From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Top Foodie Cities in China

What are the best places in China for food? If you just came to China to sample the best of its authentic food in authentic settings, where should you go? Of course food is usually only ever part of the Chinese experience that visitors are looking for, and if you go to the following cities, you can also experience a wide range of the best sights China has to offer when you’re not eating.

1. Hong Kong

Hong Kong Breakfast
  • Location: Southeast China
  • Culinary Style: Cantonese cuisine, Hong Kong Cuisine, Foreign cuisine
Cantonese food is enjoyed the world over and is closest to the flavor of Chinese takeaway food. It is the sweetest of China’s Eight Culinary Styles, and is the most similar to the Western palate. Hong Kong offers this style, along with good seafood, and dim sum (tea and a light meal, peculiar to HK).
Hong Kong, being a wealthy international city, has restaurants selling high-quality food from many countries of the world, most notably Japanese, Korean, and British food.

2. Beijing

Peking Duck
  • Location: Northeast China
  • Culinary Style: Jing cuisine, Northeast cuisine, Mongolian cuisine
Peking duck or simply roast duck is a delicious classic among Chinese foods. It is prepared no better anywhere than in Beijing, where it originated as an imperial food. Quanjude Restaurant serves the duck feast in lavish and studied style. Beijing food is in a class of its own, called Jing cuisine.
In the north of China wheat is the staple, more than rice, so many wheaten foods are eaten, like pancakes, noodles, steamed buns, and dumplings. There is also lots of braising in the Northeast style.
Mongolian hotpot is another classic that should be eaten in Beijing, which is surprisingly only about 250 kilometers (160 miles) from Inner Mongolia, or 500 kilometers (300 miles) from Hohhot.

3. Chengdu

Mapo Tofu
  • Location: Central China, Sichuan Province
  • Culinary Style: Chuan cuisine
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, which gives its name to the spiciest, and also a very popular, Chinese culinary style. China’s Sichuan food should be braved. It is too hot for most in all but small quantities, but if you love chilies this is heaven. Classic dishes that should be eaten here are the Sichuan hotpot, kungpao chicken and mapo tofu. Chongqing is also a great city to eat Chuan food.

4. Turpan

Whole Roast LambWhole Roast Lamb
  • Location: Northwest China, Xinjiang Autonomous Region
  • Culinary Style: Muslim cuisine, Xinjiang Cuisine
Anywhere in the Muslim Northwest of China would be a great place to eat whole roast lamb and hand-pulled noodles, as this is where these dishes originate. Also do not miss the Xinjiang ‘large flatbreads’, known locally as nang (/nung/).
Turpan pips Urumqi for food, the capital of the Xinjiang, because it also has excellent locally grown dried fruit in its almost rural setting. Its small town restaurants and shops provide a more peaceful and authentic atmosphere than the biggest city in Central Asia.


Spring Rolls
  • Location: Southeast China, Fujian Province
  • Culinary Style: Min (Fujian) cuisine
For great seafood and authentic sweet and sour dishes go to Xiamen.
Fujian cuisine, developed in Fujian Province on the Pacific, is known for its spices and soups. Xiamen’s attractions make it the most interesting city in Fujian.

6. Guangzhou

  • Location: Southeast China, Guangdong Province
  • Culinary Style: Yue (Cantonese) cuisine
Guangzhou (once known as Canton) and other Pearl River Delta cities, like Shenzhen, are good places to go for original Cantonese food.
Guangzhou’s specialties include white cut chicken and roast suckling pig, as well as spring rolls and sweet and sour dishes.

7. Macau

coffee and egg tartPastel de Nata
  • Location: Southeast China, by Guangdong Province and Hong Kong, on the Pacific coast
  • Culinary Style: Portuguese-meets-Chinese, Cantonese cuisine
For an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese style food journey to Macau. This small former colony has a menu different enough and tasty enough to merit a place on the list.
It is in the Cantonese food zone.

8. Xi'an

  • Location: Central China, Shaanxi Province
  • Culinary Style: Northwest cuisine, Muslim cuisine, imperial feasts
Xi’an should be on the list for its imperial feasts, including many exotic meat platters, like camel and donkey, that can be eaten while viewing a Tang Dynasty show.
Xi’an is a representative place for the Northwest food style, which is actually quite similar to the Northeast style, represented by Beijing above, but more noodles, with less buns and dumplings. Lanzhou is famous for its pulled noodles.

Other Interesting Food Cities

Lijiang snacksLijiang snacks
Those top eight food cities cover the range of China’s best mainstream foods, and those generally preferred by the foreign palate. Much of China’s ethnic minority food and less well-known culinary styles are more of an acquired taste.
China’s biggest variety of minorities are concentrated in the South. Key cities are Kaili, Kunming, Guilin, Xishuangbanna, etc. Besides minority food, cities on Hainan Island like Haikou and Sanya have fresh tropical fruit and excellent seafood.
Tibetan food is the least accessible of China’s foods, but besides in Lhasa and other Roof-of-the-World places, Tibetan food can be found in places like Lijiang, Diqing, and Dali in Yunnan, and in Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province.
Five provinces in Central and East China give their names to five lesser known of China’s eight regional culinary styles, not covered by the cities listed above: Lu Cuisine (Shandong Cuisine), Su Cuisine (Jiangsu Cuisine), Zhe Cuisine (Zhejiang Cuisine), Hui Cuisine (Anhui Cuisine), and Xiang Cuisine (Hunan Cuisine). Visit their capital cities (Jinan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Hefei, and Changsha respectively) to taste these styles.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Hui Cuisine — China's Wild Cuisine

Anhui cuisine is one of the lesser known of the Eight Great Cuisines of China. Anhui Province is a poorer inland province west of Shanghai, so its food is basically a hearty mountain peasant food, famously the diet of the Yellow Mountains and the tourist area of Huangshan.
The best Anhui food is known for incorporating wild ingredients from the local mountains for a tasty, different, and healthful cuisine.
  • Names: Anhui food, Hui cuisine (徽菜 Huīcài /hway-tseye/)
  • Location: Anhui Province (inland E. China)Huangshan (Yellow Mts.), Hefei
  • Distinctives: many wild plant/animal ingredients, more stewing and oil

