Food in China Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Food is one of the major staples of a country's culture. Come and learn about food in China. In this lesson, there will be a focus on regional differences, cooking techniques, common ingredients, and popular dishes.

Types of Chinese Cuisine

Pretend that it is Friday night and your parents told you that they weren't in the mood to cook tonight, so it is up to you to decide what to get for takeout. One of the most popular options for takeout and delivery in the United States is Chinese food. The food often comes in origami boxes - that's pretty magical.

While we refer to food from China as 'Chinese food', the cuisine will vary depending on what part of China it comes from. This is similar to American food. Think about it - New York and New Jersey are known for bagels, while the Southeast is known for barbecue.

In Northern China, they tend to eat hearty and filling meals. This makes sense, since this region of China is colder. One of the most popular dishes in this region is dumplings and other types of breaded foods. The South, on the other hand, experiences much warmer weather. So, it should come as no surprise that their meals are much lighter. This type of cuisine is known as Cantonese cooking, and is known for dishes that are not heavily seasoned and are on the sweeter side. They use a lot of rice, fresh vegetables and seafood.

But in the Southwest, bring on the heat! They use a lot of spices and peppers to make their food. This is known as Sichuan (also spelled Szechuan) cuisine, and it can be so spicy that it actually numbs your tongue! Yowzers!

Common Ingredients

Have you ever been in the Chinese section of the grocery store? What are some of the items that you might see on the shelves? You would absolutely see rice. This is one of the most common ingredients in Chinese dishes. This is because rice is a major natural resource in China. Another common Chinese ingredient is the noodle, but not like spaghetti noodles or lasagna noodles (those are Italian and are referred to as pasta). Chinese noodles are made differently than pasta.

Other common ingredients in Chinese food are:

  • Bok choy (cabbage)
  • Tofu
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Hot mustard

Bok choy
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Preparation and Eating Techniques

If you want to make a Chinese dish, one of the most popular ways to cook it is through stir-frying. In this process, you heat up oil and use it to cook vegetables and protein (such as chicken, shrimp or tofu). Traditionally, you would use a wok to stir-fry, which is a Chinese pan with steep sides. Other common Chinese cooking methods are steaming, frying and boiling.

A wok and chopsticks
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