You will find many varieties of Chinese food in China such as Cantonese, Beijing, Szechwan and Shanghai. If you have a sensitive stomach, we advise that you eat your meals in a hotel or large restaurant. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza restaurants are widely available. Chinese food that is found in western countries usually consists of dishes such as fried rice and sweet and sour meats. These types of dishes are a very small sample of Chinese food and are usually very “westernized”. There is an enormous variety of Chinese food that varies from region to region, and we encourage you to try the authentic dishes.
History of Chinese Food
China has been an agricultural civilization for thousands of years and has suffered from poor harvests. Famines and hardships played a large role in the development of the cuisine as the Chinese people would explore anything edible in order to feed themselves. Many unusual ingredients such as wood ears and lily buds were added to Chinese recipes. The scarcity of food taught the Chinese people to not be wasteful so various fruit and vegetable peels and shark fin are delicacies in China.
Because there was a lack of cooking fuel in China for many years, the Chinese people needed to conserve what they had. This is the reason for stir-frying the food as it requires a lengthy preparation time but only a few minutes cooking time.
Most Chinese dishes are cooked with the meat and vegetables together and are less caloric than many western dishes. Vegetables stay bright and crisp by cooking them for a short time, so many of the vitamins and minerals are retained. The northern area of China has a colder climate which is unsuitable to grow rice so wheat is the primary grain consumed. Rice is abundant in the southern area of China.
Dinner in China usually begins with at least four cold dishes, followed by the main course of hot meat and vegetable dishes. Soup will be served next unless you are in Guangdong style restaurants. After the soup will be a staple dish such as rice, noodles or dumplings. If you would like to have rice with your cold or hot dishes, you will have to request this as most of the Chinese people like it at the end of the meal or not at all.
When dining with the Chinese people, it is likely that the host will put the food on your plate for you with “public” chopsticks or spoons or sometimes with their own chopsticks. This should be interpreted as a sign of friendship and politeness. It is also a sign of politeness to eat the food that you are served. People in China tend to over order food because they find it embarrassing if all of the food is consumed.