Ingredients of Anhui Cuisine

wild vegetablesAnhui cuisine is famous for its wild picked ingredients from mountains
Wild food: Anhui cuisine is known for wild picked or caught delicacies from the mountains as the main ingredients and flavorings. Anhui has large mountain forest areas. Wild caught frogs, local small shrimp, turtles, and lots of other wildlife are put into their soups and stews.
Fungi: Both wild and cultivated fungi and mushrooms are relished as flavorings and for their nutritional value.
Herbs and vegetables: For Chinese, food is medicine. They pay attention to both the season and the weather, and use yin foods and yang foods as necessary to achieve balance and promote health and comfort. Locally produced bayberry, tea leaves, bamboo shoots, and dates all come from mountain areas. Locally picked wild herbs add both aroma and medicinal effects.
Staples: Nowadays, both rice and wheat products are the staples. But in times past, the traditional staple was rice. Anhui-ers also grow various root crops for staple foods, such as kinds of potatoes that fit their climate and land.
Pork and ham: If you like pork, this cuisine is for you since it makes it way into many popular dishes. These include:
  • Li Hongzhang stew is a complex stew with many different ingredients that depends on what is available or seasonal. It contains pieces of chicken and/or ham and/or other meat, vegetables, and perhaps seafood. It is named after Li Hongzhang (1823–1901), a Qing Dynasty general. (李鸿章杂烩 Lǐ Hóngzhāng záhuì /lee hong-jung dzaa-hway/)
  • Farmhouse egg dumplings: This traditional peasant food is pork filled dumplings with an egg wrapper instead of a flour wrapper.(农家蛋饺 nóngjiā dànjiǎo /nong-jyaa dan-jyaow/

Cooking Methods and Styles

Reflecting the peasant origins, their chefs use comparatively simple methods of preparation. 
Hui chefs are particular about controlling cooking time and temperature. High, medium, or low heat is applied according to the quality and characteristics of the different ingredients, and the flavor requirements of finished dishes. They aim to cook food to perfection, and not overcook to protect the nutrition. So they have special skill in sautéing and stewing to achieve a delicate lightness in taste.
There are three regional styles: the Huai River (north Anhui) and the Yangtze River (central Anhui) lowland regions, which traditionally used river fish and aquatic creatures, and the more famous style of the southern Anhui region where the Yellow Mountains are.

Food You Could Try in the Yellow Mountains

The Yellow Mountains are a popular tourist area, where foreign tourists like to hike. Here are some local specialties to try if you go:
  • Mao tofu: It is a traditional snack made from the local fermented "stinky" tofu. It is cooked in sesame oil and hot pepper, and locals love it. It is often sold as a street snack.
  • Yellow crab shell cake: This isn't made from crab shell at all. It gets its name because it has a yellow color and a round shape. It is sort of a dumpling filled with chopped vegetables and fatty meat such as pork. It is baked instead of boiled or fried.
  • Luzhou Roast Duck: This is a local meat dish, and when well made by a chef, it is a local gourmet delicacy.

Hui Cuisine Menu

English Chinese Pronunciation Characters
Ham and “Whippy” Bamboo Stew huǒtuǐ dùn biān sǔn Hwor-tway dwnn byen swnn 火腿炖鞭笋
Stewed Turtle with Ham huǒtuǐ dùn jiǎyú Hwor-tway dwnn jyaa-yoo 火腿炖甲鱼
Red-Cooked Chicken fú lí jí shāo jī Foo lee jee shaoww jee 符离集烧鸡
Snowy Winter Roast Chicken xuě dōng shāo jī Sshwair dong shaoww jee 雪冬烧鸡
Tasteless Smoked Duck wúwèi xūn yā Woo-way sshyoon yaa 无味熏鸭
Fat King Fish in Milk Soup nǎi zhī féi wáng yú Neye jrr fay wung yoo 奶汁肥王鱼
Honeycomb Tofu fēngwō dòufu Fnng-woo doh-foo 蜂窝豆腐
Braised Masked Palm Civet hóngshāo guǒzi lí Hong-shaoww gwor-dzrr-lee 红烧果子狸

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Hunan Cuisine/Xiang Cuisine — Hot (Spicy) and Sour

Most tourists who visit China get to know the spicy red hot flavors of Sichuan cuisine since it is a tourist favorite. But in Hunan Province, the food is maybe even hotter. Their food tastes less numbing and sourer.
  • Names: Hunan food, Xiang cuisine (湘菜 Xiāngcài /sshyang-tseye/)
  • Location: Hunan Province (southern central China) — Changsha, Zhangjiajie
  • Distinctives: spicy, favoring sautéing, stir-frying, steaming, and smoking

The Flavors of Hunan Cuisine — Hot and Sour, and Salty 

Eating Hunan food is fun. You'll have a chance at trying your tongue on a new kind of cuisine. If you've experienced the burning numbness of Sichuan or Chongqing food, see how your body reacts to the vinegar/chili mix of Hunan food.
The many different tastes of the food partly stems from an unusually wide variety of agricultural products. Several kinds of chili peppers are grown. Citrus fruits are one of the major crops, and it lends the yummy sour flavor to dishes such as the popular Hunan Orange Chicken.
'Chopped chili' (剁辣椒 duò làjiāo /dwor laa-jyaow/) is made from vinegar, chili peppers, and salt. It is liberally applied in noodle soups and meat dishes to produce the sour, hot flavor they love.

Stimulate Your Appetite the Chinese Way

Hunan food is actually hotter than Sichuan food. The Sichuanese use pepper corn that numbs your mouth so the food all starts tasting the same. Instead, the Hunanese use vinegar with the pepper. It serves to stimulate the taste buds and make them tingle, so you can better perceive the wide range of flavors and the rich variety of ingredients and spices.
The numbing Sichuan food might give you a higher blood pressure/pulse rate so that you'll need to drink something cold or go out for a walk to cool down. Hunan food does the opposite. Vinegar lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels too. So it is good for those with high blood pressure.

