The cuisine of the Shár Empire is rich and has proud traditions. Being a country whose population prides itself in being a civilized nation, it has distinguished itself in its delicate traditions on how to eat food - chopsticks and spoons are both used, while forks are not: the latter are used for stews and soups, while the earlier is used for everything else.
Meat and fish Edit
Meat plays a pivotal role in Northern Shár cuisine, but it's importance is not to be underestimated in the Southern Shár cuisine either. In the southern parts of the empire, the meat they consume is nearly exclusively poultry (chicken, domestic pheasant, duck and goose) and frogs. In the northern parts of the empire, they consume poultry, goat chevon, pork and beef. Meat is usually consumed roasted or in soups or stews.
In nearly all coastal parts of the empire, fish is universally eaten. Shrimp, clams, and loaches are also eaten. The geoduck is considered both an aphrodisiac and an upper-class delicacy food. Fermented shrimp paste is often used as a "spice" rather than a staple food in itself.
Sausages are part of the Shár cuisine - in the northern parts of the empire, they usually mix pork, beef or chevon with garlic, onions, and various herbs to make sausages, then smoke it with tea leaves. In the southern parts, they usually make sausage by mixing poultry with fermented shrimp paste and various spices - they also make fish sausages. In the north, pork rind is consumed as a snack food by the upper-classes, pig cheese is cooked and thinly sliced and served at room temperature. In these northern provinces of the empire, a jellied pork skin dish is often made and served with a spicy soy sauce and vinegar mixture with crushed garlic and onions.
Milk, eggs and other animal products Edit
Milk has always been an important, even pivotal part of Shár cuisine. Not just the type of milk that was drunk as a beverage, but also various other dairy products, such as cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese, especially in the northern parts of the empire - in the southern parts of the empire, drinkable milk, edible cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese are usually made out of soy beans instead. Goat milk is the most often used, although in some border provinces, horse milk is also used, due to the influence off Sak cuisine.
Eggs are the most important basic ingredients of all deserts, and they are also eaten with rice and meat. Most often, chicken and pheasant eggs are used, sometimes chicken or goose eggs.
Cereals and cereal products Edit
In regards to the preference towards variants of cereals, the Shár Empire is divided in two: the rice-eating south and the wheat-preferring north.
Southern Shár Edit
Rice is the most important staple food in the southern portions of the Shár Empire. Nearly every southern dish contains rice in one form or another, as either steamed rice or glutinous rice. The earlier is usually eaten in itself or as the side dish, while the latter is used to make rice wine, rice milk and more rarely, flour to make pancakes and dumplings.
Northern Shár Edit
In the northern portions of the Shár Empire, the preferred cereals are wheat, barley and millet, all of which are used to make both flour and beer. This wheat/barley/millet flour is then used to make bread, pasta/noodles, dumplings or steamed buns. The preferred type of bread is the flatbread, which is often consumed hot, topped with butter or sour cream, meat, vegetables and cheese. Noodles are consumed as parts of "wet dishes" (soups) and "dry dishes" alike (with meat, vegetables, optionally cheese). The poorer parts of the population may consume noodles or bread alone, with no additives.
Fruits and vegetables Edit
Vegetables too play important parts in Shár cuisine - cabbage, sorrel, spinach, beans and mustard greens all serve as staple food, while ginger, garlic, onions, parsley, cloves and fennel are used as spices and seasonings. Soy beans are another important food within both parts of the Empire - the beans themselves are consumed cooked as a staple food, they are grinded to make flour (and then make noodles or bread), they are also used to make soy milk and soy cheese.
Fruits such as apples, cherry, pear, orange and kiwi were usually used to make either cider or Yungran (Fruit tea) - a beverage made by mixing hot water with a dry-roasted mixture of fruits, honey, sugar and various optional additives (such as cinnamon). Traditionally, fruits weren't usually used in sweet pastries and deserts - when they were eaten, they were usually eaten raw. It is only relatively recently that fruits are starting to be used in sweets - traiditionally, additives such as sugar, honey and cinnamon were heavily preferred to fruit extracts.
