Chinese food is popular all over the world. We just love the taste of Cantonese fried rice along with the prawn in oyster sauce. So much has been the popularity of Chinese foods that people have customized the cuisine to suit their taste buds, depending on the place they live in. Some traditional Chinese foods date back to 5,000 years. Here are some interesting facts about ancient Chinese food that you may not have known.
1. Food shared Lazy Susan style
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Traditional Chinese foods are usually shared communally i.e. in the Lazy Susan style. The food is placed at the centre of the table and people sit around it with their rice bowls in hand. This style of eating is followed even today. In restaurants, particularly the ones that seat 10 to 12 people, there are Lazy Susan turntables that help in easy sharing of food.
2. A symbol of superstition
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People in China attach special meanings to certain foods, depending on their colors, shapes, and even pronunciation. There are several legends associated with ancient Chinese food. Tradition and superstition dictate how some of the food must be eaten during a special event or festival to invoke the blessings of god. For instance, eating the ingot-shaped dumplings during the Chinese New Year is believed to bring wealth, while serving round moon cakes symbolizes a family reunion in mid-autumn.
3. Misleading names
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The Chinese are known to give catchy names to their food. Names of several traditional Chinese foods have got nothing to do with their ingredients. For instance, “Husband Wife Lung Slice” doesn’t represent cannibalism. It’s actually finely sliced cattle tongue, lungs, or some other parts, seasoned in chili oil. “Ants Climb Trees”, meanwhile, is spicy minced pork served with vermicelli. “Field chicken”, a popular ancient Chinese food, is a frog preparation. While in China, hire a tour guide to accompany you to the restaurants. Else, you may be starved the entire day.
4. Soybeans and cucumber were hugely popular
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China never grew a large variety of vegetables, except cucumbers and soybeans. Consumption of soybeans dates back to 1,000BC. It was the primary grain in most ancient Chinese food. Known as Shu, soybeans first appeared during the early part of the Zhou dynasty. The food was also known as Wugu and was first mentioned in the Analects of Confucius, in 5th century BC. Ancient Chinese food had more than its share of soybeans, which is still widely used in the country.
5. Ridiculous decorations
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Ancient Chinese food was adorned with some ridiculous decorations. Some of the decorations are still followed today. Chinese cooks, especially the Jiangsu cuisine experts, went overboard in their presentations. Dishes were served in exact lifelike patterns and shapes, brightened by decorative herbs and intricate vegetable carvings. Jiangsu is one of the eight major culinary traditions of China.