Why Such Hot (and Sour) Food?

Common saying: 四川人不怕辣,湖南人辣不怕,贵州人怕不辣! (Sìchuānrén búpà là, Húnánrén là búpà, Guìzhōurén pà búlà!) It means: "Sichuan people don't fear hot food, Hunan people don't fear any degree of spiciness at all, and Guizhou people fear to eat food that isn't spicy."
Perhaps the wet hot summers and chilly wet winters drive the people to eat sour hot foods. The Chinese think that extra heat (yang) of peppers and other hot spices balances out the excessive cold and wet (yin).
Vinegar also packs yang, and along with helping with digestion, you'll find that it helps cool your body on hot days. In traditional Chinese medicine, vinegar is used to help people be more comfortable in the heat of summer and stay healthy. It also kills parasites and bacteria that grow in hot weather.

Notable Features — Many Vegetables, Hot Seasonings, and Rice

Crunchy vegetables: Eating a wide variety of vegetables keeps them healthy as does their cooking method. They generally like to sauté with a little oil so it is still crunchy "al dente." It preserves vitamins in food this way.
  • Refreshing summertime vegetable: 'Slapped cucumber' (拍黄瓜 pai huanggua) is an appetizer of cold cucumbers served in garlic, dried chili flakes, and vinegar. To prepare it, cucumbers are 'slapped' down to absorb the vinegar dressing.
Daily staple: The area is in the subtropical rice growing area of China, so white rice and rice noodles are the the main staple cereal foods. For example, mi fen (长沙米粉 mǐfěn) rice noodle soup is popular in Changsha.

Seasonings of Xiang Cuisine

Yang sources: They use hot peppers and green onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, spicy oil, duo la jiao and cassia cinnamon to provide the needed daily yang. Soy sauce and tea seed oil are also used in cooking.
Sweet foods: Honey is enjoyed in some dishes, and sugar is used in some dishes and candy. They like sweet food, but not as much as the Cantonese further south. Lotus seed candy is a local product.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

Their cuisine is thought of as the melting pot of the larger regional cuisines around them. Their cooks use various ways to prepare food. They commonly boil soups or stews, stir-fry, sauté (炒香), bake, braise, smoke, pickle or ferment.
Fermentation: To store vegetables and meat for the winter or preserve it through the hot summers, Hunanese have traditionally eaten much pickled and fermented food. They pickle tofu by letting it sit for few weeks. It is then mixed with liquor, salt, star anise, and chili and fermented in pickling jars for a month or more. 

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Zhe Cuisine/Zhejiang Cuisine — The Mellow Seafood of Zhejiang

Zhejiang Cuisine originates from the populous and rich eastern province of Zhejiang on the Pacific. If you don't like spicy cuisine, but prefer fish and seafood, then this is the food style for you. 
Hangzhou, its capital, was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty, and the city was renowned for their wealth and sophistication. Maybe this is why the food is unusually dainty and refined
  • Names: Zhejiang food, Zhe cuisine (浙菜 Zhècài /jer-tseye/)
  • Location: East China, Zhejiang Province — Hangzhou
  • Distinctives: mellow flavors, seafood, artistry, many cooking methods

Main Features — Seafood, Refined Artistry, Freshness...

The great seafood dishes are the main draw of this style of food. But most tourists will find the artistic refinement of the cuisine attractive too. 
A wide variety of seafoods are used to make Zhejiang dishes. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, the people of Zhejiang can eat all these and things from the sea most people have never seen such as sea cucumbers and varieties of sea vegetables that you can explore.
Zhejiang is the richest province in China, and it was called the "land of milk and honey", so the people expect some extra refined touch to their food. It isn't greasy, not mouth numbing, not too sour, not too sweet, but not bland either.
However, they focus less on colorful dishes and artistry than the Fujianese do and focus more on serving fresh food. The food is often served raw or almost raw and is fresh and crispy and seasonal. It is more like Japanese food in this way.

The Three Styles of Zhejiang Cuisine

  • Hangzhou style is the most refined. They prefer stir-fried dishes, soups and seafood and are said to include bamboo shoots in half of their dishes. 
  • Shaoxing is inland, and poultry and freshwater fish is the common fare. 
  • Ningbo is noted for salty seafood and sweet confectioneries.

Sweet Desserts

Wealthy people often prefer sweet deserts, and the province is traditionally noted for sweet confections made from sugar, beans, rice, and wheat. For those in Hangzhou on the Yangtze River, northern wheat was readily available for making confections.
Sweet Ningbo rice balls (宁波年糕) and rice cakes are an example of local sweet foods. Glutinous rice and sugar gives a sweet taste that is often eaten for celebrations, festivals, and snacks. The rice balls may have a black sesame or red bean filling mixed with sugar, and flavorings might include cassia (cinnamon tree) flowers.

Many Cooking Methods — Sautéing, Braising, Stewing...

Zhejiang chefs have developed numerous ways to cook and prepare food. Perhaps this has something to do with their location next to Fujian, that also traditionally used diverse cooking methods, the influence of Shanghai's cosmopolitan culture, and influences from abroad.

Soaking in Brine

This style of "cooking" is unusual. But it is common in Ningbo where salty food is popular. It is similar to pickling. Meat is simply left to soak in brine and eaten. 
An example is the popular Ningbo salty crab dish prepared by soaking crabs in very salty brine for about 24 hours so that the brine impregnates the crab meat. They prefer female crabs with an orange roe (crab eggs), so when it is served, the roe on the meat looks like an orange sauce.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Refined Healthy Gourmet Food

Jiangsu cuisine is one of the lesser known of the Eight Great Cuisines of China among foreigners. Jiangsu Province has the highest per capita income. Probably for this reason, the food is more gourmet style. It is very refined and presented colorfully and artistically.
  • Names: Jiangsu food, Su cuisine (苏菜 Sūcài /soo-tseye/)
  • Location: Jiangsu Province (coastal east China) — Nanjing, Suzhou
  • Distinctives: seafood; richly aromatic with fine presentation

Flavors — Marine, Moderate, and Natural

A wide variety of seafoods are eaten. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, Jiangsu people eat many things most people have never seen. The wide range of sea vegetable dishes is something healthful to explore.
Their chefs emphasize bringing out the distinct natural flavors in the rich range of meat and plant ingredients in their dishes. So they don't add much salt, sugar or seasonings like chili powder that hide and overwhelm the ingredients' flavors. So their meals are richly aromatic.

