Chinese Cooking Theory

The Five Element Theory
The Five Elements expresses the interplay of the basic components or ingredients. Each of the elements neutralizes or counterbalances another element and each element creates a desire for another element.

In assembling a dish or planning a menu, always keep in mind the two Five Element cycles.

The Five Elements The Five Tastes The Five Foods
Metal Sweet Pork/Chicken
Earth Salty Duck/Turkey
Water Sour Fish/Shellfish
Fire Hot Beef/Lamb
Wood Bitter Vegetables/Fruit

The Five Elements The Five Preserving Methods
Metal Candying
Earth Salting
Water Pickling
Fire Drying
Wood Fermenting

The Five Elements The Five Cooking Methods
Metal Stir-fry
Earth Roast
Water Poach/Braise/Stew/Soup/Casserole
Fire Fry
Wood Steam

Pungent Preserved Food for Flavoring
Metal Fire Earth Water Wood
Dried fatty Lean dried Salted Pickled Fermented
Pork belly Shellfish Fish Shallots Bean curd
Pork sausage Vegetables Radish Mustard green Black bean
Duck liver sausage Fish Mustard Cucumber Shrimp
Pressed duck Nuts Egg Pig's feet Rice wine
Beef Fruit Turnip Bamboo shoots Egg

Savory Foods for Flavoring
Roast pig
Roast pork
Fried meats
Wheat gluten
Soy braised foods

The Eight Trigrams
Used in divination, and as a system of organization of relationships and process, the eight trigrams are organized in two classic patterns:


Yin-Yang Theory
The duality of Yin and Yang creates contrast, tension, conflict, or balance. Consistent pairing of opposites makes dishes and menus appealing, interesting, and healthful.

Yin Foods Yang Foods
Green vegetables Root vegetables
Chicken Duck/Squab
Pork Beef/Lamb
Fish Shellfish
Tofu Beans
Dairy Squash/Gourd
Tea Nuts/Seeds
Non-acidic fruit Acidic fruit

Yin Processes Yang Processes
Steam Dry
Boil Stir-fry
Stew Roast
Chill Ferment
Braise Deep-fry

Yin Seasonings Yang Seasonings
Young soy (thin) Old soy (black)
Ginger Chili/Pepper
Sugar Salt
Mushroom/Fungus Onion
Anise Garlic