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"The Four Schools Of Chinese Cooking"

There are four different schools of Chinese cooking. They divide by region, northern, southern, eastern and western. Each one is distinctly unique.

The northern school of Chinese cooking is the most eclectic. This region of cooking incorporates the most refined cooking of palace kitchens. They also include Mongolian and Muslim tastes. This region’s claim to fame is noodles, steamed breads, and pancakes instead of rice. Their particular style of cooking is stir frying, pan frying, braising, and barbequing. Their favorite seasonings are garlic, chives, leeks, star anise, and sweet bean sauces. Their signature dish is Moo Shu Pork with Mandarin pancakes.

The eastern school of Chinese cooking is nicknamed Heaven on Earth and The Land of Fish and Rice. This region is known for vegetarian specialties and subtle, refined flavors. Its claim to fame is the best soy sauces and some of the best rice wines. This region’s cooking style is red cooking, which is braising in a soy sauce based mixture, stir frying, steaming, and quick simmering. Its signature dishes are Cinnamon Beef Noodles and Vegetarian Dumplings.

The western school of Chinese cooking is nicknamed the Land of Abundance. Its cuisine is known for its spiciness. This region’s claim to fame is tongue tingling heat. Its cooking style is known for flavorings and condiments that blend to create hot, sweet, sour, and salty in one mouthful. This region’s favorite seasonings are chiles, peppercorns, ginger, garlic, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, nuts, and mushrooms. This region’s signature dish is Sichuan style stir fried chicken with peanuts.

The southern school of Chinese cooking is known for combining Cantonese cooking with contemporary ingredients from the west. Cantonese cooking is considered quite exotic. This region’s claim to fame is Dim Sum which are snacks. Its cooking style is a combination of excellent ingredients and refined technique. This region’s signature dishes are steamed salmon with black bean sauce, Hoisin barbequed chicken, stir fried broccoli with oyster sauce, and shrimp fried rice.

There are certain food items that need to be stocked in the pantry in order to create Chinese cooking. These items are black vinegar, which is lighter and sweeter than western vinegar, chili paste or sauce, dark sesame oil, dried chili peppers, dried Chinese mushrooms, which are shitake or black mushrooms, fermented or salted black beans, ginger, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, rice wine, and soy sauce.  These ingredients can be found in well stocked supermarkets, in any Asian market, or available online. Unless other wise indicated these ingredients should be refrigerated after opening.