Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
Home Page About Us:Write Us:Back Issues:Advertising:Index 
Events Polls Serving Wine EnoForum EnoGames Wine Places Aquavitae Wine Guide


 Events  Share this article     Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 42, June 2006   
Chinese Cooking and WineChinese Cooking and Wine  Contents 
Issue 41, May 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 43, Summer 2006

Chinese Cooking and Wine

Among the most ancient culinary arts of the world, Chinese cooking represents a richness in aromas and flavors, frequently based on opposed elements and which can be matched to wine

 Besides being considered one of the most ancient civilization of the world, China has also a gastronomic culture and tradition which are considered among the most ancient of humans. Not only an ancient cooking, but also rich and complex, probably among the richest gastronomies of the world. This is also because China has been one of the main protagonists of civilization, a process which allowed the many forms of human expressions to be formed and developed, even in an ordered and methodic way. Chinese cooking represents a very particular gastronomic case, not only based on principles suggested by the taste of ingredients, but also to that very special philosophy - having its origin from the principles of Taoism - making every dish an unique occasion, not only for the palate, but also for the eyes. In China, cooking can be defined as a complete art which is not only limited to the processing and cooking of ingredients, but also to their association according to profound and ancient organoleptic and philosophic principles.


Soups are one of the most important
dishes in Chinese cooking
Soups are one of the most important dishes in Chinese cooking

 The principles in which Chinese cooking is based on, go beyond these fundamental factors and - as it was easily obvious to happen in a vast country, with a numerous population and with many cultural, philosophical and religious differences - regional influence represents a further element of richness and diversity. Chinese cooking is generally classified in four different styles, according to the four geographic areas which had contributed, more than others, to determine recognizable and specific styles. These differences are particularly recognized by the use and presence of certain ingredients and specific cooking techniques, however most of the ingredients of Chinese cooking are present everywhere in the country and make - as a matter of fact - the foundation of the gastronomic culture in China. Also singular is the way food is consumed, brought to the mouth with the famous chopsticks, which are certainly known by anyone and distinguishing China and its cooking everywhere in the world. Despite the use of chopsticks can be seen as curious, indeed it is an absolutely coherent method with this cooking - made of foods cooked in small pieces, therefore suited for these tools - and the versatility of chopsticks is also very functional in the kitchen for the preparation of recipes.

 

The Ingredients of Chinese Cooking

 The richness of Chinese cooking begins from the variety of ingredients used for the preparation of the dishes. It can be said there are few things not used in Chinese cooking, and the presence of ingredients coming from the vegetal, animal and fish world are widely represented in every dish. Because of the vast use of ingredients without prejudices, it is common to say that in China “everything walking, can be used in cooking”, a saying which is also proven by the use of particular ingredients and meats that, for example, would not meet the taste and culture of western people. This is the case of dog meat and the many insects which are considered in China as delicacies instead. On this regard, it is good to reassure our western readers, because in European or American Chinese restaurants, these ingredients are never used - save the case this is explicitly requested - even though they are hardly found outside the borders of China. Foreign Chinese restaurants base - and frequently adapt - their recipes according to the ingredients generally used in the cooking of the country in which they are, or however accepted by local cultures.


 

 Despite the richness of ingredients, the ones mainly used for daily cooking are of vegetal origin, including rice, cabbage, bamboo, spaghetti (made of wheat, rice or soy flours), onion, ginger and tasty sauces - of vegetal origin - in particular the famous soy sauce. Among other vegetables of common use in China are mentioned spinach, eggplants, cress, swiss chards, savoy cabbage, turnips, zucchini, pumpkins, carrots, greenbeans and mushrooms, as well as soy and bamboo sprouts - including the ones of other plants - onion, leek and garlic. A fundamental role is played by soybeans, consumed in many forms, and from which are obtained many products, such as toufu and the renowned sauce. Very used are also eggs, seaweeds, seeds - in particular sesame - and rice, mainly used as a side dish for other foods. As in China there are no restrictions of religious, philosophic or spiritual origin, meats used in cooking can virtually come from every animal present in the territory, including reptiles and insects, however the most common meats are the ones of pork and chicken, followed by bovine and ovine meats. In general terms, every part of the animal is used in Chinese cooking: here it can be said absolutely nothing is thrown away.

