Chinese Cuisine Series Pt. 1: Geography and Food

My October break starts today, which means that I’ll have plenty of time to cook and post. It also means that Mid- Autum festival (中秋节) is coming up. In honor of that, I will be doing a series of posts on Chinese cuisine. This is the first one. Let’s start!!!

In my Asian History class we started by learning about how geography impacted China’s development, so, I will do the same. China is varied geographically, with mountains, plateaus, deserts etc. It’s pretty, and great for hiking, but not great for agriculture. Only 10% of the land is arable and 85-90% of that land lies between the Yellow and Yangze rivers. Obviously, this is where Chinese civilization, and cuisine originated and developed. China also has 14500km of coastline so seafood was exploited. Of course, varied geography means cuisines vary from region to region.

North

This is region from Tianjing to Manchuria. Here, the winters are long, dry and very cold, lasting from December to March with temperatures are often below freezing. The summers are just the opposite- hot and humid. Furthermore, the region is very mountainous. Obviously, this kind of geography is terrible for agriculture in general- never mind the sensitive rice crop. The solution: Wheat and hardy vegetables such as nappa cabbage and radish. The north is just about the only region that thrives on predominately wheat products. The people here are famous for their dumplings, pancakes(饼)and noodles. They also eat plenty of lamb and drink plenty of Chinese white wine (白酒)- both of which are said to generate heat.

South:

Rice is life. Of course, southerners also eat wheat products such as noodles and steam buns, but rice is life. The climate is warmer, more humid and generally milder. The topography, while fairly mountainous, is more rolling, rather than steep. These conditions make it perfect for rice terraces and cultivation. Even the regions that are too flat or steep for terracing can get their rice conveniently imported by way of river canals. The milder climate and geography also allows for more crop variation and the rivers and sea provide abundant sources of protein. Of course, pork is indispensable- more on that in another post

Pearl River Delta

The Pearl River Delta is where the other 10 % of arable land went. It is by far the most populated region of China, including Shanghai, Taiwan (Officially Chinese Territory) and Guanzhou. The climate here is wet, humid and hot- with average annual temperatures of 23oC. The area is also the gateway out of China, making it perfect for trade and fishing. Needless to say, the people here eat a lot of seafood. Agriculturally, rice is still life. The Delta is actually the main rice-growing region in all of China. However, Urban development is eating up land and leaving behind pollution.

Other

This refers to regions beyond the arable land- the Tibetan Plateau, Mongolian steppes etc. Everything about these regions is against agriculture. The temperatures are cold, the soil is devoid of nutrients, and in general dry. What this area is good for though, is herding. Everything here is about the herd- lamb/goat meat, goat milk, goat cheese, yogurt. They even manage to make an alcoholic drink out of fermented horse milk. Besides meat, they manage to get wheat imported to make all assortments of breads.

That’s all I have to say about geography. If you find any mistakes, disrepencies or further suggestions, please comment or contact me. Tomorrow will be on the staples of Chinese cuisine. Enjoy:)

 

 

 

 

 

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