中 文

home > Imperial Garden > history > The Chinese Imperial Cuisine

The Chinese Imperial Cuisine

2016-05-12 11:06:00Share:

The famous Beijing Imperial Cuisine (御膳/宫廷菜) is mainly derived from the cooking styles of Shandong and Jiangsu cuisines. Originally, it was served mainly to the emperors and their imperial families.

 

  Experienced a development progress from simple to exquisite through continually changing, improving, and self-completing, Beijing Imperial Cuisine’s main characteristics are the elaborate cooking methods and the strict selection of raw materials, which are often extremely expensive, rare, or complicated in preparation. Visual presentation is also very important, so the color and the shape of the dish must be carefully arranged.

 

  Imperial cuisine was closely related to preserving health. Throughout Chinese history, a large number of books about cooking and diet therapy to maintain good health were written, which forms an important part of Chinese imperial cuisine and Chinese dietetic culture. For example, The Health Building of the People by Song Xu in the Song Dynasty, and the History of the Ming Palace - Preferences for Diets by Liu Ruoyu in the Ming dynasty.

 

  Although at first only the imperial family can determine how to consume imperial cuisine, it actually represents the effort result of all concerned people: peasants, herders, and fisherman provided The raw materials; craftsmen made The kitchen utensils; the cooking staff provided the service; civil officials named the dishes, and protocol officials drafted the dietary and culinary principles. It is a valuable part of Chinese traditional cuisine and cultural heritage.

 

  Styles and tastes of Chinese imperial cuisine vary from dynasty to dynasty and each has its own distinguishing features, among which, the most famous two are Ming and Qing dynasty. Many famous dishes emerged during these times such as Wensi Tofu and Peking Duck.

 

  In the Ming dynasty, Imperial cuisine was mostly cooked with the flavors of southern China, as which was preferred by Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, and it totally changed the Mongolian style of food served during the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty.

 

  An important characteristic of the imperial cuisine in the Ming dynasty was to protect health, which is paid great attention by Ming Emperors. The menu of imperial cuisine changed daily and dishes were not repeated. As Ming Imperial cuisine was mainly grain-based, the meat and bean products were not as popular as they were in the former dynasties.

 

  For example, sweet potatoes, Maize and chili peppers were famous dishes at that time; shark's fin soup and edible bird's nest, introduced to China by the explorer Zheng He in the early Ming dynasty, also gained their fames and became extravagant examples during this period. Meanwhile, sea cucumbers and prawns were also brought into China. Many famous cooks and chefs such as Song Wusao and Wang Eryu emerged in the Ming dynasty.

 

  During the Qing dynasty, the imperial cuisine was developed basing on the traditional diet of the Manchu ethic group and Shandong cuisine. The famous Manchu Han Imperial Feast was created during this dynasty. Within the Qing imperial palace, there was a special organization called the "Imperial Kitchen". Managed by the General Office of internal Affairs, it was responsible for creating and making cuisine for the emperor.

 

  During the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, the Imperial Kitchen was divided into the Internal Kitchen and the External Kitchen. The Internal Kitchen had departments for meat dishes, vegetables, roasting, baking, and rice cooking, while The External Kitchen prepared the palace banquets, feasts, and sacrificial rites.

 

  At those years, the rites for the meals, the number of people, and the use, cost, variety, and quality of sumptuous courses at each meal were the greatest of all the dynasties in China.