 

Techniques of Chinese Cooking

 In every Chinese meal worth of this name, there must always be a soup. Chinese people have a particular predilection for soups - something which is hard not to agree according the endless richness offered by Chinese cooking - and stock is an essential ingredient found in every kitchen. Before discussing the many techniques used in Chinese cooking, it is appropriate talking about its tools. As opposed to the culinary traditions of other countries - such as Europe - the number of tools present in Chinese kitchens can be defined essential and minimal. Few tools which can be considered highly functional. In Chinese kitchens is generally found one knife only - with a high rectangular blade, similar to the so called cleaver - with which cooks cut every kind of ingredients. Also chopsticks are found in the kitchen - and not only on the table - and are used to turn foods over or to stir or mix ingredients during cooking. Another tool is skimmer, indispensable for frying and dripping ingredients. For the cooking of foods is used the famous wok - the typical hollow Chinese pan and generally of a large size - and bamboo baskets, indispensable for steaming.

 There are many cooking techniques used in China. Frying is very different from the one done in western countries and there are many frying techniques. The most common method consists in a skilled technique done in the wok and by using chopsticks, or the skimmer, in which the ingredient is plunged in the oil and then quickly raised and rolled in the sides of the wok. Another traditional cooking technique is steaming, consisting in putting water in the wok and to put over it bamboo baskets containing the ingredients to be cooked. In the wok are also done the sauteed and stewing cooking techniques, in the same way they are done in the western world. In China is also used boiling, however, as opposed to western countries, here are not used any sauce or salt: ingredients are simply boiled in water. Among the other techniques are mentioned “bainmarie”, smoking and roasting, particularly used for chicken and duck. In Chinese cooking, foods are also prepared without cooking, by simply mixing cold ingredients together, frequently marinated in wine or vinegar: a technique generally used for vegetables and, sometimes, shellfishes and chicken, preventively cooked and cooled down.

 

The Styles of Chinese Cooking

 China is one of the largest countries in the world. Thanks to this, every territory is characterized by its culinary traditions - with typical ingredients, spices, sauces and cooking techniques - however the classification of cooking styles in China is usually divided into four geographic areas. Chinese cooking is mainly recognized in the styles of northern cooking, typical in Peking and Shandong, southern cooking, the most famous style abroad and usually defined as “Cantonese cooking”, south-western cooking, typical in the Sichuan and Yunnan regions, and eastern cooking, the characteristic style in Shanghai and in Zhejiang and Jiangsu regions. The most common style in Chinese restaurant abroad is usually the southern one - the one from Canton - because the first emigrants who started a restaurant in western countries were from this area and therefore their cooking has defined the “model” of Chinese cooking in western countries.

 The cooking of Peking - also known as “mandarin cooking” - is particularly famous in the world for one of its typical specialties: lacqued duck. The cooking of Peking has its origins from imperial courts, whose cooks were famous for their skill and the care with which they prepared foods. The cooking of Peking is characterized, as opposed to the other styles in China, for the finesse and delicacy of its foods, here the consumption of rice is lesser in favor of wheat, from which are obtained different types of pasta - such as spaghetti, noodles and dumplings - as well as the renowned steamed bread. The most used meats in Peking style are the ones of beef, pork and duck, as well as ovine meat, the latter usually cooked with abundant spices: an evident influence from the neighboring Mongolia. The cooking of Peking is pretty light and cooking is done by using small quantities of fats, dishes are always refined. The cooking of the province of Shandong - very delicate, refined and poor in fats - because of the vicinity with the sea, is rich in fish and here is also made use of fruits and vegetables, as well as traditional soups.

