The development and diversity of Chinese cuisine is also representative of China's long history. With each passing dynasty, new recipes were created until the art of food preparation reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The dinner called Man Han Quan Xi — which incorporates all the very best of Man and Han Cuisine — was developed during the Qing Dynasty and is held in extremely high esteem.
Man Han Quan Xi involves countless dishes, each with its own distinctive flavor and appeal. This veritable banquet, in both its preparation and presentation, typifies all of the culture and culinary arts that have been perfected over the centuries, and is a comprehensive amalgam of taste, instruments, and manners. It is no exaggeration to say that Chinese cuisine is considered dainty in its range of items, esthetics, atmosphere, and effects.
Eight Cuisines: The diversity of geography, climate, costumes, and products has led to the evolution of what are called the 'Four Flavors' and the 'Eight Cuisines.' However, since cuisine is a living art, sub-classifications still continue to increase today. For example, in each field of cuisine, skilled chefs can utilize an ingredient as simple as melon to create dozens of dishes with dozens of flavors. Meanwhile, local specialties and snacks—with their origins steeped in the mists of time—are also an important off-shoot of traditional Chinese cooking and can demonstrate profound local philosophies and tastes. In addition to the cuisine of the Han people, many minorities also have their own fantastic traditions and appeal when it comes to cuisine.
Cuisine in China is a harmonious integration of color, redolence, taste, shape, and the finesse of the instruments utilized. Chinese chefs—ever aspiring to their ideal of perfection for all the senses—pick various choice ingredients and seasonings while employing unparalleled, complicated skills handed down from their ancestors. Among the many cooking methods used are boiling, stewing, braising, frying, steaming, crisping, baking, and simmering. The finished masterpieces are then arranged on a variety of plates so that they are a pleasure to view, smell, and ultimately, savor. The culinary instrument used to partake of these delights is also distinctive—chopsticks! To see even the smallest child eat with such dexterity is quite amazing for many foreigners. The use of two simple sticks in this way is an art in itself and chopsticks have determined the way in which Chinese food is presented at the table.
Chinese cuisine can rise to many different occasions, from luxurious court feasts, fetes, holy sacrificial rites, and joyous wedding ceremonies to simple daily meals and snacks. The art of a good Chinese cook lies in the ability to provide a wholesome and satisfying dish to suit every occasion.
Medicinal Cuisine: cuisine has the effect of prolonging life, sustaining the constitution, and promoting energy; in this respect, Chinese cuisine bears some relationship to Chinese medicine.
Food Culture:Just as good presentation and ingredients are important, courtesy and table manners among diners are also very much a part of the Chinese cultural tradition. Only by combining excellent food with good manners can the high art of Chinese cuisine be truly enjoyed to the full.
Minority Cuisine: various cuisines of China’s smaller ethnic groups contain their own flavor and appeal, which can prove quite distinctive.
Revised June 14, 2011