The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (2023)

The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (1)

Hopefully my last article, “High-Level Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Cuisine,” left you salivating for authentic Chinese cuisine. In a follow-up, here’s my list of the best sources to learn more about Chinese cooking:

The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (2)

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When in doubt, trust any cookbook written by Fuchsia Dunlop.

An Oxford native, Fuchsia Dunlop became interested in China while working the East Asia desk for the BBC Monitoring Unit at Caversham. She pursued her postgraduate degree at Sichuan University and extended her stay to take a three-month chef’s training course at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine making her the first Westerner to do so. Dunlop became obsessed with China’s food and spent years traveling around China and collecting recipes. Her first book, Land of Plenty introduced many Westerners to Sichuan food. Her second book, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, did the same for Hunan food. What I love about Dunlop’s cookbooks is she never sacrifices authenticity yet does a great job making these lesser-known cuisines approachable. For example, all four of her cookbooks start with explanations of typical ingredients and condiments, detailed pictures, what brands to purchase, and a shopping list for a well-stocked pantry. My favorite cookbook of hers is Every Grain of Rice which is a collection of home cooking recipes from many regions of southern China, with a Sichuan slant. Paging through it always makes me feel nostalgic as I see many of the dishes my mom used to cook for the family while I was growing up.

The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (3)

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When you’re ready for an advanced education in Chinese cooking.

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo showcases her decades of Chinese cuisine knowledge in her opus magnum, Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking. Initially, the three sections of this book might appear confusing – The Market as Classroom, The Market Becomes Regional, and The Market Particular. However, Lo has intentionally structured this book as a series of lessons (from easy to hard) to not only build the reader’s skill, but also knowledge and confidence. She starts with how to create a Chinese pantry and the essential cooking tools of Chinese cuisine. Then Lessons 2 through 6 walk you through basic foundational recipes (making perfect rice, basic stocks, flavored oils) and techniques (stir-frying, steaming, poaching, clay pot). Then Lo continues with basic soup and noodle recipes, using some of the basic ingredients and techniques she just covered. Section 2 is what I call “beginner-intermediate” dishes – with more foundational recipes such as roasted chicken and XO sauce. Readers will learn how to make various bread recipes, rice recipes, and a selection of dishes from different regions of China. Section 3 is the “intermediate-advanced” dishes with exotic ingredients and exotic techniques. Even I don’t recognize half the ingredients used in some of these dishes. Many of them are special-occassion or banquet dishes such as Shark’s FIn Soup or Peking Duck. Throughout all three sections, Lo meticulously walks through the techniques, ingredients, equipment, and philosophies that define Chinese cuisine. She includes essays on the cultural context and deep dives into individual ingredients–what they do, why they’re used, and how they interact with other ingredients to bring out flavors, textures, and aromas. This cookbook is also filled with beautiful color photography and brush calligraphy drawings of step-by-step techniques–it makes a great gift to any aspiring Chinese cooks in your circle of family and friends.

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When you’re already comfortable with Chinese cooking techniques, and now looking for many, many recipes.

Try All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips. Practically speaking, there are much more than just 35 cuisines–more like hundreds of Chinese cuisines. However, All Under Heaven, is the best cookbook I’ve seen that tries to cover as many regional dishes as possible. This cookbook is definitely not for a Chinese cuisine novice–the recipes start on Page 1 and there’s about 300 of them. There is a “Fundamentals” section in the back of the book but the meat of the book are recipes that travel from the Manchurian Northeast through the Yangtze River to the Arid Lands. Phillips includes historical and cultural context interspaced between the recipes so readers can learn as well as cook. Additionally, I find Phillips recipes are written with clear, step-by-step instructions and breaks down unknown, complex recipes gracefully without sacrificing authenticity. She does make the occasional concession of hard-to-find ingredients and offers the best homemade or American alternatives. Many times I’ve had to text my mom to mail me an ingredient I can’t find in Texas so I can make the most authentic version of the dish as possible. I’ve had this cookbook for years and am only halfway through exploring all of Phillips recipes so I guarantee it’ll keep you entertained for a long time.

The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (5)

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When you haven’t bought a cookbook in years, because duh, the Internet.

