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Chinese Dietary Culture- Origin and Development

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Chinese Dietary Culture- Origin and Development

China has an abundant supply of foodstuffs. She is famous for her refined art of the cooking and preparation of food. In this country great attention is paid to the naming of the immense variety of dishes that may be laid on the table. High store is set by the shape and color of the ultimate product to be presented for consumption and also for appreciation. The duration and degree of heating or cooking and the flavoring of the foods involved are also resolved meticulously. All this has rich philosophical implications and a solid historical background. For example, from remote past down to the present time, the Chinese culinary art lays emphasis on the need to preserve the natural shape of the foodstuff being processed if it is very beautiful, to preserve the original color if it can arouse an exquisite sense of delight, and to preserve the original taste if it is unique and flawless. The underlying principle is that food processing should only enhance, not reduce, the merit of the raw material.

For the processing of this kind of food special technical treatments will have to be resorted to according to the traits of the material involved so as to "keep the original juice with the original flavor" without any change in character. The cooking theory of the culinary art emphasizes that "foodstuffs have each its own taste and flavor, which should not be made homogeneous through mixing" and that "every material should be enabled to make its own contribution and every dish should present its own unique taste and flavor". Some foodstuffs are very nutritious, but unfortunately they have the peculiar smell of fish or mutton.

Chinese Dietary Culture

In processing this kind of foodstuff different condiments will have to be added and different cooking utensils used to carry out various technical treatments such as stewing, simmering, stir-frying, deep-frying, quick-frying, quick-frying with vinegar, boiling and steaming so that the peculiar smell may be eliminated, nutritional value preserved, and the original deliciousness given prominence to. China’s dietary culture has a very long history. It dates back to about 8,000 years ago, when people began to use mud for building pens in which they bred various animals including the six domestic animals well known to people everywhere, namely pig, ox, goat, horse, chicken and dog. Archeological study has proved that since that time there has occurred the extensive appearance in China of the cultivation of crops of the grass family such as millet, maize, rice, sorghum, hemp and flax.

Chinese Dietary Culture

During the period of transition from the Qin to the Han Dynasty (221~200BC), barley, wheat and oats also came to be cultivated. There also appeared soybeans, red beans and black soybeans that were the fruits of agricultural labor. The technique of growing spring onion, chives, garlic, radish and more than ten other vegetables was developed. The hothouse was used in winter to grow spring onion and hotbed chives. As for salt, wine, sugar, vinegar and honey, they were extensively used as condiments. Even the drinking of tea was not something unusual.

At the time of the Tang Dynasty (618~907AD), the preparation of food became almost the same as that of today. Cooked rice, congee, steamed bread, boiled dumplings with meat and vegetable stuffing, steamed stuffed buns, noodles and other foods served in soup were all in supply.

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