Beijing cuisine (Chinese: 北京菜; pinyin: Běijīng cài), also known as Jing cuisine (Chinese: 京菜; pinyin: jīng cài; literally "cuisine of the capital") and Mandarin cuisine, is the cuisine of Beijing.
As Beijing has been the capital of China for centuries, its cuisine is influenced by culinary traditions from all over China, but the style that has the greatest influence on Beijing cuisine is that 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 tradition that influenced Beijing cuisine (as well as influenced by the latter itself) is the Chinese imperial cuisine that originated from the "Emperor's Kitchen" (Chinese: 御膳房; pinyin: yùshànfáng), which referred to the cooking facilities inside the Forbidden City, where thousands of cooks from different parts of China showed their best culinary skills to please the imperial family and officials.
Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to determine the actual origin of a dish as the term "Mandarin" is generalised and refers not only to Beijing, but other provinces as well.
However, some generalisation of Beijing cuisine can be characterised as follows: Foods that originated in Beijing are often snacks rather than main courses, and they are typically sold by small 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 terms of cooking techniques, methods relating to different ways of frying are often used. There is less emphasis on rice as an accompaniment as compared to many other regions in China, as local rice production in Beijing is limited by the relatively dry climate.
Dishes in Beijing cuisine that are served as main courses are mostly from other Chinese cuisines, and some of the following in particular have been central to the formation of Beijing cuisine.
Huaiyang cuisine has been praised since ancient times in China, and it was a general practice for an official travelling to Beijing to take up a new post to bring along with him a chef specialising in Huaiyang cuisine. When these officials had completed their terms in the capital and returned to their native provinces, most of the chefs they brought along often remained in Beijing. They opened their own restaurants or were hired by wealthy locals.
The imperial clan of the Ming Dynasty, the House of Zhu, who had ancestry from Jiangsu, also contributed greatly in introducing Huaiyang cuisine to Beijing when the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing in the 15th century, because the imperial kitchen was mainly Huaiyang style.
The element of traditional Beijing culinary and gastronomical cultures of enjoying artistic performances such as Beijing opera while dining directly developed from the similar practice in the culture of Jiangsu and Huaiyang cuisines. Chinese Islamic cuisine is another important component of Beijing cuisine, and was first prominently introduced when Beijing became the capital of the Yuan Dynasty.
However, the most significant contribution to the formation of Beijing cuisine came from Shandong cuisine, as most chefs from Shandong came to Beijing en masse during the Qing Dynasty.
Unlike the earlier two cuisines, which were brought by the ruling class such as nobles, aristocrats and bureaucrats, and then spread to the general populace, the introduction of Shandong cuisine begun with serving the general populace, with much wider market segment, from wealthy merchants to the working class.
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