Friday, December 15, 2017

The many flavours of china


MEATY MEAL: Roast pork

Mark Fraser

For three days recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China and the Hyatt Regency Trinidad shared the cuisine of Suzhou to locals and foreigners alike at the Chinese Food Festival held at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.

Dining on shrimp done Hong Kong style; chicken fried rice, mixed vegetables and other exotic dishes, guests got a taste of China and a better understanding of the techniques used in Chinese cooking.

China covers a large territory and has many nationalities, hence the wide array of Chinese food and the various combinations of flavour. Since China’s local dishes have their own typical characteristics, generally Chinese food can be roughly divided into eight regional cuisines such as Anhui, which focuses more attention on the temperature in cooking. 

Zhejiang incorporates other local cuisines using the freshest ingredients while paying close attention to the tenderness and smoothness of its dishes with a mellow fragrance. Guangdong food originates from Guangdong, the southernmost province in China. 

The majority of overseas Chinese people are from Guangdong (Canton) so Cantonese is perhaps the most widely available Chinese regional cuisine outside of China. Shandong cuisine is clear, pure and not greasy. Shallot and garlic are usually used as seasonings so Shangdong dishes are usually pungent. Soups are given much emphasis in Shangdong dishes. Fujian cuisine is distinguished for its choice seafood, beautiful colour and its blend of sweet, sour and salty flavours. 

Sichuan cuisine is one of the most prominent Chinese cuisines in the world. Characterised by its spicy and pungent flavour, Sichuan cuisine focuses on the use of chilli, garlic and ginger. Jiangsu cuisine places much emphasis on using the freshest ingredients.  Cooking techniques consist of braising, steaming, roasting and simmering. Hunan cuisine incorporates chilli, pepper and shallot spices.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy permanent secretary Frances Seignoret said, “This culinary festival will therefore serve as a platform on which we can greater appreciate the culture of our Chinese brothers and sisters.”

Highlighting China’s unique culinary art amongst some of the best-known schools of Chinese culinary tradition, a contingent of Chinese chefs gave guests a better insight on authentic Chinese food. 

A definitive treat for the senses; guests learned the unique flavours of Cantonese cuisine of the South; Shandong cuisine of the Noth, the Huai-Yang cuisine of the East and the Sichuan cuisine of the West.

These four major varieties of Chinese food have been traditionally noted as ‘the light flavour of the South, the salty flavour of the North, the sweet flavour of the East and the spicy-hot flavour of the West.’ Chinese cuisine gives emphasis to the selection of raw materials, the texture of food, the blending of seasonings, slicing techniques, the perfect timing of cooking and the art of laying out the food on the plate.

Seignoret noted that food played a central role in any culture and was a way to bring about cultural exchange.

She said, “The techniques employed in food preparation vary according to the history and traditions of the society in question. Food inevitably operates as a vehicle of cultural transmission—we often experience the culture of others through their cuisine.” 

The gala festival was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Trinidad and Tobago and China.  Seignoret said, “We further cemented our bilateral relationship with the formal opening of the Trinidad and Tobago’s Embassy in Beijing.” 

The gala food festival began on June 13 and ended on June 16.