Discovering the 8 different cuisines of China
Dogs, Instant noodles and strange insects. That’s what they eat in China right? And rice of course, lots and lots of rice. This being a comical untrue preconception, China is still an undiscovered leaf for many people, thus leaving room for imaginary conceptions on life in China.
While rice IS a big part of Chinese cuisine, none the less, we would like to welcome and introduce a new conception of a modern China by explaining the 8 different Chinese regional cuisines.
Secret ingredients and recipes
Let us take you through the eight different regional cuisines of China, each one having their own distinct taste and ingredients. From flaming hot dishes served in the great West of China to delicious sweet dishes served on the beautiful East coast of China.
A cultural cornerstone
Food in China plays an important role in Chinese culture, starting all the way back to 2000 BC, where the first rice crops began to sprout. Gastronomy quickly became a high art, and at that time reserved for royalties only. In today’s China, traditional cooked meals are still considered one of the corner stones of family life, whether it’s a home cooked meal or enjoyed at a restaurant among friends and relatives.
Cuisines of China
1. Guangdong/Cantonese Cuisine 粤菜 Yuècài
Starting off with the most internationally known cuisine, Cantonese food originates from the Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong. It has become the most widely served style of Chinese cuisine in the world, most likely due to the cuisines mild and fresh ingredients.
The Cantonese cuisine is known for its cooking style where the chef’s goal is to preserve the natural flavours, thus leaving out strong spices or sauces that influence the original flavours. This result is light flavoured dishes that are low in oil and sugar, the general consensus is that the Cantonese cuisine ranks highest on the list of non-fattening Chinese cuisines.
2. Sichuan Cuisine 川菜 Chuāncài
Bring on the heat! And don’t forget about the Pandas. The Sichuan cuisine originated from the southwestern part of China, the cuisine is one of the most popular in China, as well as abroad. Known for its deep and rich flavours, among them a big love for hot and spicy dishes. Sichuan cuisine can’t be mentioned without the key ingredients, Sichuan pepper, Black pepper, Chilli bean paste, ginger, and garlic.
3. Jiangsu Cuisine 苏菜 Sūcài (soo-tseye/)
Elegant, precise cooking techniques and artistic presentation, welcome to the Jiangsu cuisine. The Jiangsu province has the highest income per. inhabitant, that’s probably the reason behind the gourmet styled techniques and dishes. This style of cuisine has its origin in the coastal east of China, cities such as Nanjing, Suzhou and Shanghai are known for using the Jiangsu cuisines cooking methods and ingredients.
The main flavors are moderate, natural and fresh. Especially seafood dishes are a proud trademark of the Jiangsu cuisine and walking through the glowing neon light streets of Shanghai, you’ll find a wide variety of seafood restaurants. Due to the location, the seafood is considered some of the best in all of China, using only the freshest ingredients straight off the boat.
4. Zhejiang Cuisine 浙菜 Zhècài
Continuing on the Eastern coast of China the mellow Zhejiang cuisine is next on our list. The salty marine ingredients are still the main flavors, and refined seafood is the backbone of Zhejiang cuisine. The biggest city in the province is Hangzhou, well known for it prehistorically wealth and sophistication.
The past’s influences still play a big role in cooking methods and choice of ingredients, and to many tourists surprise, seafood in the Zhejiang provinces is not only fish and shellfish. The pacific area is known for including all imaginary ingredients from the sea, creating unique dining experience for travellers from all over the world.
5. Fujian/Min Cuisine 闽菜 Mǐncài
No need for any running shoes here! We’d arrived at the southeastern part of China, where the healthy Fujian cuisine origins from. The Fujian province runs along the pacific and the Fujian mountain range, and the cuisine has a rich history to back it up. Originally a safe haven for refugees, Fujian is a melting pot of different cooking methods and dishes. The Fujian cuisine is known for flavours being lighter than in other provinces, with a twist of sweet and sour flavors.
The location has a big influence on the choice of ingredients, ranging from rather exotic vegetables from the mountains to some of the best seafood in all of China.
6. Hunan Cuisine 湘菜 Xiāngcài
Chili, chili and more chili! From the burning red flavors of Sichuan, the next cuisine we’ll visit are home of the hot burning peppers from the Hunan Cuisine, perceived by many to be even hotter then the famous Sichuan cuisine. While Sichuan food is known for its spicy red flavors where peppercorns are mixed in with the food, Hunan dishes are made with vinegar, chilies and a bunch of agricultural products.
The signature features of Hunan cuisine are the use of a wide variety of peppers, from strong and spicy, to sour and sweet tasting peppers. Mix that in with a ton of fresh vegetables, rice and all kinds of meat, you’re guaranteed to stay healthy and full.
7. Anhui Cuisine 徽菜 Huīcài
Don’t get lost. We’re going deeper into the wilderness! Introducing the Anhui cuisine, originally a cuisine fostered from the strong workers of the Yellow Mountains surrounding the Anhui province. The cuisine is heavily influence by its location, using unconventional and locally wild ingredients picked from the mountains.
Traditional dishes usually incorporate wild life ingredients, such as frogs, shrimps, and turtles. The areas around the Yellow Mountain are rich on distinct sorts of mushrooms and a wide variety of herbs and vegetables. The cooking methods fits the people, sturdy and solid cooking methods are used in the Anhui cuisine. Big rich meaty stews are a trademark for the province.
8. Shandong Cuisine 鲁菜 Lǔcài
Finally some gluten! Do they have any bread? Next on our list is the final traditional cuisine of China, the Shandong Cuisine stemming from the northeastern part of China. The Shandong province can brag about being one of the first civilized areas of China, thus inspiring and influencing many of the surrounding provinces.
The Shandong cuisine is known for its use of wheat-based dishes, noodles, steam-based buns (baozi), and pastry. The key flavors are fishy, salty and light consisting of ingredients such as seafood, and pork mixed with complementary vegetables. The traditional cooking methods in the Shandong cuisine are well known for limiting the use of oil, creating a more healthy and fresh-based cuisine. Other methods include steaming, soup making, and “Bao” which is a style of cooking where the dish is prepared over extreme heat.
Not quite amused by the boiled turtles or spicy chicken, see our article on how to survive as a vegetarian in China.
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