Choosing the right Wine to go with your Meal

With the selection of wines available in specialty shops, and even grocery stores these days, choosing one can be challenging enough without having to consider if it will complement a meal. Different kinds of reds, different kinds of whites, from all over the United States and the world…the possibilities can seem endless. A little education in the flavors of wines and how they enhance the tastes of certain foods can make the task a lot less overwhelming.

Let’s begin with the basics by examining the types of wine and how they are categorized. Reds and whites are the most common types, in addition to rose, sparkling, dessert and fortified wines. The main difference between red and white wines is that reds are mainly made from red or black grapes and are left in contact with the skins of the grapes to add color and flavor, while white wine consists only of the juice, whether made from white grapes or darker colored grapes.

The contents of red wines cause them to have a heavier taste, while white wines tend to be lighter and sweeter. Wines are ranked on a scale of 00 for being very dry (or simply not sweet) to 6 being the sweetest, which applies to both reds and whites. That along with the weight, which refers to the amount of alcohol, and “body,” or the thickness of the wine, are factors in the categorization of wines that may be helpful in the selection process.

Red wines are generally favored with red meats and other hearty fare, while the lighter taste of white wines is more suited to white meats and neutral foods, although it‘s more important to consider the flavors of the wine rather than the color. Choosing a wine that balances well with the flavors of your food will enhance the taste of both. For example, a fatty, flavorful beef dish will be good with a rich Cabernet, while an earthy Pinot Noir is recommended when serving turkey. Both of these are red wines.

The acidity of the wine and the food is another important consideration. If you’re having pasta with a rich red sauce, try a bold wine like Chianti, and pair a lighter white sauce like Alfredo with a dry, milder wine such as a Chardonnay. Salads are generally better with white wines, while most types of wines go well with cheese. Also, don’t forget about dessert when pondering wine selections – there are many suitable choices to serve with chocolate, such as Shiraz with dark chocolate or mocha and port with milk chocolate.

There are many great resources online to learn about the features and flavors of wine. One site,, provides a lot of great tips including a chart showing the best types of wines to serve with different foods. Some foods are more difficult to pair with wines than others and there may not be a perfect combination, but it’s important to remember that the pairing rules are just guidelines – everyone should experiment and find the combinations that are perfect for them.

How to Set the Table for a Formal Dinner at Home

A formal dinner setting is different to that used day in and day out, in that it caters for the needs of the guests in a more formal setting. The different elements which are included in the formal dinner setting include catering for the different courses and of course the different drinks to be served during the course of the meal. If catering for a formal function for the first time, it is worth noting that hire of the appropriate glasses and cutlery may be something caterers are willing to consider as part of the service that they provide, since many items will not be used on a daily basis for family meals in a less formal setting.

Tablecloth and linen

The tablecloth should be in one color, preferably white, since this allows for the color of napkins and table decorations to stand out from the cloth, and add a richness to the table setting. Colored tablecloths are usually in pastel shades, and certainly tablecloths which are patterned are considered too busy for a formal function setting. Napkins can be color coordinated with the floral centerpieces to add great color to the dinner service.

Dinner Service

This should be white, rimmed with gold or silver. It is acceptable to use other plates, although keeping to a basic theme is classic when serving formal meals. Gravy bowls, serving dishes, etc., should match the dinner service being used.

Cutlery and glasses

All cutlery should be cleaned and polished. Even dishwasher washed cutlery often has marks, and this gives the hostess a chance to ensure that everything is perfect. Glasses should also be polished with a clean lint free cloth.


The table should be protected with a heat proof pad, as place mats are not usually used for a formal dinner. This is placed under the tablecloth. For each setting for a formal dinner, the central piece is called a “charger” and is a large flat plate which receives the dinner plate. Napkins are folded upon this plate, and although some prefer fancy napkin folds, a simple folding into a rectangular is sufficient.

The cutlery placed to the right of the charger comprises in order from left to right:

Large dinner knife, fish knife (if appropriate), soup or fruit spoon and shellfish fork.

To the left of the charger the cutlery from right to left comprises of the following items:

Salad fork, dinner fork and fish fork.

Please note if serving primarily French guests, the forks are turned over so that the prongs face downward. In all other circumstances, the prongs face upward.

When placing the cutlery, it looks very nice if the distance is equal on all settings around the table both from the charger and from the edge of the table. Stand at the end of the table and eye up the layout for straightness before adding other items to the table setting.

A butter plate and knife are placed to the left of the setting just above the cutlery which is placed on the left hand side, thus balancing out the look of the glass layout to the right.

Glasses are placed on the right hand side of the cutlery setting, just above the cutlery, and takes the following order, left to right:

Water glass, red wine glass, white wine glass and sherry glass.

Additional items

When all the places are set, stand at the end of the table to ensure that all the glasses are lined up, as this gives a better overall appearance. In the center of the table, there should be sufficient condiments so that guests can reach easily for them. If serving heated food at the center of the table, suitable stands should be used for these, and serving implements be close at hand.

The table can be decorated with subtle floral decoration in the way of either one central center piece or several smaller ones spaced along the length of the table. It is worthwhile bearing in mind that if fresh fruit is to be served, finger bowls should be available to be placed in the position currently taken by the butter plate, as this is removed and the finger bowl placed at the same time as the fruit is served.

The seating around a formal dinner setting should be adequate to give guests sufficient elbow room, and formal place setting markers can be placed upon each charger in front of the serviette or on the table at the head of each charger.

Although the preparation for a formal dinner can seem daunting, once the basic rules are understood, they are relatively simple to remember. The host is to be seated at the top of the table to greet their guests, and the usual placement around the table mixes guests who will make good company for their dining companions. If mixed company is present, it is usual to set male, female, male settings around the table. When the dinner is about to be served and the guests are sitting ready for their meal, nothing beats a wonderfully thoughtful setting for making the meal splendid. The attention to detail will be noticed and appreciated by all who are accustomed to formal dining etiquette. As the shine on the glasses reflects the light from the chandelier or room lighting, the host will feel confident that the setting is perfect, and dining will begin.

Ten Gifts sure to please your Host

Social etiquette requires us ,as invited guests , to bring a little gift as a token of appreciation when invited for a dinner or party. Because the gift is a reflection of  your personal relationship with  the host , care most be taken in the choice of the gift.

It is most ideal to match your gift with the occasion, type of food  to be served or  the host’s personal preferences.  With a little knowledge, your gifts will go a long way to create conversation and leave a good impression of yourself.

The following are ten gift suggestions that will delight your host :


Many boutique gelaterias offer  unique  gelato flavors ,  most of which are store made on the same day.  They can be presented in gift packs, making it an unique gift.


Who can resist the rich, intense taste of quality chocolates ? A box of Royce chocolates , Godiva truffles  or handmade artisan chocolates is an affirmation of your host’s refined taste.

Potted plants

There are some from certain cultures  who would  feel uncomfortable to receive a  bouquet of flowers as a gift.  A more neutral approach would be to present a potted plant such as basil or rosemary which is fragrant and also useful for cooking. Orchids, which are hardy and require minimal care,  are also elegant gifts to be had.

Gourmet salt

A artisan food product, fleur de sel is an exquisite food gift which reflects your host’s  culinary triumph at the party. Other gourmet salts which will impress your host are Himalayan salt or handcrafted blends.

Truffle oils 

While you may not bring a truffle as gift, the truffle oil can be the next best thing for your host. Go  for truffle oils that are infused with real truffles – no one would ever fault you for bearing a gift with the smell of luxury.


In many cultures, tea as a gift is bestowed to people of  learning. Offering  top quality tea expresses discernment, both of the giver and recipient. Many boutique tea houses offers a variety of tea in elegant packaging, including tea accessories.

Homemade cookies

Nothing beats a gift that comes from the heart.  A box of freshly baked homemade cookies, beautifully wrapped , is a heartwarming way of saying ‘Thank You’ for being included in his party. To personalize the gift, include a gift tag with a hand written recipe of the cookies and date of baking.

Kitchen utensils and gadgets

Who will say no to some help in the party? Kitchen  gadgets as gifts  are appreciated especially when they are  innovative, functional  and of  high quality.  Some of the interesting  bar and kitchen gadget  ideas come from WMF and Alessi , just to name a few.

