Chinese cuisine is famous all throughout the world as it represents centuries of combining the four regions of China in regards to it’s food and cultural legacy. Chinese style cooking varies from region to region, as certain parts of China have developed independent methods of food preparations that can be distinguishable from one another in regards to taste, color and texture. Astonishingly, despite having a general basis in cooking methods, Chinese regional cuisines do have differentiated characteristics that can be identified by the way on how they are cooked which includes their flavor. When it comes to the diverseness of Chinese cuisine, there is only one place that any food connoisseur can partake the vast richness of the various flavors that Chinese cuisine is famous for, and that is Hong Kong, a fusion of east and west.
Hong Kong’s glorious history of cuisines began when the British soon established a colonial outpost way back in 1841. Hong Kong soon found itself teeming with British and Western businessmen and merchants and other Chinese traders from Guangzhou (Canton). In the early years of it’s establishment, Hong Kong society was generally separated into four distinct classes namely Westerners, Chinese locals, Farmers and fishermen and Chinese traders. The most common food preparations were leaned towards the masses which is composed of a simple cuisine for peasants.
As the social living condition in the colony improved, there became an apparent need food services that would cater to the needs of the business class, particularly the the traders and businessmen that frequent the colony. Chinese food establishments that were operating as early as the late 19th and 20th century that were extensions of famous restaurants in Canton were offering meticulously prepared meals that were comprised of eight main courses and eight entrées respectively (Chinese Lauriat). These so called meals are comparative to a full banquets serving that it was an expensive form of gastronomical indulgence that it costs as much as a months worth of wages of an average working clerk.
During that time, meat was only partaken on festive or special occasions such as birthdays or marriages, that were mostly provided by catering services who traditionally prepare the food at the celebrants residence. Most of the food establishments that catered to Westerners were separated from the rest of the Chinese restaurants that most of the commoners go to, as one can only witness the grandeur of fine colonial dinning in places like the Hong Kong and Gloucester Hotel.
By the 1920′s, the famous Canton style of cuisines were slowly making it’s way to the Hong Kong food business establishments. Canton is one of the most renowned places where every Chinese chef dreams of learning their legendary cooking techniques. Historically speaking, Canton has a famous saying that is known all throughout China that goes, “Eat in Canton” as it lives well within the minds of every aspiring chef that has studied the refined craft of preparing food the Cantonese way. The Cantonese method of preparing food can only be described as being “meticulous and rewarding” as it does not leave any means of ignoring even the simplest form of food preparation such as con-gee or rice porridge.
To say the least that Cantonese cuisine leaves most people who had the pleasure of trying it, come back for more, is a testament to the centuries they had spent in honing their skills to perfecting their methods of cooking. It should be interesting to know that almost all chefs that had the privilege of serving the Emperors of China have in one time or another originated or have trained in Canton. Besides having the best cuisines in China, Cantonese food can also be considered as one of the most sought after and expensive foods in mainland China. Canton has a lot to offer in regards to food, but there is one cuisine that Canton is really well known for and that is braised shark’s fin in which during the early days was priced at 60 silver yuan or roughly worth 6 months pay for a working class family.
By 1949, Hong Kong saw an influx of immigrants from Shanghai and Canton respectively that sought refuge from Chinese Communists that came into power. This saw a variation on the cuisines that were usually found in most Hong Kong restaurants as some of these refugees were chefs as well and found jobs working for various food establishments all throughout Hong Kong. The integration of the different cooking styles that were infused into Hong Kong has been the foundation of it’s colorful history of how Hong Kong style cooking came to be and it is this combination of different cooking disciplines that gave Hong Kong it’s world renowned pageantry of color and flavors in regards to the foods, making it a melting pot of many cultures and traditions.
By international standards, serving sizes are considerably small compared to that of Western countries such as Canada or the United States. A traditional Chinese meal, however simple or elaborate it may be, is always accompanied by a certain type of dessert that that is always served at the end of every meal. Traditionally, desserts are served for the sole purpose of clearing off any after taste that you may have on your taste buds and always comes in the form of sweets. In Canada, some of the best Chinese restaurants that serve authentic Chinese cuisines can be found in Chinese Calgary. Calgary has has been home to Chinese immigrants for more than a hundred years, ever since they first settled there in the late 1880′s. These immigrants have bought with them the same style of Chinese cooking that is famous all around the world, whether that be Cantonese or Hong Kong style.
Regardless of cooking style, Chinese cuisine and cooking is primarily based on discipline and whole heartiness, as expounded in an ancient Chinese saying that says,“You do not cook with your skill, but you should cook with your heart and mind” might be the secret on why Chinese cuisine has an endearing world wide appeal.