Chinese Food Culture

Chinese Spring Rolls

A Chinese meal usually consists of two parts: staple food, normally made of rice, noodles or steamed buns, and ts’ai, vegetable and meat dishes. (This is different from Western meals, which take meat or animal protein as main dish). The primary eating utensils are chopsticks (for solid foods) and ceramic spoon (for soups). In a Chinese meal, everyone will have their own rice bowl; however, the accompanying dishes will be served in communal plates and shared by all people. Normally, the dishes are often eaten together with a mouthful of rice. Desserts are not main course in China; instead, Chinese desserts are considered as snacks eaten between two meals. If dessert is served in the meal, they will be served during the course of meal with no firm distinction made. If served at the end of the meal, the dessert is normally fresh fruit. 

cold dishes
cold dishes

Cold Dishes
Cold dishes are the first course in traditional Chinese banquet. Salt, sugar, chili powder, light soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil are often used to make cold dishes. Cold dishes attach great importance to the designing of the dish, which is the “shape” of the dish. Normally, cold dish can provoke people’s appetite.

hot dishes
hot dishes

Hot Dishes
Hot dish is a concept comparing with cold dish. Normally, main course is also called hot dish. Hot dishes are normally cooked using techniques like stir-frying, deep-frying, quick-frying, etc.


Chinese Soup
Instead of adding milk or cream into the soup, Chinese soups are adding refined starches from corn to thickening the soups. There are also light soups which don’t use starches. Normal ingredients for soups are vegetables and meat, like pork and chicken. Soups are served following the hot dishes. Chinese people believe that soups are good for health.

Staple Food

staple food
staple food

Rice is the staple food in southern China, for southern China is the rice farming areas. People always eat steamed rice. While in Northern China, which is a wheat farming area, people normally eat flour-based food, like noodles, mantou (a kind of steamed buns) and dumplings.

Cities which have their own take on Chinese Food
Beijing is not only famous for the Forbidden City, the typical food there is also worth a try, such as the roasted duck, Yellow Pea Cake, and Fried Liver. In the morning, having a bowl of hot Douzhir with deep-fried dough sticks or steamed stuffed bun.

Xi’an is the representative of the food in northwest China. There are all kinds of noodles like Steamed Cold Noodle, Buckwheat Noodle. Apart from that, the Chinese Hamburger and Lamb Stew with Vegetable are also very popular.

Guilin people have a preference for Rice Noodles. There is also a difference between the taste of people in the north and people in the south. Other food such as Stuffed River Snails, Braised Duck with Ginkgo, Yangshuo Beer Fish, should also be added to your list.

As the famous French sinologist Jacques Gernet has stated, “There is no doubt that in this sphere China has shown a greater inventiveness than any other civilisation.” Indeed, Chinese are among the peoples of the world who have been particularly preoccupied with food and eating. This food culture has formed since the ancient time and is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture, including Yin-Yang and Five Elements, Confucianism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, cultural and artistic achievements and national characters. In general, the Chinese food culture has the following features:

sichuan cuisine museum 300
sichuan cuisine museum 300

Varied Flavours
China has a vast territory and abundant resources, and each region has different climate, natural products and folk customs. After a long time, different region has formed its own food flavors. For example, people in southern China take rice as staple food, while people from northern China are used to eat noodles or steamed buns as staple food. As for the flavor, the whole country can be generally divided into four parts: sweet south, salt north, sour east and spicy west.

Aesthetic sense
Chinese cuisine puts great importance on the aesthetic sense of the dish, and pursues the harmony in color, aroma, taste, shape and utensil. The aesthetic sense of the cuisine can be expressed from multiple aspects. No matter the raw material is Chinese cabbage or carrot, they can all be cut into different shapes to match the whole dish, which gives people a highly unified mental and physical enjoyment.

Combining Food and Chinese Medicine
Chinese people believe that except providing nutrition to the body, food can also cure disease. When you are not serious ill, you can cure your disease by eating the right food, only after the food doesn’t work, you may turn to the medicine. Medicine is believed to have some toxicity more or less, thus, food is a safer way to maintain health and cure disease (sadly to say, it works slower).

Philosophical Thinking in Chinese Food Culture
Traditional Chinese philosophy has infiltrated in every respects of Chinese food culture.

From the above, Chinese philosophy influence Chinese cuisine a lot, from the raw material selection to match, from cooking process to cooking method. The whole cooking process of Chinese cuisine is the reflection of the harmony and balance of nature. Chinese cuisine should not only satisfy the foodie’s taste buds, but also preserve their health.