Master chefs from restaurants around the country gathered in Beijing last week to show off their traditional culinary skills and dishes, aiming to highlight some of the nation’s centuries old cooking techniques and promote them to be ranked among the world’s most important “intangible” cultural heritage.
This is the first time that Chinese cooking skills have featured in the series of events included in the Chinese Intangible Culture Heritage Exhibition. In addition, the Ministry of Culture and China Cuisine Association recently agreed to set up a committee responsible for selecting culinary traditions worthy of world heritage ranking.
Since its formation in the 1980s, the China Cuisine Association has been working to unearth, protect and develop the nation’s culinary cultural heritage said the association’s general secretary Bian Jiang.
Bian commented that as China’s rapid urbanization and industrialization takes place, it has become increasingly difficult for these cooking traditions to be passed on to new generations. ‘We found about 100 culinary traditions nearing extinction, and organized a cooking troupe to promote the protection of these traditions,’ he said.
Participating chef Chen Lixin believes that promoting the cultural heritage of the dishes encourages others to continue these important cooking traditions. ‘Visitors to our restaurant can not only eat well, but also get to know the history behind the cooking,’ he said.
Fourteen food preparation skills have been recognized for their important intangible cultural heritage at a national level, among a total of nearly 2,000 other listings, a number which Bian Jiang said was, ‘very small for a country with a long history of food culture, with its culinary business comprising four million enterprises, and employing 20 million people.’
The Chinese committee is currently studying which food traditions will be proposed for world heritage nomination, and the list so far include includes Anhui and Cantonese cuisines. Bian has also pinpointed Shandong cuisine from the north regions and Sichuan cuisine, for its great variety of tastes and spicy flavors.