In Chinese cuisine, rice is the symbol of life itself. It is added to many dishes and cooked in various ways, be it boiled, steamed, roasted, or stir-fried. Rice numbers among one of the ancient seven basic necessities of life. The others are tea, fuel, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. In the arid climes of northern China, wheat is more prevalent as a staple of the diet than rice.
The consumption of meat has been a symbol of wealth and status throughout Chinese history. Most people could not afford meat, making tofu an important source of protein. Today, China’s rising middle class means that more meat is being eaten on a daily basis. Pork is the most popular meat in Chinese cuisine, except among the Muslim community, where mutton and beef is eaten instead.