The regional cuisines of Chinese cooking (Part 1 of 4)Written by Helen Fan
With China covering immense land within its boundaries, it is no surprise that there are many regional variations in Chinese cuisine. Traditionally, Chinese cooking is divided into five styles of regional cuisines. It is headed by 3 great schools of Peking to north, Szechuan to west, and Chekiang-Kiangsu to east. Fukien and Canton, of lesser importance cover southern region.
Peking: northern cuisine
The northern China presents a great contrast to rest of country. The North China Plain, edged by mountains to north, stretches away in west to borders of Inner Mongolia, and is crossed by infamous Yellow River . Due to its location, climate is harsh for much of year. The spring is dry and dusty, summer is hot and wet, and fall is calm, dry, and sunny, while winter is long and freezing cold. It is dramatically subject to drought from failure of late spring rains and to flood when Yellow River, for centuries unstable in its bed, floods over into low-lying countryside. Thus, lives and diets of people living in this region are dictated by these seasons.
Wheat is staple food, as opposed to rice in rest of China, due to harsh climate making it unsuitable to grow rice. Wheat flour is used to make dumplings, breads, steamed buns, noodles and large Chinese biscuits/pancakes. Meat is much more of a luxury up here, mostly eaten during festival times. Mutton and lamb are popular, most likely due to influence of neighboring Mongolians. Most northern family meals are dominated by vegetable dishes for economical reasons. Chinese cabbage is most popular vegetable, as it is most suited to be stored over winter. Dishes in general are much more plain, solid and nourishing. Soy sauce is used very generously. The use of leeks, onions, garlic, salted and pickled vegetables such as turnips, white radish and cabbages are important items in a rather monotonous diet.
Wok this Way! (Part 1 of 5)Written by Helen Fan
Woks have been synonymous with Chinese cooking since emergence of Chinese cuisine. They have been used for some 3000 years in China for a variety of cooking methods, including stir frying, boiling, and steaming. A wok is a large, thin-walled, round-bottomed, metal cooking pan, and shaped like a shallow bowl with handles. The addition of a wooden rack and cover transforms wok into a steamer. Although woks come in sizes ranging from 10 to 32 inches in diameter, a wok that's 11 to 14 inches should suffice for use in a household kitchen.
With increasing popularity of Chinese cuisine, there are now many “Westernized” versions of wok. There is addition of a metal ring, which is set on top of a gas or electric stove to hold wok to prevent tipping. Some have a small flat bottom instead of traditional round bottom, for same reason. The new versions will get job done, but "traditonal" large round-bottomed woks are still, by far, preferred wok of choice.
Since essence of Chinese cuisine