plane, everything that swim but the boat”. There are always people who try to organize movements against this cuisine; but on the other hand, there are a lot of curious people.

Rice is the main item of an Asian cuisine. It is so essential that it incorporated the way of expressing itself, when a Chinese receives a visit at home, he always asks “have you eaten rice?” instead of simply asking “have you eaten” or “have you had lunch?”.

Written by Traveler Ni

Continue Exploring on at the Traveler Ni Youtube Channel

By Traveler Ni

I have traveled the world for the past two decades and recorded my experiences. Come join me on my travels and plan your own adventure.

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