History of Chinese food, Chinese gastronomy, was part of an ambitious post on our blog, entitled Chinese gastronomy, but we considered that it was worth expanding it and giving it due prominence, so it became a totally independent post on the present..
The beginning of Chinese cuisine dates back to 5,000 or 6,000 years BC; a period in which agriculture, fishing and hunting were the basic resources to obtain food. Data on early Chinese culinary tradition is scant, but it is known that during the Neolithic (last Stone Age period) dog, pig and poultry were a common ingredient in the diet.
The first rice fields in this region were discovered in the Yangtze River during the 8th millennium BC; but it was not until the Zhou Dynasty that this type of cereal became a staple food in this culinary style. In the same way, wheat, corn, millet and barley were fundamental ingredients that were mixed with different vegetables cut into small pieces.
At that time, people consumed food with long sticks made of wood, bones or bamboo and since then the tradition of using wood as a cutlery has remained. Given how many years chopsticks have been a part of culture , it’s understandable how proficient Chinese people are with this tool.
Regarding the distribution of food in the region, the rulers in that century realized that they could satisfy the general population with simple cereal-based dishes; therefore, they reserved the most exotic seasonal meat and ingredients for court banquets.
However, over time people began to discover other preparation techniques and the benefits of combining foods; This is how, during the Han Dynasty, the inhabitants of China already incorporated dried meat and fish into cereals. It is this period where culinary processes such as frying, steaming or stews begin.
It should be noted that the development of Chinese cuisine varied according to the territory; to the south is the South China Sea, so people in this area had access to fish and could put it in their dishes. While in the north of this region they consumed more meat and sorghum.
Later on, the Tang Dynasty was characterized by significant cultural and commercial growth, which facilitated the adoption of new culinary customs such as the consumption of pork, bear and camel hump meat. However, the establishment of Buddhism also took place in this period; a religion that rejects the sacrifice of animals for consumption. This is how the need arose to create vegetarian cuisine, which had tofu as the main ingredient that replaced meat.
The connection between China and foreign countries was favored during the Qing Dynasty. The commercial exchange that took place in this period had a great impact on Chinese gastronomy, thanks to the introduction of vegetables to the region; tomato, potatoes and corn began to star in new recipes, vary the flavor of the dishes and achieve exquisite combinations.
Experts say that there were two culinary axes during this period: bread and rice, although cakes (steamed, hu or soup cakes) had their leading role.
HU Cake: It is a baked flatbread.
Steamed cakes: steamed fermented paste.
Soup cakes: Noodles cooked in the soup.
It is also in this period that the three meals a day are implemented, two were used until that moment. This due to the increase in agricultural production and the prosperity that made nightlife something normal, common and current. There were restaurants (supply and demand for them) both refined and expensive as popular classes.
Large number of kitchens emerged; the use of ham, dongpo meat, shabu-shabu, fritters, sashimi, etc. became massive. Likewise, many of the complex cooking techniques that we know today were developed during this dynasty.
North-South cultural integration occurs, involving variants, ingredients and other cultural horizons. Teas, fruits, rice, fried foods, wine, horse milk, grain wine, the yunashi or medicinal liquor were terms common to the cuisine.
The Ming dynasty created much prosperity and cultural diversity, with food (gastronomy) being one of its main axes. Going to eat began to change from a physiological need to a pleasure, to entertainment.
In terms of culinary technology, we commonly speak of boiling, cooking, frying, roasting, brining, etc.
Dating from these times are dishes such as stuffed crab, steamed dragon liver, yinzi fish stew, fried chicken, boiled chicken, brined duck, steamed lamb, etc.
After the unification of China by the Qin, the elements of feudal society gradually became more and more complete, and the unified state played a great role in promoting the development of productive forces, people’s dietary life became increasingly wealthy and cooking technology developed further.
The most obvious sign is the use of iron cookware and vegetable oil in the kitchen.
Iron is more resistant to high temperatures than bronze, heat transfer is faster, bronze is mostly more clumsy, the outer wall is very thick, relative heat transfer is slow, and iron is much lighter , along with the iron casting raw materials trade, iron soon became popular, and the knife and shovel made of iron are thinner and sharper, which greatly facilitates the cutting of raw materials.
The source of vegetable oil is more assured, the dishes are more delicious with the addition of oil, and the oil makes many of the original unique cooking methods derive branches to enrich cooking techniques.
According to statistics, the cooking methods that appear in the concentration of the points at the moment are the pro-pork method, the vegetarian method and the lettuce method.
Much luxury is given in the food and drink of the wealthy classes; there were hundreds of recipes for hot and cold meats (birds, mammals, fish, etc.)
Read also: History of Chinese food
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