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Presentation is essential to Chinese cooking

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2015-12-01 08:09

Presentation is essential to Chinese cooking

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"Presentation should not compromise taste, temperature and practicality," he says. "In northern China, dishes tend to be colder so more time can be given for food arrangement such as with cold-cut platters. These kinds of dishes are always arranged to look like a picture with sculptural dragon carvings. But in southern China, signature dishes that are rice or noodle-based are always hot, so they need to be served right away."

High-end restaurants-and celebrity chefs on television-are raising expectations on both sides of the world.

Francesco Sanna, Italian chef at Beijing's Via Roma restaurant in the Kempinski hotel, has recently plied his craft at two global chefs' competitions in Italy, on Italian television, and in the recent CCTV chef's competition in China's capital.

At this year's World Cup of Pasta in Italy, where he placed fourth, Sanna "took a risk" that paid off when he used a semolina pasta from his native Sardinia. It takes about 35 minutes to cook, and each competitor only had 40 minutes to assemble ingredients, cook and present their dish. While he knew the judges would give him extra points for difficulty-like a skater who does a quadruple axel at the Olympics-the flamboyant chef could have scored a big zero if he'd failed to beat the clock.

"In the end, the dish has to taste great and look great," he says.

Small portions, chefs note, are easier to play with. Color is critical: Green vegetables lose their color quickly in cooking, for example, so it's best to blanch them immediately before serving.

"One of the most important rules of TCM food therapy," says Alex Tan, "is to enjoy your meals and take pleasure in nourishing your body. Often it is more important for us to heal our attitude to food than it is to change what we eat."

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