Coffee table book

The coffee table book is a perennial favorite and its visual-oriented nature makes it a good conversation piece.  Books featuring  photography , fine art or even a catalog of major exhibitions  also provide scholarly insights as well.

The gift of music

Does your host have a favorite singer or composer that he raves about? Then a latest CD of his favorite recording is sure to please him to no end. If he is  very much into music, then surprise him with  music scores of his favorite music .

As the Chinese saying goes ” There is no harm done with courtesy and kindness”. A gift well thought makes friends, mend bridges and rekindle friendship.  Have a great party !

Reasons not to Tip at a Restaurant

Tipping has evolved from a way to express appreciation for excellent service to an expected courtesy. Because of that, wait staff in particular are often paid minimum or even sub-minimum wages, and thus have to rely on tips to make a decent living. Therefore, when going to a restaurant, you should consider tipping your waiter or waitress as part of your regular expenses. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

Bad service

If your server keeps you waiting to place your order for an unreasonable amount of time, is inattentive, forgets part of your order, or brings you the wrong food, you may be perfectly justified in tipping poorly or not at all. Before you make that decision though, take a look around to find out if there is a reason for their behavior. It might be that the restaurant is short-staffed, and your server is doing their best under difficult circumstances. In that case it would be cruel to withhold the tip, since the waitperson may not have been at fault.


A bad attitude is a definite reason not to tip. There is no excuse for a server’s rudeness, condescension, inappropriate humor, or moodiness. Exaggerated familiarity or flirtation are also behaviors you should not have to put up with. While there may be extenuating circumstances in some cases, it is up to your server to present a pleasant facade. Their problems are not your concern.

Gratuity is included in the price of the meal

Some restaurants will automatically include a gratuity with your check, especially if you dine with a large group. Since your servers will receive this money, you are not obligated to add to that amount. If you receive exceptional service from a particular waitperson, you do have the option of rewarding them with an additional small tip.

Bad food

Since the quality of your food is not something that your server can control, you should still tip them. The exception is if your server does not attempt to remedy the situation by offering you a replacement or alerting the restaurant manager.

You are served by the manager or owner of the restaurant

If you are served by the restaurant’s manager or owner, you are not expected to tip, although they may still appreciate the gesture. A better way to express your satisfaction is to compliment the food, decor, or atmosphere of the restaurant.

No matter whether you withhold your tip or not, always make it a point to report a bad experience to the restaurant manager. This will help to ensure that other guests, and possibly you on your next visit, are spared the same experience.

Indian Cuisine Guide to Indian Cuisines

Indian cuisine is as diverse as its people and geography.  India is a multi-faceted country with a variety of colors, cultural differences, food, festivals, languages, peoples and so on. India’s area is one-third that of the United States, yet it is the world’s second most populous country.  Within its borders, India’s North, East, West and South regions boast diverse and unique cooking styles.

Indian cuisine is distinguished by its sophisticated use of spices and herbs and the influence of the longstanding and widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society. The most important spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed (rai), cumin (jeera), turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, coriander and asafoetida (hing). Garam masala which is usually a powder of five or more dried spices commonly comprised of cardamom, cinnamon and clove and other spices. Some leaves are commonly used like bay leaf, coriander leaf and mint leaf. Garam masala – are the essence of Indian cuisine. A blend may range from a simple combination of two or three spices to a complex combination of 10 or more ingredients.

Here are the flavor ingredients native to each region of India:

South: South Indian cuisine is distinguished by a greater emphasis on rice as the staple grain, the liberal use of coconut and curry leaves particularly coconut oil and the ubiquity of sambar and rasam (also called saaru) at meals. The cuisine of Southern India is primarily vegetarian, resulting in an abundance of well-spiced, meatless local specialties. Other prominent ingredients include tamarind. Traditional cooking in Udupi Ashtamatha is characterized by the use of local seasonal ingredients. Garam masala is generally avoided in South Indian cuisine.

East: The cuisine of east India focuses on fresh fish due to its vast oceans and seas. Rice is a prominent local specialty. Eastern cuisine is also known for its complexity of flavor and bittersweet balance. Mustard oil, which comes from mustard seeds, is often used in cooking and adds a pungent, slightly sweet flavor and intense heat.

North: India’s cooler Northern region is characterized by hearty textures and warm, subtle flavors. North Indian cuisine is distinguished by the higher proportion-wise use of dairy products like milk, paneer (cottage cheese), ghee (clarified butter), and yoghurt. The North is also home to many of the familiar Indian restaurant favorites that are prepared in a tandoor oven. The chimney-like, clay tandoor oven cooks breads and meats over intense heat to provide a succulent cross between barbecuing and baking. This cooking technique results in delicious aromas and a distinctive bright reddish-orange hue.

West: West Indian cuisine is where the flavors of the North meet the South. Ranging from sweet to hot and spicy, the West is known for its rich, saucy vegetables as well as lentils and grains. Another local specialty, Vindaloo, is a searing curry dish made with vinegar and garlic that is typically combined with meat and served with rice.

Beverages: Tea (Hindi: chai) is a staple beverage throughout India; the finest varieties are grown in Darjeeling and Assam. It is generally prepared as masala chai, a boiled mixture of milk and spices. One of the finest varieties of Coffea arabica is grown around Mysore, Karnataka, and is marketed under the trade name “Mysore Nuggets”. Other beverages include nimbu pani (lemonade), lassi, and coconut milk.

Meals are eaten while seated either on the floor or on very low stools or cushions. Food is most often eaten without utensils, using instead the fingers of the right hand. Traditional serving styles vary from region to region in India. A universal aspect of presentation is the thali, a large plate with samplings of different regional dishes accompanied by raita, breads such as naan, puri, or roti, and rice. In South India, a cleaned banana leaf is often placed under the food as decoration and as a hygienic and portable alternative to plates.

How much to Tip your Server at a Restaurant

So, exactly how much should you tip a server when you dine out? Since you are taking the time to read this article, you are showing a lot more initiative than many people! As a former server, I know all about the generosity of some, and the terrible tipping habits of others! Because I am a former server, I know how much work goes into providing a quality dining experience for your customers. Although every situation is different, after reading this article you should have a pretty good idea of how to tip your server when you go out to eat at a restaurant.

-The basic guide is to tip 15%-20% of your bill, including beverages. As a former server, I typically tip around 18%, unless the service was terrible. For an extraordinary server who has gone above and beyond their normal “call of duty,” I sometimes tip as much as 25%.

-Do take into account the level of service when leaving a tip. A server who worked extra hard to provide you with a good dining experience deserves the higher end of the spectrum, while the server who did a mediocre job deserves a little less.

-Don’t blame your server for things that are not his/her fault. If your food came out undercooked, please don’t leave your server a smaller tip. This is the kitchen staff’s fault, and if you are upset, you should notify a manager. Don’t take it out on your server.

-Do blame your server for not doing his/her job. It happens all the time: a table has been waiting for 20 minutes for a refill, but their server is outside smoking a cigarette or is joking around with other restaurant staff. There is no excuse for his behavior, and I wouldn’t suggest leaving a tip at all in this situation. As a former server, I know how hard I had to work for my tips, and I think other servers should also have to work hard! However, if the restaurant is understaffed and you have to wait a few minutes for your refill, but you see that your server is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to keep up, try to have a little sympathy. Many servers are overworked and underpaid.

Although these are only a few basic tips, they should be able to help you determine how much to tip your server the next time that you dine out!

A Formal Place Setting

Perhaps it won’t be that often that you need to set formal place settings, which leaves you a little bewildered and worried about how this should be performed. Want to impress your guests? Want to know that what you set was correct? Dining etiquette demands certain things of a host, and among these, the formal place setting is important from the point of view of showing guests that you are aware of table manners known to the gentry. It’s a style, and although this differs in different countries, the basics of the table setting are very similar, with only small regional variations.

Before setting your table, choose the theme for the dinner, so that the tablecloths and napkins can be the perfect color and matched with any floral table centerpieces. This always gives a touch of class and elegance to the whole look of the dining table.

If you look at the diagram shown here, it shows how the cutlery, the crockery and glasses are displayed but you need to differentiate between the different types of cutlery, glasses and crockery to get it right. The needed items for each place setting include the following.

On the right hand side of the plate, you will need working from the plate outward the dinner knife, a fish knife, a soup or fruit spoon and an oyster fork for the formal dinner which includes these delicacies. On the left hand side of the plate, working from the plate outward, you need a salad fork, a dinner fork and a fish fork. If serving soup, then the soup spoon is laid in place of the oyster fork with the cup of the spoon facing upward.

The dinner plate is central to the dining placement, and it is here that it is normal to place the serviette, which can of course be folded neatly to create a flower shape, or simply presented folded. The dinner plate may also be used in the case of a cold starter for a base upon which to place such dishes as prawn cocktails. In the case of soup being served, the soup plate will be placed on top of the dinner plate, though will be warmed for hot soup, or chilled for cold soups.

A mistake which is often made as it is a general setting that people get accustomed to seeing in restaurants is placing the side plate at the side of the setting. This should be placed on the opposite side from the glasses, i.e. the left hand side, with a butter knife neatly placed upon it.

Glasses come in different sizes for a reason. It shows that you are accustomed to serving drinks when the assortment chosen is suited to the drinks being served. On the left hand side above the knives, the glasses are placed from left to right, with the last glass just above the dinner knife. The first on the left is a sherry glass, followed by a white wine glass, then a red wine glass, and finally a glass for water.

If you have guests who are unaccustomed to dining in your company and you have a seating plan, you can add place settings and these are either placed on the side plate or placed on the actual dinner plate with/or on top of the napkin.

Glasses and cutlery are polished as they are placed on the table, so as to ensure that there are no marks that the dishwasher may have left. There should be no finger marks on the glass or the base of the glass, and carrying a polishing cloth whilst laying the table is essential. The formal place setting will always be perfectly in line with other placements. From the end of the table, the hostess gets a good view of the table and can check for the straightness of the cutlery and the glasses, and move glasses if they are not neatly placed in line. If you have someone who can work with you, they can move the cutlery or the glasses as you instruct from the head of the table.

A formal place setting always looks good. The choice of knives and forks will always depend upon what is being served, and although the general rule is to work from inside toward the outside of the place setting, the piece of cutlery that does not follow this rule is the soup spoon, as it looks neater at the outside of the knives.

Once you get to know how to set the table formally, you will gain confidence. When people are in good company, and are offered ample refreshment, it is unlikely that the setting will cause a stir, even if small mistakes are made. The fact that you tried and did a splendid job with the settings that made the table look inviting and formal is sufficient. Anyone who disagrees may be someone you may resist inviting to the next dinner held, as it may seem that their conversation is somewhat limited if the only thing they can do is criticize the manner in which the table is laid for the meal. Smile graciously, and enjoy your meal, mentally taking a note of who to invite next time.

Korean Barbeque Etiquette

Barbeques are popular all around the world, from the Far East to the Far West. One such international barbeque culture that has proven to be very enjoyable, especially in the US, is the Korean barbeque. It differs from other barbeques in that it is eaten indoors instead of out and the food is cooked at the table, yet it is also similar to other barbeques in that it is usually a social affair with a gathering of more than one person.

To truly enjoy a Korean barbeque experience and fully immerse yourself in the realm of Korean cuisine, you should be familiar and mindful of certain etiquette or table manners. Much of the etiquette regarding table manners and food that is existent today refers back to many Confucian philosophies. So to truly savor the experience and to be in with the know, prepare to be enlightened with the following rules of conduct:

When the panchan (appetizers) arrive, eat them

Panchan consists of an assortment of many plates of pickled vegetables and kimchee amongst other things. They offer an array of tangy, salty and spicy flavors and often are the first things to be brought to the table. When they come, it is proper etiquette to try them. If dining at a Korean home, it will be considered polite to try a little bit of every panchan dish. Panchan is not added to the lettuce wraps with meat, but can be eaten with rice, if so desired.

Food cooked and served at the table

One unique factor about Korean barbeque is the meat, poultry and/or fish is cooked at the dining table. In some restaurants the opportunity will arise to cook one’s own food at the grill, yet in others, restaurant servers will do it instead. Restaurant servers will often cut the meat and cook it at the table as diners watch the meat sizzle and grill to perfection. Beef is a very popular meat in Korean cuisine and much of the meat and dishes on offer, especially at barbeques, will consist of beef.

