I was often asked by British foodies if Chinese restaurants in the UK produce authentic Chinese food?
I explained that most Chinese restaurants in Britain were run by Hong Kong immigrants or their offspring and their menus were mainly listed with Cantonese food, which merely represents one of the most distinguished cuisines in China.
There are 8 regional cuisines of Sichuan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Cantonese, Hunan, Fujian and Anhui having taken shape through history as a result of different geography, climate, cultures, resources and diet habits across China.Each cuisine has forged its own singular flavour and culinary techniques.
Simply put, Sichuan cuisine is all about a spicy, tongue-numbing and piquant taste and Shandong dishes accentuate salty-freshness, crispiness and tenderness. Known as ‘Homeland of fish and rice’, Jiangsu food focuses on balanced palatability of heaviness and lightness; fresh, crispy and less greasy dishes are often found in its next-door province, Zhejiang. Reputable for seafood ingredients, Cantonese cuisine is light and sweet whereas Hunan food is extravagantly seasoned with chilli, spring onion and garlic. Seafood is also repeatedly used in Fujian kitchens where chefs favour insipid taste and Anhui cuisine is popular with its delicacies.
In China, people have always believed that food is paramount since ancient times and it has become an inseparable part of Chinese traditional culture, as any other countries do. But as stated by Guangzhi Zhang, a famous Chinese archaeologist, ‘Hardly any culture is more food-oriented than that of China, and this orientation is as old as Chinese culture.
For the Chinese, it is factual that food seems to be a more important ethnic characteristic, as opposed to any other ethnic groups.’ Therefore, food has always been playing a sacred but also mediocre role in Chinese people’s life. It is ‘one of the cores of Chinese lifestyle and a component of Chinese ethos.’
This may well explain one of Chinese eating habits. The Chinese are often found to share the food gathered in the middle of a table, which is regarded as a gathering-eating system. The evidence of the system was discovered through underground cultural relics. Historically, cooking facilities like a stove and a dining area were integrated and installed in the middle of a room. The food was cooked on the stove through bonfire, with a skylight overhead to allow smoke to disperse. The family members sat around the stove and share the food together. This tradition has been handed down through generations and it well reflects one Chinese concept that kinship and family unit are highly valued.Influenced by the Chinese food culture,
I have a thirst for local food of the countries where I travel. This September’s fleeting holiday gave me the first chance to explore authentic Portugal cuisine.
I was intoxicated by strolling on the cobbled pavements of Lisbon, Lagos and Portimao. Casting our eyes upon the menu boards outside each restaurant, one day my boyfriend Adam and I found ourselves sitting in the restaurant that does my favourite octopus dish.
The grilled octopus sunk in olive oil mixed with potatoes and garlic drew our eyes and the octopus was cooked so tender and succulent that we agreed unanimously on a second visit.
Sardines are another dish I eager to try post a visit to Museum of Portimao, which exhibited an aged assembly line to produce world famous tinned sardines. Adam warned me he loathed bony sardines but I managed to sway him into tasting this local ‘celebrity’.
Unfortunately, Adam had a gruelling experience in de-boning sardines. Grilled sardines aligned neatly on the plate seemed to defy his patience while he was wrestling with them with wrong ‘weapons’. After declining my initial help, Adam’s plate was left disarray. Then he gave up and handed all his sardines over to me as he knew for sure I was highly skilled in de-boning and demolishing any type of fish, just like any other Chinese!