Ingredients of Jiangsu Cuisine

Seafood: Since Jiangsu is on the coast, the fresh seafood is the highlight. The high income means the people demand high quality ingredients, and the chefs are known for selecting the best seafood for their dishes.
Staples: Both rice and wheat products are the staples. Jiangsu people also grow various root crops for staple foods. A favorite dish and a popular snack is sweet taro filled rice balls or rice cakes.
Herbs and vegetables: The province is also known for its wide diversity of agricultural products. There are a lot of lakes and ponds in the region, so much watershield, lotus, Chinese chestnuts, winter bamboo shoots, water bamboo, and water chestnuts are eaten. Jiangsu's comparatively wealthy people are also particular about choosing vegetable/herb combination dishes for their health effects.
Jiangsu chefs pay attention to both the season and the weather, and according to their understanding, they use different foods to achieve balance and promote health and comfort. For example, ginseng is thought to be good for consumption in cold weather, and by most elderly people.
For Chinese, food is medicine. You could talk with your guide, waiters, or local Chinese friends about your health or how you feel physically, and they'll help select the right dishes for you. Yancheng City in particular is known for medicinal dishes. Learn more about Chinese Medicinal Food.

Cooking Methods and Styles

Reflecting the wealthy and imperial origins of the style, their chefs use very elaborate and precise cooking methods and presentation. Their cooking methods are more complex than stir-frying. They commonly stew, braise, simmer, and warm to preserve the original flavors and to maintain clarity, freshness, and mildness.

Six Main Regional Styles

Su Cuisine is composed of six styles: those of Huaiyang, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, and the less notable styles of Xuzhou and Haizhou.
Chinese chefs think that the Huaiyang (Huai'an) style is one of the four best in China, and it is frequently served at government banquets. It is considered to be one of the four most influential regional cuisine styles (四大菜系 'Four Great Cuisines'). Their forté is aroma and a high degree of visual artistry. Expect food set down in a rainbow of colors at a gourmet restaurant.
Nanjing style is famous for its fine cutting and preparation techniques. The dishes are not only fine-tasting, but also very good-looking. It features freshness, fragrance, crispness and tenderness. Like the rest of Jiangsu styles, the dishes tend to be mildly sweet in taste. The excel at seasonal vegetables, freshwater fish and seafood.
Yangzhou style is renowned for fine cutting techniques, perfect timing, fresh color and original design. The Yangzhou fried rice is a favorite dish. It is much more complex in terms of ingredients and probably more nutritious than fried rice in the West.

Su Cuisine Menu

English Chinese Pronunciation Characters
Water Melon Chicken
xīguā jī
sshee-gwaa jee
Brine-Boiled Duck
yánshuǐ yā
yen shway yaa
Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish
sōngshǔ guìyú
song-shoo gway-yoo
Duck Wrapped in Shark Fins
yā bāo yúchì
yaa baoww yoo-chrr
Fireside Broth
qīngtāng huǒ fāng
ching-tung hwor fung

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Fujian Cuisine — Healthy Food of Fujian Province

Fujian Cuisine originates from the southeastern province of Fujian on the Pacific. The history of the cuisine dates back 5,000 years. Great seafood soups and the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices are the highlights.
  • Names: Fujian food, Min cuisine (闽菜 Mǐncài /min-tseye/)
  • Location: Southeast China, Fujian Province, Xiamen, Quanzhou
  • Distinctives: lighter, with a sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and the mountains.

The Three Styles of Fujian Cuisine

There are three regional styles: Fuzhou style that is light fare compared with other styles and is often sweet and sour to the taste; western Fujian style that features a slightly spicy flavoring from mustard and pepper; and southern Fujian style that usually tastes spicy and sweet.

The Four Notable Features — Unusual Ingredients, Soups, Decoration, Seasonings

Their cuisine is known for the use of exotic delicacies from the mountains and sea as the main ingredients, an emphasis on soup eating, precisely applying various kinds of seasonings, and an emphasis on artistically cutting and decorating food.
Fujian's abundant natural resources mean that their cuisine is rich in quality nutritious ingredients. They'll use somewhat exotic ingredients such as wild foods, wild herbs, varieties of mushrooms, bamboo, and many kinds of seafoods. So it is nutritious, and it is good for dieters since it isn't high calorie.

Flavors of Fujian Cuisine — Sweet and Sour, Many Flavors of the Sea

A wide variety of seafoods are used to make Fujian dishes. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, the people of Fujian eat all these and things from the sea most people have never seen. There are various kinds of mussels including big ones, sea cucumbers, sea worms, kinds of snails and slugs, and varieties of sea vegetables that you can explore.

Condiments and Seasonings

Spices used: The Fujianese are distinguished for applying a wide variety of herbs and seasonings to flavor the food. They apply them to make the food taste good and make it aromatic. They also want to make it different and interesting, something new. When applied artistically, the various colors and herbs can also make a beautiful presentation.
  • Salty seasonings: sea salt, shrimp sauce, shrimp oil, and soy sauce.
  • Sour seasonings: white vinegar and qiaotou (a vegetable similar to green onion.
  • Sweet seasonings: brown sugar, anise, and cassia cinnamon.
  • Hot seasonings: pepper, mustard, and shacha sauce.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

Their chefs have developed numerous ways to cook food perhaps reflecting the history of the province. The region was a haven for refugees from the large Western Xia Empire and the Tang Empire. They brought with them their cooking styles. The position on the coast meant they had contact with Japanese and people from Southeast Asia too.
They use numerous methods to cook: pan-frying, deep-frying, boiling, baking, stewing, mixing, sautéing with wine, stewing in gravy, grilling, cooking with red rice wine, simmering, stir-frying, smoking, braising and salting.
Red rice wine: Their most peculiar method of cooking is cooking with red rice wine. This includes stir-frying with red rice wine, baking with red rice wine, quick-frying with red rice wine and deep-frying with red rice wine. The "drunken" (cooked in wine) dishes that are prevalent in Fujian Province are famous throughout China.
Soup making: The people of Fujian love soup more than most of the rest of the Chinese. A common saying about their food is "不汤不行" (bù tāng bù xíng). It literally means: "No soup is not OK." Or, a meal without soup isn't a good meal. Soup will often mean the main beverage or only beverage at a meal.