Making the lettuce wraps

When the meat is cooked, it’s the general custom to take a piece of lettuce, put some meat inside, add a little bean paste and some green onions or cabbage and devour the wrap. It’s just like a bite-sized sandwich and is quite fun to say the least. If however, lettuce wraps are not desired, the meat can be eaten with rice, although such an action will be handled with disappointment.

Cook the garlic

Whether grilling oneself or not, when the cloves of garlic are served (often with green chilies) roast them on the grill and then add them to the lettuce and meat wraps. One point to remember though is not to eat the garlic raw. Many Koreans believe garlic to be healthier when cooked and it is proper etiquette to cook it.

What to eat with?

Koreans use chopsticks and a spoon as their main eating utensils. The rice bowls are not lifted from the table (as is common in Japanese or Chinese cuisine) and the use of the spoon is expected to be used when eating rice or soup. Chopsticks are used for panchan and eating meat. However, do be careful not to use the same side of the chopsticks or same spoon used to eat with when taking from the communal dishes. This is considered rude, and clean spoons must be used (often restaurants provide these) or the other ends of the chopsticks used when picking meat.

Eat what’s nearest

It is considered rude to be rummaging through a dish looking for that certain piece of vegetable or meat, rather one should eat from what is nearest to them. This is basic rule of politeness found in almost all cultures.

It isn’t hard to know the etiquette for eating Korean barbeque and much of such table manners have to do with politeness and respect for other diners. Knowing such etiquette will also make for an interesting experience as one eats Korean food in the Korean way.

Bbq Etiquette Tips for Guests

An outdoor BBQ  is one of the most relaxed functions you can attend. What could be less intimidating than cooking burgers on an open grill and chilling out on a deck in lawn chairs? You may be surprised to find out there are several important etiquette rules you need to be aware of if you want to be invited back again.

What to bring

The all-important question is this: should you ask your host if you should bring along a side dish to the BBQ? The answer is you should only feel obligated to ask when the host is a close friend or family member. If you are not close friends, they will feel uncomfortable asking you to bring something.

Keep in mind that even if your host has not asked you to bring something, it’s still a good idea to go ahead and bring something small. Make sure it is nothing so grandiose that is will take the center stage above their BBQ efforts. 

If you are bringing food always check with the host first in case there are allergies. Some people say you should bring dessert, a bottle of wine, or just a bag of ice. A bouquet of flowers is always a nice gesture. Some people consider it rude to go to a barbeque empty-handed.

What to wear

A nice pair of jeans is typical BBQ attire. If you wear something really fancy you may feel out of place. If the BBQ is on an open fire pit, then sandals are not a good idea. Your exposed toes may be scorched by burning embers.

Should you offer to clean up?

It’s always a good idea to help clean up. At the very least, put your paper plates and napkins in the garbage. Sometimes the host would prefer to just leave the dishes in the sink so that they can spend their time visiting with you. That’s OK, too.

Should you bring your kids?

Whether or not you bring the kids along depends entirely upon the preferences of the host and the other guests. If the person having the BBQ doesn’t have kids, you should always ask first. Many BBQ’s are drinking functions that are not an appropriate environment for children. On the other hand, a family BBQ almost always includes kids. If you’re not sure if you can bring your kids, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask.

Other Etiquette Rules

-Don’t invite your friends to come you unless your host has specifically asked you to.

-It’s OK to drink but don’t overdo it.

-Don’t spend all your time with one person. Mingle.

-Don’t overstay your welcome. “Gee, would you look at the time?”, and “I’ve got an early day tomorrow.” are comments that should not be ignored. Take the hint and make your exit. Standing up, stretching and watch-checking are also subtle signs that it’s time to go home.  

-Consider sending a thank-you note to the host a few days later. This thoughtful gesture shows just how much you appreciate the host’s efforts.

If you follow the above rules of etiquette, you can be assured that you will be invited back to all of your friends’ BBQs.      

A Guide to Chinese Regional Cuisines and Restaurants

Many people lump Chinese food together under one appellation. The regional differences in food, as well as cultures, are distinct. Even within the regions, there are many techniques and methods of cooking employed. There are eight regional cooking styles.

1. Sichuan (Szechuan – Szechwan) – Located in Southwestern China. The area is large and diverse with a rich history. Its spicy local history dates back to the Song Dynasty (420 – 478 CE). The food, up until the last century was sweet and mild. In the last century, the food has taken on the “common people” flavors, which include Sichuan crushed peppercorns, finely ground red, or cayenne peppers, dried chilies, ginger, mustard, onions and chives. The Kung-Pao chicken is a superb example of the spicy-hot dishes. The cooking techniques use steaming, stir-frying and dry braising.

The Yiyuan Sichuan Cuisine Restaurant in Guilin, China, 106#, Nanhuan Road. An excellent restaurant that welcomes foreign visitors. Recommendation is the Hot Pot served with condiments. It comes with half spicy broth/ or chicken broth.

2. Guangdong (Cantonese cuisine) – It is also known as “Yue Cai”(cuisine) located in Southern China. The history of this regional food is long and distinguished. The food is a combination of different ethnic minorities. Historians noted mentioned records from the Western Han (206 BCE – 009 CE) Dynasty. The cuisine uses milder spices than Sichuan cuisine. The spices used are ginger, garlic (to mask the smell of entrails), five-spice powder, white pepper. The main ingredients in Guangdong cuisine are ginger, spring onion, sugar, salt, soya sauce, rice wine, corn starch and oil. The methods of cooking are steaming, stir frying, and deep frying. In Guangdong (Canton), chef use the freshest foods. They kill animals on the same day they are cooked. Commonly known dishes are shark fin soup, wonton soup, roast duck, and dim sum.

Chaotai Beef Restaurant, Shenzhen, China. The beef broth is highly recommended. It is stewed for ten hours and made fresh each day. You put the vegetables into the broth as well as the beef before eating. They also have a beef chafing dish, which has beef meatballs. The food is high quality.

3. Hunan (Xiang) is in Xiangiiang region of the western area of China. The food is similar to Sichuan. The main difference is that Hunan cuisine is spicier. Hunan dishes have a flavored brown sauce. The use of honey, sweet and sour sauces characterize Hunan cuisine. The cooking techniques are stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising and smoking. Commonly known dishes are sweet and sour chicken, crispy duck and hot and spicy chicken.

Jiangyouji Restaurant, Nanjing, China. It is located in Longmen Street of Confucius Temple, #12 of Gongyuan West Street, Qinhual District. Recommended is the beef fried Jiaoji, which is goden, fragrant, and juicy.

4. Shandong cuisine (Lu) takes in Jiaodong and Jinan styles.

* Jiaodong style is the Shandong Penisula and is predominately seafood. Marine fish usually have a delicate taste so the seasonings are mild and gentle. The seasonings used bring out the flavors of fish and do not overwhelm them.

* Jinan style, because it is in the mountains, uses wild game and fresh lake fish. The region also has the valley areas that grow fruits and vegetables. The region also raises domestic livestock such as pigs and lambs. Jinan is famous for their soups and broths in preparing dishes.

The two areas combine as Lu cuisine. Three general characteristics define the cuisine.

a. Modern day refrigeration allows the foods to be transported between the two areas. Seafood, fresh and marine, are the main dishes. The cuisine uses grains in baking and cereals. The grains include barley, millet, oats, wheat and sesame seeds in breads and pastries. The vegetables that are prevalent in the menus are bell peppers, cabbage (including sweet cabbage), eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. Corn raised in this province is not sweet like American corn. The corn is starchier, has a grassy aroma and chewy texture. The corn and peanuts are a key part of the menu.

b. The cuisine uses flavor combinations. For example, onions added to broths.milk and/or cream added to soups make a richer dish.

c. The aromas and tastes are crisp and clean. The chefs master different cooking methods to bring out the flavors of each type of food. The chefs use boiling, stewing steaming, sauteing, roasting, baking and stir frying.

Lu cuisine is the prevailing cuisine all over China. Beijing, Tianjin, and Northeastern parts of China adapted this style to their regions.

Jinan Daguan Roasted Duck Restaurant, Jinan, China. #230 Shanda Road. This restaurant offers food from Jiaodong as well as its own Jinan food, and offers delious vegetarian dishes.

5. Jiangsu (Su) cuisine covers three principal cities of the Jiangsu Province. Nanjing (known since BCE) as the “Emperor’s Domain”; Suzhou, known as “Paradise”; and Yangzhou, which historians refer to as “Most Affluent City under Heaven”. These cities have the popular cuisine in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The most famous Chinese chefs come from this region. The “traditional” Chinese cuisine is the Su. The three cities married together to create these characteristics.