 Southern cooking, the one typical in Canton, is characterized by the abundance of fish - because of the vicinity with the sea - as well as vegetables and fruits, ingredients always present in the recipes of these areas. Cantonese cooking is also famous for the use of spices, in particular ginger and curry, as well as chili pepper, responsible for the hotness in many recipes. Very common are also sauces, not only soy sauce, but also oyster and prawn sauces. Also meats are present in southern cooking, frequently used together with fish and shellfishes for the preparation of dishes. Another characteristic of Cantonese cooking is the association of meat with dried fruit: famous are the dishes made of chicken and almond, peanuts or cashews. Also fresh fruits are part of the recipes of this region, in association both with fish and with meat, such as in the case of some sweet-sour dishes in which is present pineapple. A typical cooking technique in Canton is the so called “explosive frying”, generally used for vegetables, consisting in dipping foods in a batter and then to shortly fry them in a high temperature oil. A technique with which it is possible to obtain very light and crunchy dishes, although keeping the genuineness of original flavors.

 Because of the vicinity with India and Tibet, the south-western cooking of Sichuan and Yunnan, is characterized by an abundant use of spices - in particular black pepper, chili pepper and ginger - which generally make dishes very hot. The cooking of these areas is rich in vegetables, fruits and mushrooms, present in huge quantities thanks to the fertility of the soil. Among the main meats is to be mentioned pork, cooked with vegetables - onion and garlic in particular - and spices, as well as Toufu, the typical Chinese “soybean curd”. A Typical method for cooking meat is the frying in boiling lard, therefore seasoned with spices, garlic and onion. Chinese eastern cooking is characterized for the products of the fertile lands and for the fishes of the Yangtze river. Thanks to the fertility of the soil, here the consumption of rice and other vegetables is very high, as well as soybeans, beans and corn. The cooking technique used for meat and fish are usually very slow, allowing the ingredients to cook in their sauces for a long time, typically stewed or boiled. In eastern Chinese cooking - just like in any other area of this country - countless are the recipes of soups.

 

The Matching with Wine

 Chinese cooking is characterized by a richness of ingredients and traditions, the result of thousands of years of history which can be hardly found in other cooking cultures of the world. Moreover, if we consider the extension of the territory with its typical styles, most of the times different one from another, defining the right matching of wine with this cooking can sometimes be hard, but not impossible. It should be remembered Chinese people do not usually consume wine during meals, the most common beverages found in tables are tea - the national beverage - water and fruit juices, frequently the role of beverage is played by soups or broth. Moreover, the matching with wine is even harder because of the nature of Chinese cooking, frequently being an explosion of flavors in opposition one from another - a principle having its origin from Taoist philosophy - most of the times making a strong contrast, such as in the case of sweet-sour dishes. Also the presence of spices - with their strong aroma and, sometimes, their basically bitter taste - must be carefully evaluated.

 In these specific cases, also by paying attention to the other ingredients making the dish, very good matching can be done with aromatic and smooth white wines, such as the ones produced with Gewürztraminer. In case the presence of spices is not strong, in dishes having unctuous or fatty sauces, for the matching can be used wines made with Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and, last but not the least, a crisp and aromatic rose wine. As for red wines, it is particularly suited Pinot Noir, mainly with roasted meat or stewed meat dishes. In this specific case, also wines produced with Sangiovese can be used for the matching, such as Chianti. The countless soups and dishes made of rice and pasta, can be matched with crisp and aromatic white wines, such as Müller-Thurgau, Arneis or Fiano. However it should be remembered the matching with these specific dishes must also be determined according to the other ingredients present in the recipe - vegetables, fish or meat - frequently used together in the same dish. Particular attention must be paid with sweet-sour dishes: in case the sour or acid sensation is dominant, it is better to avoid any matching with wine in favor of a more refreshing green tea.

 




 Events  Share this article     Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 42, June 2006   
Chinese Cooking and WineChinese Cooking and Wine  Contents 
DiWineTaste Polls
In what moment of the day do you usually drink wine?


Result   Other Polls

 Share this poll   
What kind of wine do you like having in May?


Result   Other Polls

 Share this poll   
What is the most pleasing aspect in wine tasting?


Result   Other Polls

 Share this poll   


Events Polls Serving Wine EnoForum EnoGames Wine Places Aquavitae Wine Guide
Home Page About Us:Write Us:Back Issues:Advertising:Index 

Privacy Policy

Download your free DiWineTaste Card  :  Test your Blood Alcohol Content  :  Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter

Download DiWineTaste
Copyright © 2002-2019 Antonello Biancalana, DiWineTaste - All rights reserved
All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this publication and of this WEB site may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from DiWineTaste.