Chinese cuisine is not only a type of food found within mainland China, but nearly every global culture has adapted this cuisine to their local food preferences. From Paris to Sydney, you will find Chinese cuisine in virtually every neighborhood, merging Chinese cooking techniques with local ingredients. As with the history of China, the cuisine of this region is steeped in an impressive amount of history and tradition. The origin of Chinese food is unique, with the development of this culinary style as old as the use of fire to cook foods. For this reason, the roots of Chinese cuisine can be traced to over 400,000 years ago. With this impressive heritage, a number of sub regional styles have developed.
While the variations of Chinese cuisine are immense, two ancient foods serve as the foundation of Chinese food. Rice and noodles are almost always served during a Chinese meal within the nation, acting as the common bond of all Chinese meals. While western cultures initially relied on using hands to eat food, the Chinese were quick to introduce Chopsticks to the act of eating. With roots stretching back to the Zhou Dynasty (1,000 B.C.), chopsticks are considered the first food utensils.
Chinese cuisine can be categorized by the geographical and cultural identities of the country. In the south of the country, the climate allows for rice production, making this food staple a major influence over most southern dishes. In the colder northern part of China, wheat dominates. This distinction is responsible for the invention of noodles. But the divisions of Chinese cuisine do not stop and start with the North/South divide. Chinese food is often divided into four major classes of cuisines; the Lu, Yang, Chuan and Yue divisions compose the Traditional Four Schools of Chinese cuisine.
Like many Chinese traditions, there are a number of legendary Chinese chefs. During the Shang dynasty, a chef named Yi Yin was known as the Sage of Cooks, serving the emperor while creating many Chinese culinary innovations. The Chinese tradition also created a rather famous chef/witch. Yi Ya, was a well-known Chinese chef during the Spring and Autumn period who created many innovations in terms of frying, brewing, roasting, broiling and flavoring Chinese foods. Women played a central role in the development of Chinese cuisine, with Shan Zu being a prime example. As a Tang Dynasty chef, Shan Zu is best known as the author of the culinary text “You Yang Za Zu”.