Soy beans Edit
Soy beans are considered an all-out "wonder-food" in the Shár cuisine, due to the fact that they are very versatile: they can be made into bean pottages/stews, into soy sauce to be used with other food, grinded into flour to be made into bread or noodles, used as a substitute for diary (soy milk, soy cheese). Due to this versatility, soy beans are considered both vegetable and meat, despite the fact that it originates from a plant, not an animal.
Wine is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the Shár Empire - both rice wine and grape wine are widely drunk. In the northern parts of the Shár Empire - where wheat, barley and millet dominate instead of rice - various types of beer are also consumed, made out of wheat, barley or millet.
In the Shár languages, rice wine is known as Shingráu (rice milk), grape wine is Jíyer (grape blood), beer is called Gáiling (Liquid bread).
Traditionally, grape wine reigned supreme, but these days, it has largerly declined and became a luxury delicacy of the upper classes - rice wine becamme the staple of middle-class and lower-class alcohol-lovers. Among rice wine, two types are distinguished: the undistilled Maishingráu (Young rice milk) and the distilled Dárshingráu (Ancestor rice milk). The earlier has a stronger flavor and scent, while the latter has a much higher alcohol content. A third type of rice wine, the fortified rice wine - called Menshingráu (Strong rice milk) - is made by combining Maishingráu and Dárshingráu, and optionally various medicinal herbs in order to produce an alcoholic beverage that has been traditionally treated as a "wonder medicine" that cures cold, fever, influenza, malaria and nausea. Regular drinking of Dárshingráu or Menshingráu is often considered one of the keys to a long and healthy life. A popular old wives' tale is that for women, the secret to eternal beauty - inner beauty and outer beauty alike - lies in regular but careful and disciplined consumption of rice wine.
In several northern provinces of the Empire, fermented horse milk is also drunk, due to the influence of Sak cuisine on local habits.
Although traditions of drinking alcocolic beverages are still strong throughout the Shár Empire, ever since the introduction of tea - which coincided with the rise of the Ten Heavenly Principles, a religious movement that teaches self-controll, discipline and rejection of worldly pleasures - casual consumption of alcohol has been greatly reduced among the urban population and the more highly educated parts of the population.
Honey mead, apple cider, cherry cider, orange cider and kiwi cider were all historically widely consumed in the Shár Empire, but now they are virtually forgotten, consumed only in a few remote corners of the empire.
Today, the single most important non-alcoholic beverage of the Shár Empire is tea - called Ran in Shár -, but it was not always so. Tea got introduced to the Shár Empire some time between 700 BEKE and 400 BEKE via the indirect trade between the Jing Dynasty and the Kingdom of Dragoc that was conducted by Gabyrian intermediaries.
Before the introduction of tea, non-alcoholic beverages had a much more limited prominence, but were also somewhat more diverse than today: Peishingráu (Infant rice milk) - the name of actual rice milk (the term "rice milk" normally refers to rice wine. The phrase "infant rice milk" is used for actual rice milk) - is still consumed, but there were also Tungráu (Soy milk), Mongráu (Almond milk), Yungráu ("Fruit milk" - fruit juice) and Yungran (Fruit tea). Out of these, Tungráu and Yungrán are currently in the proccess of revival, making a comeback after one and a half millennium of obscurity.
Ever since the introduction of tea, various local variants have been developed: the dry Huokran (White tea), the greener and weaker Mairan (Young tea), the strong and red/black Dárran (Ancestor tea).
An interesting fact is that the word "ran" did not originally refer to actual teas, but instead referred to a beverage made from the roasting of fruits, honey and various additives together to create a concentrated mixture that is mixed with hot water to create a hot beverage similiar to fruity tea. This beverage is now called Yungran (Fruit tea) - the word "ran" started to refer to normal, non-fruity teas after tea overtook every non-alcoholic beverage in popularity.
The third most important non-alcoholic beverage in the Shár Empire is arguably animal milk, especially goat milk and cow milk. Horse milk is also drunk in some northern provinces, due to the influence of Sak cuisine.