History of Beijing Cuisine

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Beijing cuisine (Chinese: 京菜 or 北京菜; pinyin: jīngcài or běijīngcài) is a cooking style in Beijing, China. It is also known as Mandarin cuisine.

Beijing has been the Chinese capital city for centuries. Its cuisine has been influenced by culinary traditions from all over China. But the cuisine, itself has exerted the greatest influence on Beijing cuisine is the cuisine of the eastern coastal province of Shandong. Beijing cuisine has itself, in turn, also greatly influenced other Chinese cuisines, particularly the cuisine of Liaoning, the Chinese Imperial cuisine, and the Chinese aristocrat cuisine.

Another Chinese cuisine that influenced Beijing cuisine is the Chinese Imperial cuisine that originated from "The Emperor's Kitchen" (御膳房; pinyin: yùshànfáng, which was a term that referred to the cooking facilities inside of the Forbidden City, Beijing where thousands of cooks from the different parts of China showed their best cooking skills to please royal families and officials.

Therefore, it is at times rather difficult to determine the actual origin of a dish as the term "Mandarin" is generalized and refers not only to Beijing, but other provinces as well. However, some generalization of Beijing cuisine can be characterized as follows: Foods that originated in Beijing are often snacks rather than full courses, and they are typically sold by little shops or street vendors. There is emphasis on dark soy paste, sesame paste, sesame oil, and scallions, and fermented tofu is often served as a condiment. In regards to cooking methods, all methods relating to the different ways of frying are often used.There is a lesser emphasis on rice as an accompaniment than in many other areas of China, as local rice production is limited by the relatively dry climate.

In regards to serving dishes as full courses, they are mostly originated from other Chinese cuisines[citation needed], and some of the following in particular have been central to the formation of Beijing (Mandarin) cuisine. Huaiyang cuisine has long been praised since ancient times in China, and it was a general practice for an official going to Beijing to take up their position in the capital to often take a Huaiyang cuisine chef with him among servants he brought to his new home. As the officials finished their term and returned home elsewhere in China, most of these chefs often stayed behind in the capital instead, opening up their own restaurants, or being hired by local wealthy families. The imperial family of the Ming Dynasty, who originated from the Jiangsu province also contributed greatly in introducing Huaiyang cuisine to Beijing when it moved the imperial capital from Nanjing to Beijing, as the imperial kitchen was mainly Huaiyang style. The element of traditional Beijing culinary/gastronomical culture of enjoying artistic performances such as Beijing opera while dining directly developed from the similar practice in the culinary/gastronomical culture of Jiangsu/Huaiyang cuisine.

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