I’m a big fan of cookbooks! I think a book format is best for allowing authors to develop themes, lessons, and context through cooking. However, I will grant that sometimes you just want a quick recipe you can pull up on your laptop. My favorite blogs are The Woks of Life and China Sichuan Food. Both specialize in southern Chinese food; The Woks of Life is run by a family of four (two parents and two daughters) who use the blog to stay in touch with each other while they’re separated by a few thousand miles. You’ll find some fusion dishes in their recipe index but also many authentic Chinese dishes I remember from my childhood. Elaine, the owner of China Sichuan Food, is one of the only few blogs by a Chinese person living in China with an English blog. She obviously focuses on Sichuan Food and I love browsing through her blog because it’s a good representation of the foods that young professionals in Chengdu favor for lunch and dinner. Alternatively, if you’re more a visual learner – my favorite Chinese cooking Youtube channel is Chinese Cooking Demystified–they walk through cooking Chinese dishes from all over China with to-the-point step-by-step instructions and explanations. For entertainment purposes I also watch James’ channel, since his videos are in Chinese and don’t contain subtitles I can’t recommend his channel as a good way to learn how to cook Chinese food. However, just by watching him cook some dishes I’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way. For insanely escapist content, watch Liziqi who uses beautiful cinematography to showcase her process of cooking Sichuan food in her rural village from beginning to end. And when I say beginning, I mean her videos typically start off with her planting the ingredients for the upcoming dish so there’s about a 0% chance you’d be able to replicate what you see. However, her videos are so beautiful and provide a (glamourized) glimpse into life in rural Sichuan so they’re worth checking out.

And there it is! Also don’t forget, typically the best way to learn any cuisine is in first person, so whether it’s your Chinese mom, your grandmother, or your friends–ask them what their favorite dish was growing up and how to cook it. I know I’ve probably missed dozens of invaluable sources of authentic Chinese recipes and I’d love to know which other cookbooks, blogs, or Youtube channels I should check out so let me know in the comments below!

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The 4 Best Sources for Authentic Chinese Cooking - Wine4Food (6)Helen works in the tech industry at “Silicon Hills” in sunny, weird Austin, Texas. She balances all that left-brain activity with freelance writing about the Texas restaurant scene and new food trends with a focus on Chinese cuisine. In her free time she renovates 1980s homes, films educational Youtube videos teaching analytics, and develops “no-code apps.” Instagram: @helen.w.xu

Photo credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

FAQs

What are the main 4 style of Chinese cuisine? ›

A number of different styles contribute to Chinese cuisine but perhaps the best known and most influential are Cantonese cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine (specifically Huaiyang cuisine) and Sichuan cuisine.

What is the most authentic Chinese dish? ›

Five best-known, traditional Chinese dishes are Peking duck, biang biang noodles, dim sum, xiaolongbao, and Sichuan hot pot.

What is the most well known Chinese cooking method? ›

Stir-Fry. Perhaps the most common method of Chinese cooking is stir-frying. A quick and simple method, all you have to do is chuck the ingredients in a wok and cook on high heat for a short period of time.

What are the 5 primary tastes in Chinese cuisine? ›

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that there are five major food flavours–sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and pungent (including spicy)–and each one is connected to the well-being of different organs.

What are the five elements of Chinese cooking? ›

In Chinese culture, the five elements are considered to be fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Like with yin and yang, the five elements are all about finding the perfect balance between each part.

What makes Chinese cuisine authentic? ›

What makes Chinese food unique? The Chinese culture has a deep rooted affection for food and any celebration is incomplete without food. What makes their food unique is that each recipe has a meaning attached to it; every ingredient whether it is vegetable, meat, or spice holds a meaning.

What is the secret ingredient in Chinese food? ›

Lu sauce is the 'secret sauce" of Chinese cuisine : Goats and Soda It's called Lu sauce. It dates back 1,500 years (at least) and for chef Peter in Beijing, it's new as the brew of soy sauce, ginger, garlic he cooks up each night — with a special touch from his mom.

What are the main methods in Chinese cooking? ›

There are hundreds of cooking methods in China. However, the most common methods are stir-frying, deep-frying, shallow-frying, braising, boiling, steaming and roasting. The most frequently used method is stir-frying.

What are the two Chinese cooking principles? ›

The yin and yang principle can also be incorporated in cooking methods. Yin-cooking includes slow-cooking methods such as simmering, boiling and stewing, while yang-cooking encompasses frying, grilling and sautéing.

What are the 4 primary taste? ›

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter – and savory

Savory dishes that taste of broth evoke pleasant emotions in most people. They are a signal that the food is rich in protein. This flavor has been recognized as the fifth basic taste in addition to the four better known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

What are the 4 things we taste? ›

Humans can detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory tastes. This allows us to determine if foods are safe or harmful to eat.

Are there 4 primary tastes? ›

There are five universally accepted basic tastes that stimulate and are perceived by our taste buds: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.

What are the five 5 guidelines in cooking? ›

Overview
  • keep clean;
  • separate raw and cooked;
  • cook thoroughly;
  • keep food at safe temperatures; and.
  • use safe water and raw materials.

What do Chinese people eat for dinner? ›

Dinner has become the most important meal for many Chinese. The dishes usually include soup, a variety of meats and vegetables, and rice. Because dinner is a meal to enjoy with the family the food is very hearty.

