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Presentation is essential to Chinese cooking

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-12-01 08:09:31

Presentation is essential to Chinese cooking

Photo provided to China Daily

We all dig into the rich sweet, as they shrug off the inscrutability of foreigners.

"Great presentation," a Western chef in Beijing once told me, "is automatic for Chinese. A home meal can include a dozen dishes made quite quickly, but when guests sit down at the table, the meal never looks thrown together."

Alex Tan, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner in Beijing for a decade, says food should look good as well as be good for you.

That axiom, he says, goes back to Confucius, who wrote: "Eat in moderation. Eat food prepared appropriately for the self and the season and enjoy a long and healthy life."

The philosopher believed that an essential feature of good digestion is the enjoyment of food, Tan says. "Flavors and textures of food should be pleasing to the palate, while color, variety and presentation of food should be pleasing to the eye."

"Westerners often think of beautiful food as something for a special occasion," he says to his mostly Western students. "Many days we eat lunch at our desks, or grab a fast-food sandwich on the run. Most Chinese think that is no way to eat."

"For centuries," Hong Kong chef Li Shu Tim tells Crave magazine, "Chinese garnishes have consisted of intricate vegetable carvings and herbs to brighten the dish."

Alvin Leung, chef at Bo Innovation in Wan Chai, says in the same report that the Chinese tradition of communal dining is key to the process.

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