Their Daily Staple Food

Daily staples: The area is in the subtropical rice growing area of China, so white rice is the main staple cereal. They also eat red yeast rice that is a type of rice that is coated with a red mold. This mold is slightly sweet, and it is thought of as having medicinal effects. 

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Friday, February 12, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Shandong (Lu) Cuisine — The Ancient Mother of the Northern Cuisine Styles

Shandong Province has a long coast, so fresh river fish and seafood were always the local delicacies.
Shandong was one of the first civilized regions in China and an early cultural center, so its cooking tradition set the style for the regions around it, especially to the north in Beijing and northeastern China. Now Shandong cuisine is relished for the many kinds of different seafood and vegetable dishes and their style of frying in high heat that locks in the flavors and isn't oily.
  • Names: Shandong food, Lu cuisine (鲁菜 /loo-tseye/)
  • Location: northern east-coast China — Qingdao, Jinan, Qufu, Mount Tai
  • Distinctives: salty and crispy, favoring braising and seafood.

Flavors of Shandong Cuisine — Fishy, Salty, Tender, Light and Crispy

A wide variety of seafood are used to make Shandong dishes, and the people also like to eat pork. An ancient medical/science text describes the people in the area as relishing both fish and salt, and the people still do.

Seasonings Used in Lu Cuisine

OnionOnions are commonly used in Shandong dishes
Spices used: Shandong people like spices in the onion family such as green onions and garlic. They include onions in many dishes. Ginger is also commonly used along with a little red pepper. But spice is less heavily applied than in Sichuan cuisine. It is meant to accentuate the flavor of the food.

Condiments and Other Seasonings

Vinegar is heavily used and so is lots of salt. The province is known for its fine dark connoisseur kinds of vinegar that some people drink as a medicinal drink. Soy sauce is also used.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

The Shandong chef's goal: Unlike other Chinese styles such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, the main aim of an authentic Shandong style chef is to preserve the cut, color, and taste of the main ingredients. So relatively little spice or sugar is used generally and the bao stir fry method is used often.
Extreme heat stir frying — "bao": Their chefs love to cook meat and vegetables in a wok over a big hot flame. They make the oil boil at an extremely high temperature and toss in the ingredients for a quick fry. This singes the outer layer and locks in the flavor. It also keeps oil from seeping into the food. They usually pour out the oil after the main ingredients are cooked, and then they will add spices, herbs, and seasonings, stir it quickly, and serve it hot. There is little residual oil on the food. This cooking method is called "bao."
Sometimes though, the oil will be part of the sauce that the food is served in. They may add flour, herbs and seasonings to the oil to make a tasty sauce.
Fried dough coating method — "pa": Another method of frying is to apply flour to a cut of meat and then stir fry it to make it crispy. Then they add a sauce to sauté it while stirring continuously.
Soup making: Clear broth and white varieties of soups are also popular. The white variety may contain milk or cream. The tradition of making soups stems from the western side of Shandong.
Healthy food: Since the main aim is to preserve the cut, color, and taste, the style of cooking preserves the nutritive value of the food. So the cuisine is generally healthy providing you eat wisely and don't overindulge in any particular food such as pork dishes or lobster.

Daily Staples and Common Vegetables

Steamed wheat breadSteamed wheat buns are commonly eaten in the Shandong region
Daily staples: The area lies along the border between the temperate north and the semitropical south, so both wheat and other temperate grains and rice are available and are daily cereals. Wheat noodles, steamed wheat bread and steamed pastries are commonly eaten and is the staple in many meals. Porridge made from oats, millet, and/or barley are also eaten. White rice is regularly eaten, and corn on the cob or fried corn is common. Their meals are sort of a combination between hearty and heavier northern Chinese regional food and light southern Chinese regional food.
Common vegetables: Peanuts are eaten often. Soybean products are common. Commonly eaten vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, seaweed, and especially cabbage.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China - Cantonese - The Most Popular Abroad

Cantonese or Yue cuisine originates from Guangdong Province (SE China around Hong Kong), and it is the most widely served style of Chinese cuisine in the world. This is because most of the Chinese who immigrated and set up restaurants overseas were from Guangdong. Though what's served abroad now has departed from authentic Yue cuisine.
What distinguishes Cantonese food is lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meat, and sweet sauces.
  • Names: Cantonese food, Guangdong cuisine, Yue cuisine (粤菜 Yuècài /ywair-tseye/)
  • Location: Southeast China — Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau...
  • Distinctives: sweeter, favoring braising and stewing, adding various sauces

Cantonese Cuisine Flavors — Mild, Fresh, Natural, and Slightly Sweet

Porridge Cantonese style porridge
A wide variety of foodstuffs are used to make Cantonese dishes. Therefore, it surprises foreigners sometimes. The saying "They eat everything with four legs except tables and everything that flies except airplanes" is an exaggeration. But dishes might contain snakes, cats, dogs and sea life not familiar to most foreigners. Keep that in mind when you are ordering something off the menu with strange Cantonese names.
An authentic Cantonese chef's goal is to preserve the food's original flavor. Unlike other Chinese styles of cooking such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, a Cantonese chef aims to bring out or highlight the original flavor of the vegetable, meat, or fruit. So little spice or sugar is used generally.
The result: The result of this cooking technique is to produce food that might seem bland or insipid to foreigners who are used to the overseas style of Chinese food where a lot more sugar and spice is used. It takes some time to appreciate the mild and distinct flavors of the meat, vegetables and fruit.
Steamed oystersSteamed oysters with ginger garlic
Not fattening: Unlike overseas Chinese food and some regional styles, a lot of oil or grease isn't used either. Neither are dairy products. So unlike creamy cheese wontons or a sweet and sour pork on rice meal deal at a Chinese fast food restaurant overseas, there are not a lot of calories in the dishes. This combined with the white rice or rice noodles that is the staple and the dim sum made with little or no sugar may leave a foreigner feeling hungry.
On the other hand, it makes for fine well balanced meals for dieters. If you are not dieting and still hungry, the solution is simply to eat more or order ice cream for desert if it is available.

