I am a Chinese, but would it be embarrassing for me to say that I have no idea what chinese food actually is? I believe that the subject of food diversity is in fact about diversity of climate and geography. China happens to be one of the most vivid examples of such diversity, and with almost 5000 years of history, chinese people have developed countless of unique food cultures, I was only fortunate enough to encounter the tip of the iceberg. Because of the differences of climates, people in different regions discovered different ways of collecting sources and ingredients, they invented various method of cooking, each parts of China have their own types of cookware and utensils, for example, some places use clay, dark clay, red clay or “yellow clay”, while some other use leaves, lotus leaves, banana leaves, etc. It is also amazing how these knowledge have seamlessly pass down to generations. Nowadays if you go visit China, most part of it has already been westernized, however, the food cultures in china are so deeply rooted not even the rapid modernization could easily wipe them off.
My dad used to joke about this: Chinese eat everything in the sky besides planes; everything on the ground besides cars and everything in the water beside submarine. Partially it’s quite true, but mostly not everyone in China eats dogs or cats or goat testicles like people think we do. Luckily as someone from the south of China, I could probably say that the southerners have the actual privilege to the freshest ingredients; we definitely have the least struggle of all; we have nothing to do with any of the fermented foods or spicy foods, because we can get them fresh whenever we want there’s no need to put too much spice on it for preservation. People from the south value the natural taste of the ingredient, we try hard not to put too much extra spice while cooking, but just the right among. I still remember when I was younger, A chef on a TV cooking show once said: The stupidest thing for a southerner to do is to make their fresh fish spicy, it would be consider disrespectful to the fish. My mom always says the southerners are those who has the most sensitive tastes buds.
I want to show you some very common preserved foods from southern China but people can hardly see them in America. They might not look very nice, some of them even taste kind of funny but they’re interesting to showcase as part of the very ancient food culture of southern china. The only struggle the southerners have for preserving our food is to figure out the way to get them through the hot summer, drying, and smoking seems to be two of the most common methods I can remember. Dry Fish are very common, since they always got left over:
they usually look pretty bad during process. Interesting enough it seems like most moms know how to do it.
We Also have Larou, very similar to bacon:
Lachang was also made from the similar method for preservation but look like sausages:
We even make dry vegetables:
After (they usually use it for soup):