Chinese Cuisine from Ancient Times to The Present

Delicious dishes by Guangzhou Peninsula Catering Management Co. LTDWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

The development of Chinese cuisine has spanned four stages: cooking with stones, pottery, bronzeware, and ironware. Stone Age humans heated stones with fire and used them to cook food. Over 10,000 years ago, humans used clay pots and boiled food with water. Then, 4,000 years ago, people used bronze ware for roasting and frying food. 

With the advent of ironware cooking 3,000 years ago, China witnessed a remarkable advancement in cooking techniques, as well as a rich diversity of dining utensils and culinary writings. Let’s embark on a culinary journey through history and admire some enduring traditional Chinese dishes that have stood the test of time. 

Da Dong's "Superlean" Peking duckWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

1. Peking duck 

This Beijing classic showcases the Peking duck as the star ingredient. It is prepared with two traditional methods: simmering in a covered pot and roasting in an open oven. Peking duck is characterized by a ruddy glow, crispy skin, tender meat, and rich flavor.

The origin of this 600-year-old dish has sparked scholarly discussion revolving around three predominant theories: the Nanjing origin theory, the Beijing origin theory, and the Hangzhou origin theory. By examining the evolution of this dish, we can find written accounts in the ancient texts of the Song dynasty (960–1279). By the Ming dynasty, roasted duck had become firmly established as a delicacy of the imperial court. 

Sweet soup ball (Tangyuan)World Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

2. Glutinous rice balls

Glutinous rice balls are festive treats enjoyed during the Spring and Lantern Festivals. Legend has it that glutinous rice balls were first made in the Song dynasty (960–1279). They were crafted by wrapping assorted candied fruits in sticky rice flour, forming them into balls. When cooked, the glutinous rice balls taste sweet and delicious. While people in southern China now refer to the rice balls as tangyuan, those in the north still call them yuanxiao.

Glutinous rice balls come in two distinct styles based on how they are made. In the southern style, these treats are crafted by encasing soft fillings within glutinous rice dough, which is created by drying rice pulp through a hanging process. This results in spherical treats known as hung glutinous rice balls. In contrast, the northern style involves dipping the filling in water and then rolling it repeatedly in dry glutinous rice flour until a round shape is achieved.

Dumpling by World Federation Of Chinese Catering IndustryWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

3. Dumplings

Dumplings are considered to be a staple food in China and are commonly served at festivals. They are usually made by wrapping a filling in a dough wrapper and boiling them in water. The origin of dumplings is shrouded in mystery, with various theories tracing them back to the Northern and Southern dynasties period. If we consider the historical evidence, it is quite plausible that dumplings have been enjoyed for well over 1,500 years. 

Dumplings served in bowls from the Tang dynasty were unearthed in the Astana Cemetery near Turpan. In the Song dynasty, dumplings went by various names, showing how their popularity spread to different regions. The custom of eating dumplings during the Spring Festival was already common in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Celebrating the new year and eating dumplings go hand-in-hand, people hope that by eating dumplings, they can welcome a new and better year. 

Dongpo pork by World Federation Of Chinese Catering IndustryWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

4. Dongpo pork

A dish known for its ancient origins, Dongpo pork is believed to have been created by Su Dongpo, a Song dynasty writer of great renown who lived from January 8, 1037 to August 24, 1101. In the Ming dynasty, Shen Defu (1578–1642) wrote about Dongpo pork in his Miscellaneous Notes of Wanli, the earliest record of this dish.

温饽红烧肉 (2020) by Jiao SongtaoWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

This dish is still considered a delicacy in China despite its age, attributed to its vivid red color, rich sauce, crisp skin, and soft meat. The life of Su Dongpo was full of dramatic ups and downs as he faced political turmoil and exile in different places. His adventures and hardships made him a legendary figure in history, and many places nowadays frequently host food culture events as a tribute to Su Dongpo. 

Kung Pao Chicken by World Federation Of Chinese Catering IndustryWorld Federation of Chinese Catering Industry

5. Kung pao chicken 

Kung pao chicken, invented by Ding Baozhen, is a famous traditional dish originating from Sichuan. Ding Baozhen, who was an accomplished cook, served as governor of Sichuan during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor (August 14, 1871 to November 14, 1908). During his term as governor of Sichuan, he created a stir-fried dish with cubes of chicken, peanuts, and chili peppers. His culinary creation swiftly achieved widespread recognition and acclaim.

He was a righteous and honest official who governed Sichuan well for a decade, dying whilst in office in 1885. The Qing court posthumously awarded him the title Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent. This dish was named kung pao chicken as a tribute to his title. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps