Elaborate Chinese language dishes are culinary historical past

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@Chinese_plating documents food art from the 1980s and 1990s on Instagram. It’s over the top and an amazing window into what makes Chinese food so wonderful.

Posted on February 14, 2021 at 8:45 am ET

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Golden Pheasants Welcome Spring” prepared by Lu Jiaming

Dieter Mackenbach, who is behind the Instagram @chinese_plating, never thought that a visit to the local library would get him on the path to being obsessed with culinary history. Mackenbach is the person behind the Instagram @chinese_plating, which publishes images of 20th century Chinese food design in archive magazine collections and highlights their intricate creations. The pictures are fun – and they offer a new perspective on the kitchen, tell historical stories and show impressive techniques.

“Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve always made extensive use of the local libraries. I spent a lot of time in the Chinese National Library in Beijing and was very interested in Chinese culinary magazines, ”said Mackenbach, citing the 1980s magazines China Culinary and Sichuan Gastronomy in particular. He checked them out from the library and started taking pictures because he was fascinated by the dishes. He then shared it on Instagram.

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

Much of the food in these magazines comes from culinary competitions designed to demonstrate a chef’s expertise in knife carving and food presentation. There is also a heavy emphasis on poetic composition and whether the dishes refer to historical events or literature. Christopher Tan, a food journalist turned cookbook author, worked as a reporter for a local deli and wine magazine in the 1990s. During that time, he watched teams of professional chefs from around the world – Europe and Asia – compete against each other in Singapore producing intricate work that he said “would go exactly with @chinese_plating’s photos – tons of stripes, Patterns, three-dimensional work, vegetable and dough carvings, what do you have? “He compares the work to the level of craftsmanship seen in some of the episodes of The Great British Bake Off.

“One thing that is catching on is awareness of symbolism,” he said, “the use of foods with special properties for what they evoke, beyond their sensory properties.”

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Bamboo mushrooms and a fish thread soup”

A step further than traditional home cooking and enrobing is the special festive and traditional cuisine that is carried out on important occasions such as New Year celebrations, Taoist holidays or weddings. For these occasions, more time and expense is spent making traditional delicacies and dishes, and their makers are expected to demonstrate their craft and skill to the highest degree.

As for @chinese_plating, the report is photographic evidence of how diverse Chinese food can be, Mackenbach said. “Obviously this is not your everyday meal. Most people in Chinese history absolutely do not eat such exorbitant dishes, ”he added. “It can be quite wasteful, and some of it is not even supposed to be eaten – for example, carving raw pumpkin. It was mainly for shows, business meetings or extravagant occasions. “He claimed that this elaborate overdraft style stems from a tradition of the Chinese cultural elite and literary figures who host events and banquets.

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Ghostly New Year Toast” prepared by Lu Fei

“China as a whole takes coating seriously. The way my mother serves food at home is very thoughtful and not natural. In cooking school I was always told to make things look natural. But then you take something like that and you can’t deny it’s beautiful, ”said Calvin Eng. Eng is a former chef at Win Son and is currently opening Bonnie’s, a Cantonese-American restaurant in Brooklyn. He’s also a fan of the account. He said it is great to see the love and care people have put into these dishes in the past, and he hopes this will encourage other people to keep doing Chinese food.

Much has been said in recent years about changing the perception of Chinese food in the United States, and people want to highlight the variety, sophistication, and health of Chinese foods.

“Many high-end restaurants in China are now copying Japanese and Scandinavian minimalist dishes, which are not so unique to the country and fall into the general minimalism that makes everything white. People send messages to thank me for sharing and claim that they are really proud of their culture, ”Mackenbach said.

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Good luck and great prosperity” prepared by Chen Qinghua

Instagram is blocked all over China, so Mackenbach doesn’t have many followers who comment on his posts. The account’s photos were shared on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter replacement. Mackenbach said he was delighted to read about 100 comments from people who remembered seeing such covers as children.

He said that some people see this “maximalist food design phenomenon” as sticky or out of fashion. “Some Chinese complain about this style, but I think it has its place,” said Mackenbach.

“It preserves a piece of food history,” said Grace Young, a cookbook author who worked to save restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown. “This food dates back to the time in China when wealthy people wanted not only good food, but something that was easy on the eye.”

The feeling is similar to the tradition of dim sum. “’Dim’ is to be touched and ‘sum’ is your heart [in Cantonese]. It is little things that touch your heart, which of course meant to please, to please, to imagine. “It’s the same philosophy behind the over-the-top presentation in the magazines that food should be something to indulge in and party in.

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Crystal Dragon Dumplings,” made at the Wangjiang Hotel in Chengdu Military District,

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Penguin Dumplings” prepared by Jiang Jianping

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Angelfish Rolls” prepared by Yu Tingcai

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Bamboo heralds peace” prepared by Cao Zhiqing

With the kind permission of Dieter Mackenbach

“Nostalgia” prepared by Wu Zhiguo

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