Seasonings Used in Cantonese Cuisine

Spices used: Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.
Condiments and Other Seasonings
Spices used: Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.
Steamed fishSteamed fish with slivers of ginger
Rice vinegar accentuates the flavor of vegetables, and a little salt does also. A pinch of sugar gives food a mildly sweet taste that is characteristic of many Cantonese dishes and snacks. A little sesame oil adds a mild tanginess too.

But if the food is delicious as it is, almost no seasoning is added. An example is fresh sea fish. It isn't served raw like Japanese sashimi, but to preserve and accentuate the delicious flavor, the Cantonese steam it and add just a little soy sauce, ginger or perhaps bits of chives. Like the Japanese, Cantonese delight in the natural flavors of fresh sea fish.
Several sauces are important condiments in Guangdong cuisine. The most widely used sauces include hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and soy sauce.

Cooking Methods

Stir frying and steaming are the two most common cooking methods. But stir fried dishes are not as common as in Sichuan. Cantonese like to boil soups, braise or roast meats, and sauté food too. These cooking methods are aimed to preserve the flavor of the dishes. There are also popular deep fried foods that are often eaten as snacks, deserts, or breakfast foods. See below for examples.

Common Cantonese Dishes

These dishes are often simple and easy to learn to cook, and they are widely served in Cantonese homes. They are also the most common foods on the menus of Cantonese restaurants (see below for a menu).
Chinese Steamed Eggs are made by beating eggs to a creamy consistency and then steaming. Variations are derived by adding different ingredients such as spring onion and soy sauce.

Deep Fried Dishes

Deep fried stripYoutiao
Although deep fried dishes are not the main stream of Guangdong dishes, there are quite a number of them which are popular around the region.
A youtiao (油条 /yoh-tyaow/ 'oil strip') is a long, golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough. Youtiaos are usually eaten for breakfast with soy milk.
Zhaliang (/jaa-lyaang/ 'fried two') is made by tightly wrapping a rice sheet around a youtiao (deep-fried dough stick). Zhaliang is widely eaten in Guangdong and Hong Kong. It is usually eaten with soy milk.

Noodle Dishes

Shahe noodles (shahefen /shaa-her-fnn/) are a kind of rice noodles which probably originated from the town of Shahe that is now a part of Guangzhou. They are broad and white in color. Their texture is elastic and a little chewy. They do not freeze or dry well and are thus generally (where available) purchased fresh in strips or sheets that may be cut to the desired width. Shahefen is popular in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan in southern China.

Meat Dishes

White cut chickenWhite cut chicken
is made by boiling salt-marinated chicken in water or chicken broth. When it is done, the chicken looks golden in color and tastes fresh and light, preserving the best of the original taste of chicken.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Your Guide to Sushi

OK, to all you restauranteurs: Do you want to jump on the sushi bandwagon, but you find the whole subject a little intimidating? Here's a rough-and-ready guide to everything you need to know about sushi, so that Westerner and Easterner alike will find your sushi service an authentic experience.

First, a glossary of sushi terms:

Nigiri-zushi - This is the most well-known kind of sushi. It is comprised of a thinly-sliced piece of raw fish that sits either on top of or tucked into a small, shaped ball of rice. The rice has been steamed and then treated with vinegar, both to enhance flavor and help it stick together.

Sashimi - Sashimi is also a thinly sliced raw fish. The difference is, it is usually served slightly thicker than nigiri-zushi, and without rice.

Maki - Also called maki-zushi, this is rolled sushi. The popular "California roll" is one of these types. This usually consists of fish and vegetables tucked inside rice, and wrapped in some toasted seaweed.

Nori - A rich, green, tasty seaweed. Nori are the sheets of dried seaweed used to wrap maki (see above), or to make tiny belts to keep some ingredients on top of nigiri-zushi.

Temaki-zushi - A sushi cone. Originally it was created by sushi chefs wanting a quick snack during busy meals. This is simply nori wrapped around vinegar-soaked rice and fish ingredients, shaped like an ice-cream cone.

Shouyu - Just plain soy sauce. Used in many types of cooking, Japanese soy sauce is lighter than the thicker Chinese soy sauce. One common mistake is to smother sushi in soy sauce. Sushi is meant to be a light, delicate food, with the role of soy sauce being to gently highlight the subtle flavors of the fresh fish. Think of sushi in general as the seafood opposite of sardines and anchovies. Don't drown your sushi in soy sauce, and while we're at it, don't drown any of your rice dishes in soy sauce either.

Wasabi - Wasabi is the source of much confusion in the United States. Virtually all of the wasabi available in the States and some of it in the cheaper Japanese establishments is an imitation made from horseradish, mustard seed, and green food coloring. True wasabi (which is more expensive) - distinguished as 'hon-wasabi' - is made from the wasabia japonica plant, a member of the cabbage family. The hot taste is more of a mustard-hot than a pepper-hot. A small drop is sufficient to flavor sushi, as it is very potent.

Gari - This is a thinly sliced ginger which appears as wasabi's partner on some plates of sushi. It is not used to flavor the food directly, but rather it is served as garnish on the plate for use as a palate cleanser, eaten between different varieties of sushi. Sashimi is not usually served with gari.

