Shandong cuisine is the mother of all Chinese cuisines, a status acknowledge by two groups of highly influential people: the royal families and the Confucius followers. The former provided Shandong cuisine its authoritative status, and the latter gives the Chinese people a reason to follow.
Beijing has been China’s economic and political center since 1300, and Shandong, being closest to Beijing, naturally becomes the biggest influencer to the capital’s cuisine and population. It didn’t take Shandong cuisine long to be the official royal cuisine and hence underwent an unprecedented upgrade in its content and skillsets. Some of Chinese most famous cooking techniques like “red braise”, “sweet and sour”, and “stir-fry” were all originated from Shandong cuisine.
Confucius was born in Shandong province. For thousands of years, his philosophy was the guiding principle in the Chinese feudal system . As a Chinese proverb says, “when a man gets to the top, all his friends and relations get there with him.” The rise of the Confucius school came with the elevation of everything Confucius, including the cooking style of his birthplace. For over 700 years, eating Shandong cuisine was a way the Confucius followers paid tributes to the moral values they firmly believed in, and the dishes the Confucius family enjoyed became the classics of the Shandong cuisine.
The high political and philosophical status of Shandong cuisine made it the desired food to chase after. For centuries, whenever government officials, businessmen or scholars visited Beijing, they’d bring back to their hometowns the most popular dishes they’ve enjoyed at Beijing, and disseminated the influence to China this way. To an extent, one can probably conclude that:
Sichuan cuisine = Shandong techniques + chili spices
Cantonese cuisine = Shandong techniques + bold ingredients
Jiangsu cuisine = Shandong techniques – sauce + sugar