Did you know that Minister Li Hongzhang of the Qing Dynasty was a food connoisseur and had lived in luxurious environment with numerous servants and cooks under his employment?
Did you know that Minister Li Hongzhang of the Qing Dynasty was a food connoisseur and had lived in luxurious environment with numerous servants and cooks under his employment? For instance, simply for the consumption of crabs, he possessed a big spectacular box containing more than ten appliances, including fork, pliers, tongs, hammer and so on. He was a late sleeper and took pleasure in eating suppers. On a particular night while away on business he decided to dine with his subordinates in a Chinese restaurant. That night business was exceptionally good, it was packed with customers and due to this reason, there were insufficient ingredients available. Finally the head chef improvised a big stir fry dish cooked with various types of vegetables with shredded meat plus a few other ready made dishes to satiate the hunger of Minister Li and his staff. After savouring the dish, he was impressed by its novelty. He was intrigued to know the name of this delectable dish and pondered why he had never encountered it. The chef was Cantonese and answered in his native dialect that the dish was known as ‘Chop Suey’. This was the birth of ‘Chop Suey’ and subsequently became popular because Minister Li loved it so and since then had never failed to order it whenever he went to a Chinese restaurant.
China is a nation that enjoys wine and has widely influenced the work of many famous people, for instance, Li Bai the famous ancient poet used to compose good poems when he was drunk while some artists could only be creative when intoxicated. Alcohol has also brought about the ‘Drunken style’ in the martial arts and the ‘Drunken words’ by Zhao Yizhou, the famous British calligrapher who is unable to write if he is not under the influence of alcohol. He even mixed ink with wine to produce genuine drunken words. The ink in the middle of the words is more concentrated while the edges are diluted due to the wine and together they created rather alluring effects in his work. His work will be displayed this 28th of October 2011 during the ‘Painting and Calligraphy Competition to commemorate the 100th year Chinese Revolution. Interested parties are welcomed to attend this exhibition to admire his beautiful ‘Drunken’ creation.
The process of wine making includes fermenting and refining using the five grains or fruits. Chinese wines are made from grain, wheat, rice, corn etc, very dissimilar from foreign ones that are fermented using grapes and apples. Chinese wines are matured in earthen jars while foreign ones are kept in wooden barrels. In China, they are categorised as white wine, red wine, vino fino and dry white wines of high alcohol volume, like ‘Maotai’, ‘Five grain wine’, ‘Erguotou’ and so on.
In ancient times, it was customary for people from the south to produce their own wine. When a daughter was born, a large amount of wine would be brewed and kept underneath the bed awaiting to be drunk during her wedding banquet. This wine is thus named as ‘Nǚ'ér Hong’ (Daughter Red), similarly there is another called ‘Zhuang Yuan Hong’ (Scholar Red) that was brewed for the birth of a son that would be consumed upon his success.
This alcohol drinking trend is still prevalent in China, one would swig to the degree of drunkenness before calling it a night. Drinking is not a bad thing as it encourages blood flow, is refreshing and can act as an antidepressant but if one is not careful and gets addicted, then it would cause health issues with the liver, spleen, stomach etc. One must also be aware that drink driving is also dangerous and is an offence in many countries. There should be abstinence and discipline in whatever we do, if one drinks a couple of glasses daily, it is not detrimental and might be good for health and could be an enhancement for longevity. In a recent article, it had been reported that many of the centenarians have the habit of alcohol consumption. If we look at the lives of people in the ancient days, we will discover that many bronze containers were used for alcohol storage. It is evident that our ancestors from thousands of years ago already had the custom of alcohol consumption and can be considered as part of our Chinese tradition and culture.