“Wokipedia” is a regular magazine column in which we introduce aspects of Chinese gastronomy, one letter at a time. The picture above is zhajiang mian (炸酱面), a popular Beijing noodle dish made with fermented soybean paste.

This word means deep frying, and is very distinct from stir frying. Although deep frying has existed in China for hundreds of years, the concept of the deep fryer as a kitchen implement is still limited almost entirely to fast-food outlets. It’s not nearly as popular as stir frying, especially because much of the deep frying here is done by first battering the food item and then frying it. In a country where cooking oil and its price affect a large part of the consumer food chain, using extra oil to prepare food seems wasteful.

The ideogram for “boil” is one of the few Chinese words that looks exactly like what it is expressing. One can see the pot on the stove, with tongues of flame rising up beneath it. Items that show up boiled on a Chinese table include zhu huasheng (煮花生) or boiled peanuts, preferred for being less oily than if stir-fried or even served raw (the boiling is seen as removing some of the fat).

Rounding out the Z’s of cooking methods, zheng means “to steam.” Steaming is a slow cooking process, and although it’s seen more in Western cooking with vegetables, it’s often heavier foods like dumplings (zheng jiao), baozi, and steamed bread (mantou) that a Beijinger is likely to come across. Steaming is seen as retaining more of the flavor and nutritional value of the food item, along with permitting more of them to be cooked at the same time – witness the great stacks of dumplings, or baozi, outside any restaurant that serves them, especially for takeaway.

The pig provides the primary source of animal protein in China, with 50 million metric tons of it produced here in 2012. The average Chinese person eats about 39 kilograms of it each year. Bacon isn’t as popular in China as it is elsewhere, but pork belly certainly is, along with other parts, including pig’s ear (zhu er). The scale of China’s pork industry has also sparked ancillary businesses, such as pig bristles for paint brushes. And the bottom part of the Chinese word for “home” jia (家) is a pig under a roof. They do make smart pets, you know.

To read our previous forays into Chinese food and cooking techniques click here.

Photo: nipic.com, simplyrecipes.com

Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog