China has a culture that is over 5000 years old and many of the traditions have been passed down for thousands of years. The Chinese enjoy a plentiful breadbasket today, but for many years food was very scarce and many even starved. China is geographically a little smaller than the USA and the food is as varied as you will find in America.
Noodles and rice are the main staples of their diet. In the north it is common to have wheat-based noodles, but in the south it will be rice noodles.
Vegetables make up a large part of the Chinese diet. Most of the vegetables are bought fresh in the local markets daily having been harvested early in the morning. Meat is also fresh, as many people do not have refrigeration. I once visited a Chinese family who invited me to eat with them. I looked down at the floor and there were two fish swimming in a wash dish. I knew fresh fish was on the menu.
The variety in the Chinese diet is much more varied than in America. I have often asked them the names of some of the green vegetables, like spinach and they always reply that it is a “green”. Cabbage of many kinds is one of the most popular dishes.On my first visit to China in the Fall of 1995, they did not have the transportation in order to have fresh fruit and vegetables year round. They were buying and wrapping cabbage in newspaper for the winter. I often saw stacks of cabbage on the doorsteps waiting to be put in the cellar. The piles would be any where from 3 to 6 feet high. I once counted 17 semi trucks filled with cabbage coming into Beijing.
A Chinese kitchen is stocked with a gas burner, a wok, and a stirring spoon that is also used as their measuring spoon. They do not have ovens so breads and pastries are not a part of their diet. If they have bread it is steamedbuns cooked in a basket over a wok. Meat is a condiment. It is an item that is added to a stir-fry. You may find a dish with chicken but the chicken will be cut up and the skin has not been removed.
Chinese food is cut up into small pieces as it takes less fuel to cook. Wood is scarce. Stir-fry is still the most popular way of preparing a Chinese dish. A soup is also served with each evening meal.
Dairy is not part of their diet. You will not find cheeses and if you have milk it is soy milk served warm for breakfast. Dessert is usually watermelon or a slice of orange.
It is so fun to go to a country where the food is so different and varied. You will not find very many over weight people in China because of their diet and all the walking that they do.