A Chinese proverb goes: “The more you eat, the less flavour; the less you eat, the more flavour.” In keeping with this old adage, I think of the complex simplicity in the art of Chinese cooking and the aesthetics that go into enjoying a meal. It may be thought that Chinese cooking is fast, easy to assemble and ready to go, but indeed lies a mystery still that though all these three things are true, the complexity in details is what brings a dish to its culmination.
To enjoy a small bowl of rice, some kind of meat and vegetables is a luxury in itself. Bringing together a group of foods to accentuate taste, delight, aroma and nourishment is the complex simplicity of Chinese cuisine. A good chef knows how much cinnamon, sichuan pepper or fennel to use in a pot au feu, and it takes years of understanding the elements of taste to harmonize a dish. Deciphering the right cooking method is also of key note: shallow frying versus stir fry, simmering versus steaming to attain the right texture and colour.
All in all, the story of Chinese cuisine that has evolved through the centuries has refined a narrative to delight the senses. The cuisine takes us to a place we’ve never been or perhaps, one we know all too well. That is what forms it’s complexity. The simplicity rests in the joy of eating.