Now for some of the more common ingredients in sushi:

Tuna - The number-one sushi fish, which comes in three varieties. Blue Fin 'Maguro' is the most expensive and rarest, Hawaiian 'Ahi' the next in rank and Albacore tuna is the most commonly used.

Fatty tuna - Also called 'toro', it comes in many different qualities, but all of them originate from the belly region of the tuna fish. Much more tender and flavorful than the rest of the tuna meat, you may see this as the 'filet mignon' of the tuna fish.

Salmon - Mainly used in North America, and becoming more popular in Japan, salmon has a meaty flavor that is almost more like a steak than a fish. Prepare it a little more carefully, as its strong flavor will overwhelm the sushi creation.

Octopus - Known as 'tako', boiled octopus has a chewy quality that makes it combine very well with wasabi and soy sauce. It's also served raw in Japan. Most Americans are too scared to eat it, and they're pretty squeamish about squid, too. Very difficult to prepare right.

Yellowtail - Popular in sushi only in North America, yellowtail is best when caught in the winter season where the fat content is at its highest. However, usually by the time it has made its way over to North America, the quality is a little less than the original thing.

Squid - Known as 'ika', this is distinguished from octopus by being creamy and chewy. It's usually sliced into thin strips. It has a very light, subtle flavor that is an excellent candidate for sushi. Not as difficult as octopus, but still beyond the skills of all but the top culinary school graduate.

Eel - Usually served grilled and served with a sweet sauce. If Americans are nervous about octopus and squid, they're liable to run screaming if you say "eel". However, the yuppie set is eager to try it just because they saw it served on the TV show 'Friends', which is even more depressing.

Shrimp - Shrimp in sushi primarily comes in two different varieties; either boiled and named 'ebi' or raw and called 'amaebi'. Amaebi is prized for its natural creamy sweetness. You can't go wrong with shrimp. It is loved everywhere.

Sea urchin - Called 'uni', this is only the ovary of the sea urchin and is regarded as a delicacy worldwide, not only in sushi. Compare it to the high esteem caviar is held in; likewise, uni is said to be something you either love or hate. It has a slightly fishy, but sweet taste and soft, smooth texture.

Crab - Its Japanese name it 'kani' and you actually won't find much crab, real or imitation, in sushi, as its inclusion in the sushi palette is largely an American idea.

That's just a round-up of the main bulk of the sushi universe; many more ingredients and variations are out there.

Safe handling of the fish is of the utmost importance. Never trust sushi preparation to anyone not well-schooled in food safety, as the raw serving is particularly susceptible to bacterias.

The fun part of sushi is that it is practically begging for an artistic presentation. Check out the works of sushi chefs online and in trade magazines - this stuff is edible art! Sushi pieces and their associated garnishes are frequently presented with an arrangement which brings to mind a flower garden or a Zen sand garden. Utensils - not even chopsticks - are not necessary, since it is intended as a finger food.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Thai Food Introduction

Are you having a standard American dinner tonight? Bored with chicken, potatoes, salad and pasta? Thinking of Thai food but worry that it seems hard to cook? Thai food should be easy and quick to prepare. In Thailand, street food or food vendors are everywhere in a city or small town. There are all kinds of street food, appetizers, noodle soup, curry, desserts, fruits, etc. This is the way of life in Thailand. It is common to find a very good food vendor, even better than a restaurant. Most street vendors in Thailand did not go to a culinary school. How do they make such delicious food? Their experience comes mostly from helping in a kitchen.
Thai food is all about putting the right ingredients together. In America, finding a restaurant that serves authentic Thai food can be somewhat challenge especially if you are not living in a big city. Many Thai restaurants offer Thai food that is very Americanized. Some dishes are way too far from the original Thai food except the name of the dish.

If you have not been to a Thai restaurant or eaten much Thai food before, going to your local Thai restaurant is an option to get acquainted with Thai dishes. Go with your friends so that you can try a variety of dishes. Also, using the Internet, you can find authentic Thai recipes. You might ask what kinds of elements define an authentic Thai recipe.

Ingredients make a difference. If a recipe requires lots of standard American vegetables, it is not likely to be a real Thai recipe. If you find a recipe that has lots of unrecognized names or something that is uncommon to find in the local grocery store, that might be it. For example, in Thailand, a green curry dish has four main vegetables: Thai eggplants, pea eggplants, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. Americanized green curry might have green beans, carrots, eggplants, or perhaps tomatoes.

If this is your first time to make a Thai dish, plan ahead. Find the dish you like on the Internet or in a Thai cookbook. Learn about the ingredients and visit either a local or online Asian grocery store. and are popular websites specializing in authentic Thai ingredients and products. They carry almost everything from flour, sauces, curry paste, noodles, cookware, fresh produce and vegetables. Don’t be discouraged. Really, making Thai food is not too complicated. It is easy once you have and know your ingredients.

Another component is having the right cooking equipment. Many people say having a wok is a minimum requirement, but I would say it depends. It is a nice thing to have. If you have an electric stove, using a wok is not going to do much for some dishes. If you have a gas stove, adding a wok in your kitchen could spice up your meals because of how gas stoves distribute heat. I have a wok at home but also an electric stove. So I do not really use my wok that much at all because with the electric stove, it does not distribute heat evenly to the side of the wok. Mortar and pestle are needed if you like to make your own paste. Many people find ways to use a food processor instead. It is certainly a substitute, but in my opinion, it does not deliver the same texture of paste.

When you are ready to cook, following your recipe directions is a good start. However, when it comes to taste, follow your own preference, given that taste varies from person to person. You will need to find your own balance for seasoning your dish. If the recipe tells you to add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, add 1 tablespoon first. Taste it and see how you like it. If you would like more, then add more. As my mom always told me, "it is easier to fix the taste if you add little at the beginning. If you add too much at first, you might not be able to fix it."

Thai cuisine is versatile and offers a range of flavors and textural variety. It is aesthetically pleasing, and there are many ways to make Thai cuisine part of an enjoyable culture experience. Cheers to Thai food!

