Chinese Almond Tea, 1792

A Dollop of History

Today’s historical food adventure takes us to 18th-century China during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). As always, I will do my best to offer some cultural and historical context by providing some background on the recipe’s author and even some of the ingredients. Every dish tells a story, whether or not it was ever intended to.

Traditional Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cuisine is among the world’s oldest and complex. According to food historian Ken Albala, there are certain factors that influence whether a nation or culture develops a strong culinary tradition that can withstand outside influences. One of these three major conditions must exist:

  1. A strong family tradition that passes cooking techniques down for centuries and a general respect for old ways.
  2. A concentration of wealth through court culture, some social mobility and an influential “imperial” cuisine.
  3. Restaurant culture and plenty of customers. This is…

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