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Delicious Chinese food #279129 11/30/06 02:08 AM
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HellenHellen Offline OP
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Western Chinese cuisine includes influences from Sichuan, Hunan, Guangxi and the Xinjiang areas. The fertile plains and terraced hills of the western Chinese heartland are fed by the Yangtze River and its tributaries that offer a garden of produce. Flavors are characteristically spicy and pungent � most often associated with chilies, though chilies are not indigenous to China. In fact, chilies were originally brought to the region by Portuguese traders and missionaries, and for the last several hundred years have been used quite extensively. One word of warning � genuine Sichuan food will be absolutely the hottest food you've ever eaten.

Though highly prominent, chilies aren't the only ingredient used in western Chinese cooking. Typical flavors also come from vinegar, garlic, onions, ginger, sesame oil and a very curious spice called Sichuan peppercorn, also known as prickly ash. Sichuan peppercorns have a very strong numbing effect on the mouth when eaten. You'll know it if you're eating an authentic version of mapo tofu � your tongue will hang out of the mouth because it has an extraordinary level of Sichuan peppercorns and chilies. Not to be left out, the Sichuan version of hotpot has a fiery level of chili.

Pork, freshwater fish, eggplant, soybeans and legumes such as peanuts are prominent ingredients as are bamboo shoots, mushrooms and rice from the mountains. Typical cooking methods include frying, frying without oil called dry frying, pickling and braising as well as stir-frying. Fish-flavored shredded pork gets its curious flavor from liberal use of ginger, garlic, vinegar, chili and spring onion but no fish.

There is a strong ethnic minority presence in this area of China and the use of goat's milk for cheese is an example of their influence. Muslim influences also show up in goat meat and dried beef dishes, reflecting a historically nomadic lifestyle. Try the slightly sweet-cured Yunnan ham, and crossing-the-bridge noodles soup.

The Xinjiang influence in western China is very much Arabic in origin, strong in lamb and mutton, with a distinct Muslim flavor. In fact, you'll find authentic Arabic flat bread (nang), baked in ovens very similar to the Indian tandoor. Mutton kebabs seasoned with toasted cumin are very popular and tasty and should not be missed. Fruit as well has an Arabic influence featuring fresh melons, grapes, apricots and raisins.

Ten Representative Western Dishes:
Ants climbing up a tree � a spicy dish of bean thread noodles and pork that resemble ants climbing trees.

Bang bang chicken � a classic Sichuanese cold platter made with chicken, cucumber and bean thread noodles, dressed with a sesame based sauce.

Crispy shredded beef � thought to originate from Sichuan or Hunan uses carrots, spring onion, garlic and chili, sauced with sugar, vinegar and soy.

Dan dan noodles � noodles with a spicy sauce made with hot chilies and ground pork.

Dry fried green beans � sometimes yard long beans are used though always cut into bit size pieces, first deep fried, and then stir-fried with ground pork and Sichuan peppercorns.

Kung pao chicken � this classic dish from Sichuan is made with chicken, chili and peanuts.

Mapo tofu � a classic Sichuan dish literally meaning "pockmarked grandmother tofu" using tofu, ground pork, copious quantities of red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, it's named after an old woman thought to have first made this dish in her restaurant.

Mouth watering beef � named because this dish is so good it "makes your mouth water with anticipation," beef is cooked with a very large quantity of chili laced oil, effectively poaching the beef with hot oil, this dish is also made with fish or lamb as well.

Smoked fish � originating from Guangxi, this fish dish is not smoked, but takes on a smoky quality from first being marinated with five spice, ginger, Shaoxing wine, and sugar, deep fried then marinated again.

Twice cooked pork � pork is first boiled, then stir-fried with peppers, chili and soy.

Tibetan Jewelry New Arrival at www.galleriapangea.com
Re: Delicious Chinese food #279130 12/01/06 03:05 AM
Joined: Nov 2006
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HellenHellen Offline OP
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Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 126
Dining etiquette in China can be quite intricate and daunting at first. You'll probably make a few faux pas, but with a little basic understanding and realization that most practices are intended to make the guests feel comfortable and honored, you'll soon be able enjoy China's cuisine without worry.

One of the first things you will do at the table is drink tea. Be sure to pour tea for those around you first and your own teacup last � it's considered bad form to fill yours first or even worse, just fill your own. Even if the teacups of those around you are full, you should dribble a little anyway, this is considered polite. One reoccurring theme, which is mainly directed at the host, is to make sure your guests always have a full plate and cup.

When using chopsticks, never point them directly at people and never stick them standing upright in your rice bowl � this is a reminder of the incense burned at funerals. To serve yourself or others use a clean spoon solely for taking food from communal plates, though it is perfectly acceptable to either take food directly with your own chopsticks at informal settings. If you serve someone with your own chopsticks, use the blunt ends that don't go into you mouth.

If you're invited to be a guest at a meal, your host will want to ensure that there's more than enough food for everyone. If your host miscalculates (usually not often), don't be surprised if he orders more food to "save face" to prove their generosity and graciousness. Along this same theme, don't be surprised to find your host serving you choice morsels of food whether you ask for it or not, this is another sign of generosity � be sure to accept gracefully.

If you are a particularly important guest, fish will likely be served and the host may serve you the fish's head (which is considered a very choice part of the fish). If you aren't particularly fond of fish heads, just graciously accept, be brave and tuck in. It may embarrass (make him lose face) or even insult your host to return or refuse the fish's head. A better tactic would be to serve your host the fish's head first as a gesture of thanks for being so generous. Be gracious if at anytime you feel the need to decline a serving.

When most Westerners make arrangements to eat, it's assumed that each person will pay their own share, unless it's been specifically stated that one person is treating. In Chinese custom, unless amongst friends or in an informal setting, it's the inviter that pays for the meal. It's polite to make an effort to pay, but expect strong resistance. It's a common sight in many Chinese restaurants to see two people loudly arguing after a meal � they're fighting for the right to pay.

When in doubt, do as your host does or simply ask � just remember that your host ultimately wants you to have a good time and feel welcome.

Tibetan Jewelry New Arrival at www.galleriapangea.com
Re: Delicious Chinese food #279131 12/04/06 02:04 AM
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Posts: 126
HellenHellen Offline OP
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I am managing a blog about travelling in Beijing, try to collect all the useful information in Beijing, like the best hotels, restaurants, bars, and of course the beautiful scenery of Beijing. Would you like to see, http://www.beijingexpert.com

Tibetan Jewelry New Arrival at www.galleriapangea.com
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