First, let’s get something straight. Food has a special meaning to the Chinese. They have long been passionate about food.
If there is anything that we (Chinese) are serious about, it is neither religion or learning, but food. – Lin Yutang (1935)
They embrace a “waste not, want not” ethos which mean that every part of a huge range and variety of plants and animals that can be consumed, will most probably be consumed. This has given rise to a remarkable diversity in regional cuisine. In many cases, to the Westerners it can be – overwhelming, surprising, fantastic, delicious, horrifying or even disgusting – but above all, different! In short, the Chinese eat with gusto.
Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies and has its back to heaven is edible. – The Chinese Kitchen
“Food as it stands in general, reflects the central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture ~ Mark Kurlansky“. With over 5000 years’ of culinary history, couple with China’s vast geography, climate, agriculture, and culture diversity, it is no surprise that its cuisine employs an immense variety of ingredients, flavors, preparation and cooking techniques. Chinese cooking is very different from modern western cooking. While western cooking (particularly baking) call for exact measurement of ingredients, Chinese cooking is much more lenient and forgiving (it’s what the chinese call, “…cooking with your tongue…”, which simply means; cooking according to taste). Hence, it is normal to find many different versions of a single particular dish. In fact, it can almost be said that – there is no “one exact recipe” in chinese cooking – everyone/household has a tweak version of their own on a same dish. In other words, it’s almost like cooking without a recipe but merely with some culinary sense. But, if one must generalize three essential fresh ingredients for Chinese cooking, it would undoubtedly be – Scallions, Ginger and Garlic – the “holy trinity” of Chinese cooking. And for flavoring, the VianD would boldly named the following – Light soy sauce, Oyster sauce, Sesame oil and Chinese cooking wine (one well-known brand – Shaoxing wine).