( 鲁菜 – Lǔ Cài)
Shandong Cuisine (鲁菜, Lǔ Cài in pinyin) is the mother of all Chinese cuisines, a status that was declared by the Chinese royal families and the followers of Confucius. It’s the only Chinese cuisine that wasn’t influenced by the 8 other cuisines, while also have the longest history of all the other styles. It’s claimed to have the most number of cooking techniques while also being the most difficult to execute. Because of its close proximity to Beijing (China’s economic and political center since 1300) it naturally became the biggest influencer to the Chinese imperial cuisine.
As he was a native of the region, Confucius and his school of the thought also elevated the Shandong cuisine. For thousands of years, his philosophy was the guiding principle of the Chinese feudal system. As the Chinese proverb says, “when a man gets to the top, all his friends and relations get there with him. (一人得道，鸡犬升天)” For over 700 years, eating Shandong cuisine was a way that Confucius followers paid tribute to the moral values they firmly believed in. The dishes that the Confucius family enjoyed became the classics of the Shandong cuisine.
Because of the regions high political and philosophical stature, the 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 enjoyed and disseminated the cuisine to other parts of the country. One could argue that:
- Sichuan cuisine = Shandong techniques + chili spices
- Cantonese cuisine = Shandong techniques + bold ingredients
- Jiangsu cuisine = Shandong techniques – sauce + sugar
But, we’ll let you decide!