Is fried rice authentic Chinese food? ›

Fried rice first developed during the Sui Dynasty in China and as such all fried rice dishes can trace their origins to Chinese fried rice.

What makes authentic food authentic? ›

What is Authentic Food? The word authentic is used to describe an object that is not false or copied, it is genuine and real. Authentic food is food (or drink) that exactly meets its description and also meets a person's reasonable assumption of its character.

What is authenticity of food? ›

Food is considered authentic or genuine if the product or its contents correspond to the original condition and the information on the label. Authentic goods are free from adulteration, especially with regard to composition, nature and varietal purity, geographical origin and manufacturing method.

What are the factors to consider of an authentic cuisine? ›

  • Flavors are bold. ...
  • Restaurant specifically says the food is authentic. ...
  • Ingredients are imported from the region of the cuisine. ...
  • Restaurant ambiance/decor represents the region of the cuisine. ...
  • Chef/cooks look like they come from the region of the cuisine. ...
  • Staff looks like they come from the region of the cuisine.
4 Jan 2019

What kind of flour do Chinese restaurants use? ›

Chinese cooking uses cornstarch for frying to yield a light yet crisp crust. It's a much better choice than all-purpose flour, which can be heavy and take too long to crisp up, resulting in over-cooked or oil-logged fried foods.

Which oil is best for Chinese cooking? ›

Sesame oil for cooking

In various Authentic Chinese dishes, sesame oil is used as the primary cooking oil. It is even used in salad dressing because of its rich nutty flavour.

Which vinegar is best for Chinese cooking? ›

The three main types of rice vinegar (mi cù, 米醋) used in Chinese cooking are white rice vinegar, black rice vinegar (or Chinkiang Vinegar), and red rice vinegar. In this article, we'll be focusing on white rice vinegar.

What spice gives Chinese food its flavor? ›

A blend of cinnamon, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel and star anise, these five spices give the sour, bitter, pungent, sweet and salty flavors found in Chinese cooking.

What is the most important ingredient in Chinese food? ›

Soy Sauce. Without a doubt, soy sauce is the most important ingredient in Chinese food. Whether it's salty light soy to add umami and seasoning to a dish, or dark soy for a rich colour, you'll probably find soy sauce in almost all Chinese recipes.

Is the Chinese diet healthy? ›

Recommended. Indeed, the traditional Chinese diet is far healthier than the traditional American diet, which often features meat as the focus of the meal, says T. Colin Campbell, PhD, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

What are the main types of Chinese? ›

The varieties are typically classified into several groups: Mandarin, Wu, Min, Xiang, Gan, Hakka and Yue, though some varieties remain unclassified.

What is the Chinese style? ›

'China style') is the European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and other East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the decorative arts, garden design, architecture, literature, theatre, and music.

What are the 3 regions of cuisine in China? ›

A number of different styles contribute to Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential are Guangdong cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Huaiyang cuisine and Sichuan cuisine.

Which version of Chinese is more popular? ›

Mandarin Chinese alone is the most widely spoken native language in the world: nearly a billion within China alone and 1.2 billion worldwide—a few hundred million people more than the next most widespread languages, Spanish and English.

What do Chinese traditionally eat? ›

A typical Chinese's meal usually consists of rice, soup and three to four side dishes. Dishes are made of seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood or bite-size portion of meat or poultry.

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

What makes Chinese food taste so good? ›

A blend of cinnamon, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel and star anise, these five spices give the sour, bitter, pungent, sweet and salty flavors found in Chinese cooking.

What is a Chinese woman's dress called? ›

Cheongsam (UK: /tʃ(i)ɒŋˈsæm/, US: /tʃɔːŋˈsɑːm/), also known as the qipao (/ˈtʃiːpaʊ/) and sometimes referred to as the mandarin gown, is a Chinese dress worn by women which takes inspiration from the qizhuang, the ethnic clothing of the Manchu people.

What are the 5 main types of cuisine? ›

5 Delicious Types of Cuisine You Should Try
  • Caribbean. Incorporating various traditions blended together over time, Caribbean cuisine is a delightful fusion of other types of food, including African, Creole, and Latin American. ...
  • Vietnamese. ...
  • Korean. ...
  • German. ...
  • Indian.
19 Jul 2017

What are the 4 regions of China? ›

Contexts in source publication. ... China's economic regions are divided into the northeast, eastern, central and western regions [30].

Which part of China has the best food? ›

1. Hong Kong. Cantonese food is enjoyed the world over and is closest to the flavor of Chinese takeaway food. It is the sweetest of China's Eight Culinary Styles, and is the most similar to the Western palate.

What is China's most important food? ›

1. Peking Roasted Duck. Peking duck (北京烤鸭 Běijīng kǎoyā) is a famous dish from Beijing, enjoying world fame, and considered as one of China national dishes. Peking duck is savored for its thin and crispy skin.

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