Chinese cooking attaches symbolic importance to the idea of making dishes by hand, and this is one reason for the quality of the cooking. Sometimes, eating is like enjoying an acrobatic performance. For example, pared fresh noodles,a specialty of Shanxi Province, are made in an acrobatic style.A cook stands a meter away from a wok, in which water is boiling. With a chunk of dough set on his arm and a sharp knife in his hand, he pares the dough into thin pieces projected right into the boiling water,a scene very much resembling fish diving into water. Anyperson witnessing this scene for the first time would be fascinated by the superb skill of the cook, so much so as to forget to eat. It is even more interesting to know that in the past a cook usually put the dough on his head and used two knives instead of one to pare the noodles. That would have looked even more like acrobatics than a cooking method!
Sichuan dandan noodles, much like the pared noodles of Shanxi, are a staple for ordinary people. Dandan noodles are cleverly prepared, with a specially concocted sauce of sesame oil, chili pepper oil, Chinese prickly ash oil, mustard oil, garlic oil, fennel oil, and chicken oil, in addition to the tender tips of pea vines, chopped green onions, and bean-sprouts. Dandan noodles used to be sold by vendors who wielded wooden clappers to attract customers. On hearing the familiar sound, people would gather around the vendors. All those served would nod their appreciation. Some people remark that the cooking wisdom of the Sichuan people has been concentrated into one bowl of dandan noodles.
Chinese people are very particular about the color, aroma, taste, and form of culinary dishes. For example, Beijing roast duck prepared by Quanjude Restaurant has well reflected these four aspects. As a celebrated dish with a history of nearly 1 50 years, Beijing roast duck is now world-famous.
Preparing quality roast duck involves a long, complicated process of many steps, from selecting the duck at the beginning to serving it to the diners at the end. Each step is carefully executed to guarantee the roast duck is shiny in appearance, jujube red in color, aromatic, and hot with thin steam when served. In the restaurant, ducks are roasted upon the order of diners.
After a roast duck is ready, it is put on a big plate on a buffet cart and brought to the diners, in front of whom a chef will skillfully slice the tender, juicy meat, each piece with crispy skin attached. Dipping the slices of duck into sweet sauce made of fermented flour, the meat is thenwrapped with some scallions inside a thin pancake, and only then does one finally take a bite!
The remaining bones of the duck are stewed for making delicious, cream-white soup. If you go to a restaurant with friends who enjoy having a drink, the duck’s wings, feet, heart, and liver, etc, all go well with wine, thus making the dinner an unforgettable “full-duck banquet.”