Chinese often joked of themselves that they "will eat anything with
legs except a table, and anything that flies except a kite!" Chinese
food in China is of course quite different to that found in restaurants
in Australia. In fact Chinese food found in one province of China
can be very different to that found in another. Generally Chinese
food has been divided into 8 cuisines, the most well know being Cantonese,
Sichuan, Huaiyang and Northern Cuisine. To the Chinese food has
its own language, symbolism, medicinal qualities and cultural
significance. Below are some facts on Chinese food which we hope
you will find of interest. Happy eating!
Meaning of Common Chinese Food Terms
Sum literally meaning "to touch your heart".
Dim sum consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and
other goodies such as the famous egg custard tarts. They are
similar to hors d'oeuvres, the hot and cold delicacies served at
Cha "drink tea" refers to another Cantonese custom, drinking
tea. Teahouses began to appear along the Silk Road to
service travellers. Tea was originally thought to be bad for
digestion and was not served with food. However over time it
was seen as an aid to digestion and tea house proprietors began
adding a variety of snacks. The tradition of dim sum was
this Really Chinese Food?
dish chop-suey does not come from China. It is American and
was created by Chinese immigrants in California.
sausages were actually first created in China not Germany!
Fortune Cookie is most probably American. A story goes that a
gentleman called George Jung created the fortune cookie in Los
Angeles in 1916. Unable to find moon cakes for the Moon
Festival, biscuits with messages inside were also consumed by
Chinese railroad workers in America in the mid
1800's. Clearly the inspiration for both was quintessentially
is not German, it is in fact Chinese and has been eaten in China for
over 2000 years.
isn't Italian as the noodle was introduced to Italy by Marco Polo on
his return from China in 1295.
Cream is also Chinese. Marco Polo returned to Italy in
1295 and brought back a recipe for a desert called "Milk
Ice." However, Europeans substituted cream for the milk, and made
are often served at birthdays as the lengthy strands are said
to represent long life.
buns coloured to look like peaches symbolise longevity and are also
served at birthdays.
and Tangerines ensure sweetness of life.
coloured food or food that Phonetically rhymes with Gold
is deemed good for prosperity. (eg: "orange" has the same
sound as the word gold in Cantonese)
tables and cakes are always round and this signifies harmony and
rolls represent the shape of early Chinese currency.
symbols of fidelity and joy.
with their heads still on symbolise the Phoenix rising from the
ashes to be reborn. Of course when reborn it will need its
equated with prosperity, luck, wealth and regeneration or fertility.
a blossoming nature and shape and are therefore equated with
Bamboo shoots mean good
fortune as they have a golden hue and are fast growing.
Lotus seeds are symbolic of
Green vegetables represent plenty
and the green of a prosperous countryside.
Rice has many grains and is
therefore symbolic of fertility.
the wedding day, it is also customary to serve Chinese dates,
peanuts, longan and chestnuts together as wish that the couple will
soon have a baby in accord with the Chinese proclamation.
Northern Chinese travel the return home is greeted with noodles and
the departure involves a farewell is offered with dumplings.
Cakes are a traditional baked pastry filled with lotus
seed paste and a salted egg yolk in the centre. They are
consumed during the annual Moon Festival and recall a time
when leaders of a rebellion against the Mongols baked messages into
the moon cakes outlining the plans for rebellion.
zi, or fragrant sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, are served at
the Dragon Boat Festival. This tradition began when a loved
but disgraced official drowned himself. To honour his memory
the townspeople threw rice into the water so that the fish would not
eat his body.
salt or pepper are offered during a Chinese meal as to season your
food after the cook has spent hours preparing it, is a gross insult.
medicinal cuisine was in use as long ago as the Han Dynasty (206 BC -
220). There is a wide choice of foods that are used in many
different ways to promote health and well-being. It is estimated that
there are more than 600 different kinds of resource ranging from
cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats and marine products. Some
Chinese restaurants in Adelaide offer this type of cuisine. Some
examples of medicinal dishes are:
sheep's heart with rose or braised mutton with angelica will help to
rebuild a healthy constitution.
bean soup guards against heat stroke in summer.
seeds, lily, yam, chestnuts, and pears can strengthen resistance to
cold in winter
soup of pumpkin and almond can help lose weight.
soup of angelica and carp can add beauty.
congee can give more strength.
potatoes with vinegar can ease hypertension
soup with tuckahoe strengthens the blood and reduces
Chinese Tea Rituals
SA Migration Museum has produced a terrific little brochure explaining the tea
rituals of various cultures - including the Chinese. Below is the ritual
for making Chinese Green Tea, but included at the following link is also great
recipe for "Bubble
Tea" that you may wish to try. If you are half of the tea-nut
that I am you will find this very interesting to read over a good cuppa!