home cooking


home cooking
(jiachangcai)
Home cooking, as opposed to the expensive dishes and delicacies found in restaurants, forms the daily meals of average Chinese. It is low-cost, easy to cook and lacking in garnish. It might be a bowl of rice plus a dish of stir-fried potato with green pepper. As each family has an unwritten list of jiachangcai that make up its day-to-day diet, good planning is required. Cooking jiachangcai is therefore a learning process—from cookbooks, television programmes, family reunions and parties with friends. Traditionally, products of rice in south China or wheat in the north were the mainstay of a Chinese meal. Dishes were only subsidiary.
This is changing as the living standard improves. Like all Chinese cuisines, home cooking now includes meat, seafood, vegetables and hybrid dishes where the ratio of vegetables to meat is roughly three to one.
Family preferences decide how a home-cooked meal is served. It may finish with an optional soup, such as a tomato egg drop, but rare are appetizers and desserts. Jiachangcai, like dumplings (jiaozi), may also have cultural significance related to special occasions or festivals. Each region has its own flavours—a Cantonese steamed fish or chicken without soy sauce may seem repulsive to people in northeast China. And numerous home-style dishes, such as cashew chicken and twice-cooked pork, have found their way onto the regular menus of restaurants. Driven by a booming and yet polarized economy, restaurants featuring jiachangcai are mushrooming, catering to those who cannot afford expensive restaurants or who want a lighter meal for a change.
YUAN HAIWANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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