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Cantonese Cuisine l Chinese Cuisine l Etiquette l Other Cuisine

The many forms of Chinese culinary cuisine developed through the people's passion for eating, which date back centuries ago. Although ancient Chinese cooking is different from that of Hong Kong's, but the basic methods remain similar. Steaming, roasting, smoking, and fermentation processes were practiced in prehistoric times as it is today.

Due to China's budding agriculture, new ingredients were found and with that, each region has devised a distinct style of cooking that reflect its topography, climate, flora and fauna, the temperament of its people, and their association with foreigners. The Mongols who thrust into Han China during the late 13th Century influenced foods of northern and western China. They brought with them new tastes to the rustic cuisine of northern China.

The native Han chefs of China further expurgated the neoteric flavors of western Asian cooking. On the other hand, the nomadic Mongol tribe of the Yuan Dynasty was unlike those from the Han Chinese of Beijing. These nomads cooked with whatever were available, primarily milk, butter, and lamb. They preferred a rough and simple cuisine, such as whole animals roasted in stone pits or steamed with rock salt. Seasonings consisted of pine nuts, rosewater, almond oil, and sugar. Their specialties were fruit preserves, lamb dumplings, and lamb cakes. Three centuries later, China was again swamped by another horde of Manchurian warriors from the north who founded the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). These Manchus proceeded to influence the local Mongol-Han cuisine to suit their exotic tastes.

Food preferences among the Chinese will never stay the same. Many regional cuisine make up the selections that Hong Kong's kitchens have to offer. Each cuisine has its distinctive tastes due to the use of miscellaneous ingredients and methods of preparation. For example, the southern Chinese dislike Beijing-based food because it lacks smoothness and subtlety, while the latter contend that southerners grind, chop, and dilute the flavor out of their food.

No matter where the place of origin, the Chinese people will always stand alike in their passion for food. Food is a form of art and thus is the most popular verbal acknowledgement amongst members of the Chinese society. Instead of the westernized greeting of "how are you", the more familiar way of heralding is "sek cho fan mei", which means "have you eaten yet". For the Chinese, eating is not just a necessity to keep alive, but rather an entertaining experience, as well as an enjoyment of the tasty thrill of the palate.

When ordering a Chinese meal, both taste and texture are decorously considered. A fusion of sweet-sour, sharp-bland, hot-cool, and crunchy-smooth sensation should appear to titillate the various senses of the taste buds. Chinese people do not cultivate the habit of wasting food. Parents often intimidate their children with bogus clichés just to admonish them from leaving any rice in their bowls. An example would be that if there were still grains of rice left in the bowl, pimples would appear on the face of the respective person.

Cooking with fresh food is a prerequisite in the Chinese society. Although there may be some who have embraced the methods of refrigeration and freezing, others still go to the fresh-food markets three times a day for fresh groceries. Chinese have the habit of venturing into the markets to buy fresh produce and then to create a meal with what's available, rather than to plan ahead what to cook.

Some Chinese foods are heeded to be queer and utterly revolting. Although these delicacies may be rare and nourishing, it is usually purely disgusting and baneful to foreigners. Examples of these rare dishes include monkey's brain (consumed directly from the skull of a freshly-killed monkey), bear's paw, snake, dog, pigeon, frogs, sparrows, live baby mice (good for ulcers), and lizards. Those who keep any of these animals as pets would definitely rebel against this habit. Fortunately, many of these delicacies are banned by law or almost impossible to obtain.

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