China is a country where the appreciation of good food is
developed into a fine art. Chinese are epicures. Their cooking is distinctive:
No other cooking resembles it in any way. There are many ways to cook Chinese
food, but those who cook at home usually roast or steam their food.
Chinese food is rich, but not greasy: it is delicately flavored, but not pungently spicy. Cook what is freshly slaughtered, and eat what is freshly cooked, a doctrine universally recognized throughout China. It is better that one should wait for the meal than that the meal should wait for one. Variety is another important feature.
A Chinese dish almost always consists of a mixture of foodstuffs - the meat or fish is generally cooked with, and improved by, the addition of some appropriate vegetable. All the material to be used is cut into convenient size in the kitchen before serving, so that no carving instruments are required at table. All the condiments are added during the process of cooking, thus doing away with the necessity of the usual cruet. The only exception is some Soya bean sauce provided at the table in case it is required.
With the passage of time the methods of cooking have necessarily undergone many improvements as compared with the original crude processes. Expert cooks in different parts of China have introduced numerous improvements, and, with China being such a vast country, its component parts differing widely not only in climate and customs, but even in the spoken language, it is only to be expected that different terms are found in different localities for the same way of cooking.
For instance, roasting in the North is known as K'ao while in the South it is called Shao M. Similarly Shao Fan M M in North China means cooking rice, but in Canton they say Chu Fan . In these circumstances I have to employ those terms, which are more commonly used and are more generally understood. All the terms used in this little book are in the National language, that is, Mandarin (Kuo Yu ).
Roasting is one common cooking method. There are two different ways of doing roasting: one is roasting over an open fire known as Chinese cooking utensil while the other is roasting in an oven.
By the first mentioned method we prepare roast suckling pig and barbecued Peking duck. In exactly the same way the Russians make "shaslick" and the Javanese "sateh" dishes, which are well known to foreigners in the Orient.
The Cantonese dish known as "gold coin chicken" consisting of a combination of alternate pieces of ham, chicken and pork is made the same way. Material for barbecuing should be hung for six to seven hours, and then covered with the proper condiments. Then it is fixed to a metal fork or skewer and held over a strong charcoal fire. Constant turning of the fork is necessary to ensure even roasting. In barbecuing a whole pig the skin should be punctured before roasting to secure an even surface at the end of the operation.
The material to be roasted is hung inside the oven, and both openings are closed. The result is identical with that of a modern gas or electric oven. When the meat is finished roasting it is soft, moist and ready to serve.
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