After the mascot designing contest and our persuasive letter project, the 7th grade Wu Ji Xian class moved on to complete a new research project called “ba da cai xi,” or the “eight great regional cuisines in China,” which are Cantonese, Sichuan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Min, Hunan, Anhui and Lu.
Food is an incredibly important part of Chinese culture. As students have learned in their previous years taking Mandarin, most Chinese festivals, holidays and social occasions have an integral culinary component with a symbolic significance, such as the moon cakes eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival, which represent the full moon. Food itself is also representative of regional and cultural differences. Chinese cuisine is rich and diverse, varying in style and taste from region to region. Its history dates back thousands of years, evolving according to changes in both the environment (such as climate) and local preferences over time. Chinese cuisine also varies depending on class and ethnic background, and it is often influenced by the cuisines of other cultures. All these factors contribute to an unparalleled range of cooking techniques, ingredients, dishes and eating styles that make up what is understood to be Chinese food today. As a general rule of thumb, rice is the main staple food in southern China, as the warmer and wetter south makes it more ideal for its growth. On the other hand, dumplings and noodles are more commonly consumed in the drier, colder north. Learning about Chinese food is a great way to learn about China.
For the project, students worked in pairs to research the Chinese regional cuisine they had chosen. At the end of this project, they presented in front of the class using slideshows they had created. Students talked about the factors that make their cuisine different from others, such as the availability of ingredients, climate and geography. They also discussed the signature dishes of their cuisine, and other interesting facts. After learning about the eight main cuisine types of China, some of our students headed to local Chinese restaurants to try some of the signature dishes of the cuisines they have discovered.