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Chinese Food

Chinese Food

Chinese food can be divided into two style of cooking. 1) Northern style 2) Southern style. In the North which is really Beijing, vinegar and garlic are more pronounced and noodles are eaten most often. Southern cooking is more Hunan and Szechwan style which is spicier with lot of chili peppers as well as vegetables. Cantonese food or cooking from Hong Kong tends to more on the sweet side. Whenever, I watched my Chinese friends cooking they all seems to have three or five colors selected for their ingredient. They have something light green, dark green, yellow, white, black or caramel in color.  Why you might ask? These colors have something to do with the five elements theory of yin and yang. The five elements are: Wood, Fire, Water, Earth and Metal. Correspondent to these elements are Yin and Yang.

Elements

Yin

Yang

Feelings

Colors

Tastes

Wood

Liver

Gall Bladder

Rage

Green

Sour

Fire

Heart

Small Intestine

Happiness

Red

Bitter

Earth

Spleen

Stomach

Thought

Yellow

Sweet

Metal

Lungs

Large Intestine

Sorrow

White

Spicy

Water

Kidneys

Bladder

Fear

Black

Salty

Color is not the only thing that goes into Chinese cooking but nutrition plays the most important role. The Chinese believes that we should always eat food that nourishes our kidney, spleen/pancreas, lungs, heart and liver; in fact many of the plants used in Chinese cooking have properties of preventing and alleviating various illnesses. So the next time you cook a meal, take into consideration how you are balancing your yin and yang. I try to do it whenever I cook, but since this is not a habit; I tend to slip more often than not, this is why I love living in China, I get to avoid all the bad eating habits.

In the USA if we are cooking fish we would typically use lemon to remove fishy flavor, while the Chinese use scallions and ginger. Soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and a few spices add richness to most Chinese dishes. In most Chinese cooks mind, if they can cook a meal that is rich for those who like strong flavors, not too spicy for those who like a much milder taste, sweet to those who like sweet flavor and hot enough for those who like it up a few notch; and everyone is enjoying their meal, then it is truly a successful dish. Therefore, you will never see a Chinese person in China eating from one plate, but they will have many dishes on the table at all times.

Practically every city around the world has some sort of Chinese fast food restaurants which are specific to each Western culture. Shrimp Lo mein is different in each of the countries that I have lived.  In my humble option, the best Chinese food in the world is located in Taiwan which is considered South of China. In Taiwan you can find real Chinese food and regardless of whether it is a stall along the road or in a more upscale restaurant, food is prepared with such sophistication and expertise with all the colors we talked about and all the various tastes.

Diane Smith-Walsh

Sharing Cultures, Co-Chair

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