* The cooking time is regulated. In other words, instead of sauteing until onion is transparent, they give the amount of time it will cook to bring out the optimal flavor.

* Their cooking methods use gentle heat for stewing, simmering, steaming, sauteing, stir frying.

* Su cooking uses thick sauces but no greasy flavor is detectable. Its light sauces are not watery.

* Their meats use their own juices for flavor. They use moderate saltiness and sweetness in the preparation. The chefs use meat juices in their light and delicate soups and broths.

The typical Su cuisine dishes are diced chicken and carrots, Mandarin fish in squirrel shape, wind dried chicken, sparrow in hot sauce, braised turtle, dove with spice powder.

Lingeng Hall, Suzhou, China. #3 Weidao Guangian, Pingjiang Road. This restaurant is an old historical house. The food is typical Su cuisine. The main attraction at this restaurant is the Pintan performances during your meal. Pintan is an ancient entertainment of ballad singing and storytelling that dates back several thousand years.

6. Zhejiang (Zhe) cuisine developed from the four cities in the Province: Hangzhou, Ningbo, Shaoxing and Wenzhou. The cuisine is crisp, tender, and fresh. The Province is in the heart of the Yangtze River delta, surrounded on the north, and east by Hangzhou Bay and the East China Sea. There are three different styles combined into unique culinary dishes. The chefs use ingredients from all areas of China as well as abroad. As a result, the chefs can create a variety of dishes. Taking a cue from French chefs, Zhe chefs present fish dishes that do not smell fishy. They are strong and robust without being greasy. The chefs learn how to cut so that their dish presentations are a work of art. The cooking methods are Hangzhou style of stir-frying, braising, and deep frying. The Ningbo style brings in the subtle flavors of seafood, as well the subtle spices that bring out the taste of the fish; but does not have a fishy smell, or taste. This style uses steaming, stewing and baking. The Shaoxing style, renowned for its hearty soups using fish stock as a base. The soups have robust flavors, wonderful aromas, and perfect blend of crispness melded with tenderness.

Penglaichun Restaurant, Yantai, China, #13 Dingxi Road. Penglaichun is famous for its excellent seafood. Locals love this restaurant. It serves Fried Oyster and Scrambled Eggs with Agarics (grilled mushrooms).

7. Fujian cuisine developed from the local food of the three cities of the Province: Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Xiamen. They have perfected the art of seafood menus. The food is usually steamed, fried, or braised. They have the reputation of pickling ingredients before cooking. The main difference among the different Province styles is the Fujian use of red rice-wine in their cooking. The red rice-wine adds a deep rose color and an enticing bouquet.

Haoqingxiang Restaurant, Xiamen #8 Jianye Road of North Hubin. This restaurant has been in business for 60 years. The cuisine is southern Fukien. It has many flavored “snacks” (hors d’ oeuvres) which are served on a lazy susan.
8. Anhui (Hui or Wan) uses three geographical regions: South Anhui, coastal areas of Yangtze and Hui Rivers. It is the cuisine of South Anhui that serves as the flagship for Hui cuisine in the international levels. It is on the coastal areas of the Yangtze River. The food is extremely fresh because the local produce is fresh picked. The chefs serve fish dishes fresh. It uses local wildlife in its dishes. It uses low, medium, and high heat depending on the food. The cooking methods include flambeing, braising, steaming, deep frying and stir-frying. The most intriguing part of this cuisine is the use of “medicinal herbs” for health.

Lao Jie Yi Lou, Huangshan – #247 Tunxi Old Street. The restaurant boasts of Anhui style of architecture. It has a variety of food. It serves a variety of tofu recipes.

These are the eight best known cuisines and cooking schools in China. Each has a unique method of cooking, ingredients, techniques used in cooking. Beijing, the tourist hotspot, has many restaurants that carry each variety of the foods mentioned. The guides in China are knowledgeable and can help you find restaurants with the regional cuisines within the city.

Note: Restaurants listed are based on various reviews.

Posted in Wellness Information | Comments Off on A Guide to Chinese Regional Cuisines and Restaurants