Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chinese cuisine----Shandong cuisine

As an important component of Chinese culinary art, Shandong cuisine is considered to be the most influential in Chinese cuisine, with majority of the culinary styles in China having developed from it.

Also called Shandongcai or Lucai in Chinese, It is derived from the coastal province of Shandong in eastern China. Shandong cuisine boasts a long history and far-reaching impact. Dating back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-221BC), Shangdong cuisine is representative of northern China's cooking and its technique has been widely absorbed in northeast China. The recipes are those that once delighted the royal court and were served to the emperor. Modern day schools of cuisine in North China, such as those of Beijing, Tianjin, and Northeast, are all branches of Shandong Cuisine. Also, the typical dishes in most North China households' meals are prepared in simplified Shandong methods.

Shandong is a large peninsula surrounded by the sea, with the Yellow River meandering through the center. As a result, seafood is a major component of Shandong cuisine. Shandong's most famous dish is the "sweet and sour carp". A truly authentic "sweet and sour carp" must come from the Yellow River.

Beyond the use of seafood, Shandong cuisine is famous for its wide selection of material and use of different cooking methods. The raw materials are mainly domestic animals and birds, seafood and vegetables. On another hand, Shandong is somewhat unique for its wide use of corn, a local cash crop that is not widely cultivated elsewhere. Unlike the sweet corn of North America, Shandong corn is chewy and starchy, often with a grassy aroma. It is often served simply as steamed or boiled cobs, or removed from the cob and lightly fried.

Condiments such as sauce paste, fistulous onion and garlic are freely used, so Shangdong dishes usually taste pungent. Possibly Shandong's greatest contribution to Chinese cuisine has been in the area of brewing vinegars. Hundreds of years of experience combined with unique local methods have led to Shandong's prominence as one of the premier regions for vinegar production in China. Unlike the lighter flavored, sharper vinegars popular in the southern regions, Shandong vinegar has a rich, complex flavor which, among some connisseurs, is considered fine enough to be enjoyed on its own merits.

Soups are given much emphasis in Shangdong dishes. Clear soup (or thin soup) features clear and fresh while milk soup (or creamy soup) looks thick and tastes strong, both of which are often choicely made to add freshness to the dishes. The dishes are mainly clear, fresh and fatty, perfect with Shandong's own famous beer, Qingdao Beer.

Shandong cuisine mainly consists of two major styles: Jiaodong style, This style encompasses dishes from Fushan, Qingdao, Yantai and surrounding regions. It is characterized by seafood cooking, with light tastes; and Jinan style: This style encompasses dishes from Jinan, dezhou, Tai'an and surrounding regions. It is famed for its soup and utilizing soups in its dishes. The typical menu can include many delicate dishes such as:

Braised abalone - smooth, delicate, fresh and savory

Sweet and Sour Carp - with crisp exterior and tender fish interior, a little sweet and sour. It’s one of the most famous dishes in Shandong cuisine. A truly authentic "sweet and sour carp" must come from the Yellow River.

Bree with a complex - clear, mild and fresh

Dezhou stewed chicken - known throughout the country; the chicken is so well cooked that the meat easily separates from the bone although the shape of the chicken is preserved.

'Eight Immortals Crossing Sea teasing Arhats' - This is a starter before a celebration feast. It is luxurious and traditionally uses as its eight main ingredients: fin, sea pumpkin, abalone, asparagus, prawns and ham. The stock is flavored with fish's swimming bladder and fish bones. These symbolize the eight immortals and the Arhats [Buddhist saints] are symbolized by the inclusion of chicken breast.

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