The phrase is a testament to the popularity of Chinese food around the world. Food is an important part of daily life for Chinese people. Chinese not only enjoy eating but believe eating good food can bring harmony and closeness to the family and relationships.
Shopping daily for fresh food is essential for all Chinese cooking. Unlike the fast food society of the U.S., the Chinese select live seafood, fresh meats and seasonal fruits and vegetables from the local market to ensure freshness. This means swimming fish, snappy crabs, and squawking chickens. Even prepared foods such as dim sum or BBQ duck for to go orders must gleam, glisten, and steam as if just taken out of the oven.
Chinese people in general are not as concerned about nutrition as Western culture. They are more concerned with the food’s texture, flavor, color, and aroma. These are the crucial points for good Chinese cooking. Chinese daily meals consist of four food groups: grains, vegetables, fruit, and meat. Because of lactose intolerance, Chinese do not consume large amounts of dairy products. Instead, Chinese substitute these with soymilk and tofu, which also contain large amounts of protein and calcium. Vegetables, fruits, and meats are usually fresh. Some exceptions include preserved vegetables such as snow cabbage or mustard greens, preserved eggs, aka “thousand year old eggs” or salted and dried fish. Other exceptions include snack items such as beef jerky, cuttlefish jerky, sweet and sour preserved plums, or dehydrated mango slices. Canned or frozen foods are seldom eaten. Western desserts such as cookies, cakes, pies, and ice cream are eaten only on special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. After dinner, families usually eat seasonal fruit as dessert. Chinese desserts such as red bean soup, sweet white lotus’s seed soup, or steam papaya soup are served every so often as a special treat on a hot summer’s night.
Ethnic Chinese cooking does not involve a lot of deep fried cooking. The reason most of the Chinese restaurants in America have deep-fried dishes such as sweet and sour pork, almond fried Chicken, and deep-fried shrimp is to promote business and to please western tastes. This clearly reflects why there are more overweight and high blood pressure concerns in Western culture than there are in Chinese culture.
“Yi xing bu xing”
Chinese hardly waste any section of the animal and have found ways to cook nearly every part. Chinese culture believes that “yi xing bu xing,” which means by using any shape or part of the animal the same part of the human body can be replenished and strengthened. For example, shark fin soup and bird nest soup (bird’s saliva) is served to replenish strength and increase appetite, crocodile meat strengthens the bronchia, dehydrated tiger testicle increases stamina for men, while monkey brains add wisdom. These foods are considered to be delicacies and tonics. Shark fin soup or bird nest soup is often served at special occasions such as at a Chinese banquet dinner. Other items are rarely prepared.