Food is an important part of Chinese culture, and Chinese cuisine holds many symbolic meanings.
Chinese dishes are often eaten around celebratory occasions. Many believe eating certain dishes during festivals such as the Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival or Dragon Boat Festival is considered auspicious. However more often than not, people of Chinese heritage eat certain dishes over and over again most days, and these dishes are equally important in Chinese culture.
Instant chicken ramen
Chinese food is not something I eat every day. But Chinese cuisine is one of my favourite cuisines. I find it fun replicating traditional Chinese recipes at home. It’s a treat when I get to eat at a low-key Chinese restaurant with family and friends on a casual weekend.
There are different ways of dining all around the world. Different cultures, especially eastern and western cultures, have different ways of eating, cooking and serving food.
Eating both Eastern and Western cuisine was a part of my childhood in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. Growing up I had many friends and family from Asian and Western backgrounds and we constantly ate each other’s cuisines. Evidently there were noticeably different eating habits and food preferences between each other’s cultures.
Different foods, different ways of eating.
When we speak of Eastern or Asian cuisine, we usually think of dishes originating from the Asian region, maybe rice and noodle dishes. When we speak of Western cuisine, dishes such as bread, potatoes and pasta commonly come to mind. That said, for each cuisine there are a multitude of varying dishes in between as this world is so diverse.
When it comes to eating Chinese food, there are quite a few stereotypical myths and perceptions surrounding this dining experience.
Living in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, I’ve had my fair share of Chinese cuisine. At least once a week I eat Chinese food, be it in a restaurant or having it as takeaway or cooking it at home. What I’ve noticed is that Chinese dishes aren’t the same everywhere.
When it comes to yum cha, there’s lots to choose from on the menu. From dumplings to steamed rice to buns to deep fried seafood, the choice of dim sum is endless – and there are some dishes we’ll always insist on ordering because they are our favourites.
Over the years across Asia and Australia, I’ve eaten yum cha countless of times with the folks and friends and we always order the same dishes. We love them, we order them, it feels right eating the same dishes over and over. Only occasionally we’d order something we don’t usually eat.
There’s always much dim sum to eat at yum cha.
Yum cha is traditionally a Cantonese brunch that involves Chinese tea and dim sum. Yum cha ( 飲茶) literally means ‘drink tea’. The meal originated in the Cantonese-speaking regions of China, and the meal can be traced back to the time when travellers on the ancient Silk Road stopped at teahouses for tea and snacks. On the other hand, dim sum (飲茶) are small serving dishes. These dishes are commonly carted around on trollies in restaurants and served in bamboo steamers or on small plates. Here are some typical, classic Cantonese-style dim sum dishes that are popular at yum cha:
It’s a fact that many Chinese like to eat dumplings. Chinese people eat dumplings during the Lunar New Year. They eat dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And countless others around the world regardless of background like eating dumplings too.
Growing up, when my Chinese-Malaysian family went to out to yum cha, that was when I got to eat Chinese dumplings. These days, whenever I catch up with my Asian and non-Asian friends here in Melbourne, Chinese dumplings are usually on the menu.
There are so many reasons why we like eating dumplings.
Defining ‘dumpling’ can be tricky. All over the world, there are dumplings of all shapes, sizes and fillings. Dumplings can be loosely thought of as ‘small pieces of dough…often wrapped around a filling’, either sweet or savoury, steamed, fried or boiled. They are often thought of as an easy, simple meal. But different dumplings have different origins, and each of us has our own reasons for eating dumplings.
Though we can find street food in restaurants, most of the time we think of it as cuisine cooked at a market. A bazaar. Chinatown. Pasar malams. Mamak stalls. In short, street food is food cooked and served outdoors.