Eight Regional Variations

Eight Regional Variations

For most foreigners, “Chinese food” usually implies a lot of deep-fried, strong-flavored and greasy dishes that all taste similar. However, for Chinese people, “Chinese food” is a concept as useless as “German beer,” because, like Chinese culture in general, Chinese food is extremely diverse. China covers a large territory and has many nationalities; hence there is a wide variety of Chinese foods, each with quite different but fantastic and mouthwatering flavors. Because China’s local dishes have their own typical characteristics, Chinese food can be divided into eight regional cuisines, the distinction of which is now widely accepted. Certainly, there are many other local cuisines that are famous, such as Beijing Cuisine and Shanghai Cuisine.

Shandong Cuisine
Consisting of Jinan cuisine and Jiaodong cuisine, Shandong cuisine, clean, pure and not greasy, is characterized by its emphasis on aroma, freshness, crispness and tenderness. Shallots and garlic are frequently used as seasonings so Shandong dishes taste pungent. Soups are given much emphasis in Shandong cuisine. Thin soups are clear and fresh while creamy soups are thick and taste strong. Jinan chefs are adept at deep-frying, grilling, pan-frying and stir-frying while Jiaodong chefs are famous for cooking seafood with a fresh and light taste.

Typical menu items: Bird’s Nest Soup; Yellow River Carp in Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sichuan Cuisine
Sichuan Cuisine, known more commonly in the West as “Szechuan,” is one of the most famous Chinese cuisines in the world. Characterized by its spicy and pungent flavors, Sichuan cuisine, with a myriad of tastes, emphasizes the use of chili. Pepper and prickly ash are always in accompaniment, producing the typical exciting tastes. Garlic, ginger and fermented soybean are also used in the cooking process. Wild vegetables and meats such as are often chosen as ingredients, while frying, frying without oil, pickling and braising are used as basic cooking techniques.

It can be said that one who doesn’t experience Sichuan food has never reached China.

Typical menu items: Hot Pot; Smoked Duck; Kung Pao Chicken; Water-Boiled Fish; Tasty and Spicy Crab; Twice Cooked Pork; Mapo Tofu
Guangdong (Cantonese) Cuisine
Tasting clean, light, crisp and fresh, Guangdong cuisine, familiar to Westerners, usually has fowl and other meats that produce its unique dishes. The basic cooking techniques include roasting, stir-frying, sauteing, deep-frying, braising, stewing and steaming. Steaming and stir-frying are most frequently used to preserve the ingredients’ natural flavors. Guangdong chefs also pay much attention to the artistic presentation of their dishes.

Typical menu items: Shark Fin Soup; Steamed Sea Bass; Roasted Piglet; Dim Sum (a variety of side dishes and desserts)
Fujian Cuisine
Combining Fuzhou Cuisine, Quanzhou Cuisine and Xiamen Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine is renowned for its choice seafood, beautiful color and magical tastes of sweet, sour, salt and savory. The most distinct feature is their “pickled taste.”

Typical menu items: Buddha Jumping Over the Wall; Snow Chicken; Prawn with Dragon’s Body and Phoenix’s tail
Huaiyang Cuisine
Huaiyang Cuisine, also called Jiangsu Cuisine, is popular in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Using fish and crustaceans as the main ingredients, it stresses their freshness. Its carving techniques are delicate, of which the melon carving technique is especially well known. Cooking techniques consist of stewing, braising, roasting, and simmering. The flavor of Huaiyang Cuisine is light, fresh and sweet and its presentation is delicately elegant.

Typical menu items: Stewed Crab with Clear Soup, Long-boiled and Dry-shredded Meat, Duck Triplet, Crystal Meat, Squirrel with Mandarin Fish, and Liangxi Crisp Eel
Zhejiang Cuisine
Comprising local cuisines of Hanzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing, Zhejiang Cuisine is not greasy. It wins its reputation for freshness, tenderness, softness, and smoothness of its dishes with their mellow fragrance. Hangzhou Cuisine is the most famous one of the three.

Typical menu items: Sour West Lake Fish, Longjing Shelled Shrimp, Beggar’s Chicken
Hunan Cuisine
Hunan cuisine consists of local cuisines of Xiangjiang Region, Dongting Lake and Xiangxi coteau areas. It is characterized by thick and pungent flavors. Chili, pepper and shallot are usually necessities in this variation.

Typical menu items: Dongan Chicken; Peppery and Hot Chicken
Anhui Cuisine
Anhui Cuisine chefs focus much more attention on the temperature in cooking and are good at braising and stewing. Often ham will be added to improve taste and candied sugar added to gain freshness.

Typical menu items: Stewed Snapper; Huangshan Braised Pigeon


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