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China: Sichuan Cuisine — the Most Popular Cuisine in China

Chuan Cuisine, originating from Sichuan Province in southwestern China, is the most widely served cuisine in China. The dishes of Chuan Cuisine are famous for their hot-spicy taste and the flavor of Sichuan pepper that are rare in other regional cuisines.

Flavors of Chuan Cuisine — hot and spicy

A variety of seasonings are used in Chuan Cuisine, and each dish can be cooked differently. Therefore Chuan Cuisine enjoys a reputation for variety. As the saying goes it's 'one dish with one flavor and one hundred dishes with one hundred flavors'.
The most common flavors of Chuan Cuisine are hot and spicy, “the five fragrances” (Fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, and clove), other mixed spices, chili and Sichuan pepper (made with prickly ash), and sweet and sour.

Seasonings of Chuan Cuisine

Dry red chili peppers is one of the most common Chuan Cuisine seasoings.
Some of the most common seasonings that contribute to the hot and spicy flavor include Sichuan pepper, black pepper, chili, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic.
The ingredients used range widely, including poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, and tofu.

Cooking Methods

Dry Red Chilis The methods of cooking Chuan Cuisine vary according to the texture required, including stir frying, steaming and braising, baking, and the most widely used method — fast-frying. Chuan Cuisine has good combinations of flavors and often has thick gravy.

The Most Famous Sichuan Dishes

Mapo tofu
Chuan Cuisine mainly features pungent, hot, and fragrant home-grown dishes. The most typical Chuan dishes are mapo tofu, kungpao chicken, fuqi fei pian, and hotpot.

'Pockmarked Granny' Bean Curd (Mapo Tofu)

mapo tofu Mapo (/maa-por/) tofu is bean curd served in a chili-and-bean-based sauce, which is usually a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often topped with minced meat, usually pork or beef. Seasonings include water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus. The taste of mapo tofu is fittingly described as numbing, spicy-hot, fresh, tender and soft, aromatic and flaky. Mapo tofu is easy to find outside of China.

Spicy Diced Chicken (Kung Pao Chicken)

Kung Pao ChickenKung pao chicken
Kung Pao chicken is the Cantonese name, but the Chinese name is Gongbao Jiding (宫保鸡丁 /gong-baow jee-ding/ 'Palace-Protected Chicken Cubes')
It is cooked by frying diced chicken, dry red pepper and golden peanuts. Spicy diced chicken is more popular among Westerners than mapo tofu, and is usually less spicy, or not at all spicy, when served abroad, or far from Sichuan.

Fuqi Fei Pian ('Husband and Wife Lung Slices')

Fuqi Fei Pian is made of thinly sliced beef, or bovine lung or tongue seasoned with chili oil. There is a romantic story of the origin of this famous Sichuan dish. Guo Zhaohua (the inventor) and his wife sold their vinegar-ized beef slices by trundling a small cart along the street. Their beef slices were very delicious, and no one could resist the charming smell in that street. People liked the food made by this couple very much, so they gave it the name Husband and Wife Lung Slices in honor of the couple.

Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot, like most of the cuisine in that humid and populous province, is very spicy. The broth is flavored with chili peppers and other pungent herbs and spices. The main ingredients include hot pepper, Chinese crystal sugar and wine. Slices of kidney, chicken breast, beef tripe, goose intestines, spring onion, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms, duck, and sea cucumber are the usual meats used in the dish.


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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chinese Food Revisited

Nowadays Chinese food is enjoying a high reputation in the world due to its delicious taste and charming appearance. China is famous for its claim as home to the most popular cuisine in the world.  Chinese dishes have developed a wide range of unique local and specialized dishes and local flavor refreshments best suited for the different produce, climate, regions, historical conditions, and food and drink customs also.

In China, food and its preparation has been developed so highly that it has reached the status of an art form. Typically, Chinese people think that delicious and nutritious food is a basic necessity of life. Food in Chinese country is typically seen as consisting of two or more general components: a carbohydrate source or starch accompanying dishes of vegetables, meat, fish, or other items.

In most dishes in Chinese cooking, food is prepared in bite sized pieces, ready for direct picking up and eating. (Think chopsticks and the limitations that come with their use.) Chinese culture considered using knives and forks unsuitable at the table due to fact that these instruments are regarded as weapons.

Chinese people use meats, poultry, fish and vegetables known to the Western palate but also include some exotic ingredients. Because of different weather conditions, environment, tastes and products, there are about 57 regional styles of food in China. There are also a number of methods of cooking such as baking, boiling, braising, deep frying, double boiling, poaching, sautéing, scalding, shallow frying, simmering, smoking, steaming, stir frying, barbecuing and blanching that produce many varieties of mouth watering dishes.

For healthy side dishes, skip the fried egg roll and wontons and instead have a cup of soup. Skip the order of fried rice. It is an unnecessary supply of large amounts of calories. It may also contains high concentrations of cholesterol. If available, brown rice is the most healthful alternative to fried or white rice. If possible, on the day you choose to order Chinese takeout, limit your intake of sodium rich foods. Many Chinese meals are high in sodium content due to the use of soy sauce and other additives. Don’t add any more salt than necessary once your meal arrives! Additionally, if you are ordering a dish with peanuts, eat them in moderation. Peanuts can be very beneficial and contain many good fats and nutrients. However, eating too many can make a somewhat healthy dish unhealthy quite quickly.

Chinese food, when authentic, is probably the healthiest food in the world. Some restaurants, which are not authentic, prepare their menu by frying the food then seasoning with highly saturated fats or with meats that contain unhealthy amounts of animal fat. These Chinese restaurants are not recommended and they are both neither authentic nor healthy.

Good Chinese food however, is prepared and cooked with poly unsaturated oils. Authentic Chinese food does not require the use of milk-fat ingredients such as cream, butter or cheese. Meat is used, but not in abundance, which makes it easy for those who love authentic Chinese food to avoid high levels of animal fat. Many believe that authentic Chinese food is really the ideal diet.
More to come later.  Until then, eat well...

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