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Culinary Competition Winner Robin Luo Talks Chinese Cuisine

-The foreigner commentator has an annoying smirk while speaking Chinese. 

"Well I'm in the studio with Robn Luo, he's the gold award winner from NTD's culinary competition in Times Square last year. Thank you very much for being here with us today Robin.You got first place. When you got your award, at that moment, how did you feel?"

Robin Luo
"That was the most happy I have been in my life. Because I was facing so many people, and so many experts all learning through competing together. I feel it was a beautiful thing."

Ben Hedges
"Now NTD's competition is a traditional Chinese. China has a lot of different types of food, but a lot of Westerners may not be so familiar with these types of food. Mr. Luo, can you introduce the most principle categories of Chinese cuisine."

Robin Luo
In China there are 5 main categories of cuisine. There is Sichuan cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Huaiyang cuisine, Northeastern cuisine and Cantonese cuisine."

Ben Hedges
"These are all different, so how is Northeastern cuisine different from the cuisine of the South?"

Robin Luo
"Northeastern uses the method of stewing in cooking food. Early in history there was more hunting going on in the Northeast, so there was more meat around, so their stews were especially good. Cantonese cuisine makes more use of fish and other food from rivers and lakes."

Ben Hedges
"So what about Sichuan cuisine, what is that like?"

Robin Luo
"Sichuan cuisine makes more use of wild game, and is hot and spicy. Their soups are also good, like the Mala soup and they also have great hot peppers."

"I really like to eat the Sichuan style Mala hot pot, what other typical Sichuan style dishes are there?"

Robin Luo
"Typical dishes? I like the Chongqing spicy chicken. But I don't have such a deep understanding of specific Sichuan dishes, because I have been doing Cantonese cuisine for several dozen years."

Ben Hedges
'So you do Cantonese cuisine, now what special characteristics does Cantonese cuisine have? What special ingredients are used?"

Robin Luo
"The ingredients in the Canton region are abundant, and they have also been influenced by Hong Kong, so the ingredients are very wide ranging. What is more they use a lot of fresh ingredients, they rarely use frozen or old ingredients, everything is fresh. Because in that area there is a lot of life, so no one eats dead things. The main flavors are mild, and these mild flavors are can be associated with good nourishment for the body. It is relatively mild."

Ben Hedges
Thank you. Thanks very much for joining us today Robin."

-Here's the NYC competition they talked about!

Not even the rain can stop the fires of NTD's fourth annual International Chinese Culinary Competition.

[Chris Chappell, NTD Reporter]:
Well, the weather's taken a bit of a turn on us a bit today, but do you think that's going to get in the way of the greatest Chinese culinary competition? Not on your life! Today are the finals, and for the chefs, it's getting a bit dicey. Let's have a look.

Out of nearly 100 contestants, only 23 remain. These are the masters of an ancient culinary craft. They move like the mist and wind, splitting through their dishes like a river through a mountain.

NTD has gathered these chefs from the four corners of the Earth, transforming the heart of New York's Times Square into the image of China's glory days.

[Qu Yunqiang, Jury President]:
"In Manhattan, I haven't heard of another similar competition about Chinese cuisine. For Westerners, they have this opportunity to get to know many culinary skills of Chinese cuisine. And Chinese traditional dishes also carry Chinese history and culture. Therefore only NTDTV can hold such a show that revives real Chinese traditions."

But what are these cuisines from 5000 years past? What is traditional cooking?

It involves not only precise knife skills and the proper use of seasonings, but also a certain mental attitude, a spirit that gives the cooking its inner life.

The different cuisines—Szechwan, Shandong, Cantonese, Huaiyang, and Northeastern—each has their own unique style and flavors. So what does it take to pick a winning dish?

[Qu Yunqiang, Jury President]:
"We mainly judge from color, aroma, taste, appearance, and knife skills. In spite of these, there is also another important criterion, which is on-site operation; it includes chef's conversation manners, their understanding of the dish etc. In our opinion, if we treat a dish as a living thing, then the taste is its soul. The chef's mentality is also crucial in the process, because we believe that 'matter and mind are one thing.'"

And this year, it was Zhang Zhixue, with his dish of fried sweet potatoes, that best embodied these qualities, and the essence of traditional Chinese cooking.

If you missed this year's competition, not to worry. Though you might have missed out on some good Kung Pao Chicken, there'll be plenty of Pow at NTD's third International Traditional Martial Arts Competition, kicking off in October.

This is Chris Chappell
NTD News, New York

here's the announcer's Twitter:

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