Appreciating Chinese food

When you think of Chinese food, you think rice. But China is such a huge place, and rice can't be grown everywhere. In the north, millet is used to make cereal. About 1500 BC, wheat was introduced from West Asia. Vegetables such as soybeans and cucumbers were added to the rice, and occasionally a little bit of chicken or beef was added. Ginger became a favorite flavoring because it was so readily available.

The Thais gave chicken to China, and pork was already there, while Westerners brought sheep and cattle. The Chinese, mostly peasants, had little fuel and little cooking oil. Consequently, they learned to cut their food into very small pieces so it would cook rapidly, using little oil for their stir-frying.

Around 1000 AD, because Buddhists, who made up a large part of the population, wouldn't eat meat, tofu or bean curd was introduced. The Chinese also learned to make long noodles from wheat and rice.

Chinese cuisine is generally healthful. It includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and seafood, while keeping sugar and desserts to a minimum. People with diabetes need to avoid eating too much rice. Chinese restaurants offer wonderful vegetable dishes, many with tofu as a protein source. You can go into any Chinese restaurant and find numerous dishes that have only vegetables with tofu as a protein source.

When you cook Chinese food, use as little sugar and fat as possible, and steer clear of making deep-fried dishes.

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