Finding balance in Chinese food

Vegetables, protein, carbohydrates form the basis of every well-balanced meal and it’s no different when it comes to Chinese cuisine. For the Chinese, it’s important that every meal comprises all of the above to attain balance not just in food groups, but also flavours, colours, textures, and cooking methods. 


It all boils down to the philosophy of yin and yang: a concept which the Chinese value and apply to dining. This means that you bring together different ingredients to achieve balance across the various elements of a meal, so you can typically expect to see that across a well-balanced Chinese meal comprising three to four dishes. For instance: a bowl of rice, together with marinated stir-fried diced meat with veggies in contrasting colours (e.g. scallions with red bell peppers), green vegetables lightly stir-fried in soy sauce and garlic, as well as a bowl of clear soup.

The concept of balance not only presents itself in terms of the ingredients chosen, but also in how the dishes are shared. Chinese people tend to dine communally and therefore enjoy a variety of dishes together as a group. This diversity and balance present in Chinese dining is why we believe this cuisine is among the healthiest and most filling ones you would possibly come across.


No dish is too far out of your reach with the help of these turntables, also known as Lazy Susans. (Credit: Dan Lundberg/ Flickr)

If you’ve ever dined in a large group at a Chinese restaurant, chances are you’ve used a Lazy Susan. The large round plate in the centre of the table where dishes are laid out on and which you can spin to reach all dishes easily? That’s what they’re called!

Johnny Kan, a Chinese-American who opened a Cantonese-style restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown with his brothers-in-law in the 1950s, was the first to introduce Lazy Susans at his restaurant, in order to solve the challenge of passing food around the table. Given how Chinese food is eaten (shared across a table), it was only a matter of time before Lazy Susans became widely adopted around Chinese restaurants worldwide. 

But who’s Susan? The identity behind this name is, unfortunately, lost in history. Lazy Susans were previously known as dumbwaiters and were used in American as well as European restaurants to bring plates of food to and from the table as far back as at the start of the 20th century. To the Chinese, they are simply known as 餐桌转盘 (cānzhuō zhuànpán) which translates to „dinner-table turntables“ — and we much prefer having it go by this name too.


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