"Eating is the utmost important thing in life" – By Kayla Allen
China is a huge country with a great variety in climate, landscape and crops so it's not surprising that China's cuisine is just as varied. Very generally speaking, there are eight main kinds of Chinese cuisine and four major "flavors"; Cantonese, Szechuan, Northern China (Peking) and that of Eastern China, which also can bear further breaking down as the food and tradition varies a great deal in this region.
The variety of ingredients can also be attributed to famine and hardship. China has been an agricultural civilization for thousands of years and has suffered from poor harvests. During lean years, people would explore everything edible to stay alive. Many strange and incredible ingredients such as wood ears, lily buds, etc. were discovered and added to Chinese recipes. The scarcity of food also taught people how to avoid waste. Various fruit and vegetable peels and even shark fins turned out to be delicacies in Chinese food.
When thinking about what sets Chinese cuisine apart aside from diversity, I think of how much consideration is given to every aspect of the Chinese meal. Attention and appreciation seem to be the hallmark of Chinese cuisine. From the ingredients and cooking methods to the utensils you eat with, every step and what it both looks and tastes like is equally important. Confucius once said: "Eating is the utmost important thing in life" and Chinese cuisine seems to take this literally.
You might feel the same when you taste this dish:
Fried Two Winters
* 1 block firm tofu
* 8 – 10 Chinese Black Mushrooms
* 1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots
* 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
* 1/2 cup vegetable broth
* 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
* 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
* 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
* 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
* 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 4 teaspoons water
* 4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
Drain the tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Soften the dried mushrooms by soaking in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Squeeze out any excess water and slice. If desired, strain a reserve a bit of the soaking water to add to the sauce.
Rinse the bamboo shoots under warm running water to remove any "tinny" taste. Drain thoroughly.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the vegetable broth, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Set aside. In another small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Set aside.
Heat the wok and add 2 tablespoons oil, drizzling it around the sides of the wok. When the oil is hot, add the bean curd cubes. Stir-fry until browned. Remove the bean curd from the wok.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to the wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the dried mushrooms and the bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
Push the vegetables up to the sides. Add the sauce in the middle of the wok. Add the cornstarch and water mixture, stirring quickly to thicken. Add the bean curd. Heat through. Remove from the stove and sprinkle with a few drops of sesame oil if desired. Serve hot.
To enjoy any Chinese meal one should use Chinese utensils, chopsticks. The use of chopsticks help to insure that you are given the time to savor and enjoy everything you pick up from your plate and put in your mouth. Here are some simple directions for those of you who may need a little help:
First, hold the upper stick like a pen with your thumb and middle finger. Second, take the lower one with the thumb and set it on the ring finger. Finally, try to move the two sticks and pick up your favorite dish. YUM.