Regional Chinese Cuisine & Chinese Food

Different regions in China offer vastly different styles of cooking and cuisine. There are estimated over 5.000 cooking styles in China. The 8 main regional Chinese cuisines are: Szechuan, Guangdong, Shandong, Huaiyang, Fujian, Hunan, Zheijang and Anhui.

China Szechuan Cooking

Szechwan cooking makes heavy use of dried and fresh chillies, Szechuan pepper, ginger and garlic and is most well known for its Spicy and numbing taste.  Food is very much the single most important aspect of enjoying life in Szechuan. Everyday life revolved around food.
One of the most popular Szechuan cuisines is its famous hot pots (Huǒ Guō 火锅). It has spread all over China, and gaining popularity in the world as well.
There are different specialities of Sichuan hot pot making highlight of a certain type of food, suck as duck hot pot, rabbit hot pot, eel hot pot, wild mushroom, fish, fish head, frog…

Hot pot is not the only cooking style in Sichuan – steaming, smoking, stewing, boiling, stir frying are all used widely in Szechuan cooking.
Szechuan pepper is an important ingredient in Szechuan cooking, also known as pepper flower, Chinese pepper. Szechuan pepper is not a pepper at all. Instead, the reddish-brown fruit - one of the ingredients in five spice powder - is a berry that comes from the prickly ash tree. While not as hot as chili pepper, it does have a unique flavor, and is famous for its numbing effect on the tongue. Of course, all of this begs the question: how did the Szechuanese develop their taste for fiery hot cuisine? One common explanation is that Szechuan's muggy, humid climate encourages people to eat strongly spiced foods. There's more to it than that, however.
Szechuan dishes often contain many flavors, such as sweet, sour, bitter, hot, salty, aromatic, and fragrant. Hot foods like red chilli stimulate the palate, making it more sensitive to all these flavors. In addition, they cleanse the palate in preparation for the next dish.
Chili peppers, Szechuan pepper, garlic, salt, and dried and pickled ingredients such as Szechuan preserved vegetable are usually used in Szechuan cooking. And Szechuanese eat much beef, lamb, and pork, although they eat less pork than neighboring Hunan, which is famous for its ham.
There are many fiery classics such as "Hot and Numbing Fish" , "Kung Pao Chicken" and “Twice Cooked Pork”, where the pork is first boiled and then stir-fried, is a classic regional dish. And Szechuan is the home of "Tea Smoked Duck" - a fascinating dish made by smoking a duck over tea leaves.

 

Shandong China Food

Shangdong cooking is well known for its light, non greasy cooking style. Extra efford is made to preserver and emphasize the original flavour and aroma of the cooking ingredients. Shallots and garlic are commonly used in Shangdong cuisine.

This cuisine is also known for its soups. Light soups are clear and fresh, and creamy soups are thick and strong in flavour. One type of light soup, made with swallow’s nest is often served as the first major course at banquets.

As early as the Spring and Autumn Period, more than 3,000 years ago, Shandong was territory of Qi and Lu. Both states were economically and culturally developed. Because they bordered the sea, and had mountains and fertile plains, they had abundant aquatic products and grains as well as sea salt. The people of the area have stressed seasonings and flavorings since ancient times.
Shandong cuisine was created during the Yuan Dynasty. It gradually spread to north China, Beijing, Tianjin, northeast China, and the palace where it influenced the imperial food. The Shandong cuisine comprises mainly eastern Shandong and Jinan dishes.
Shandong cuisine is characterized by quick frying, stir- frying, braising, and deep fat frying. Its dishes are crisp, tender, delicious, and greasy with salty and some sweet and sour flavors. Its main condiment is salt, but it also uses salted fermented soybeans and soy sauce.
People in Shandong like to eat onions and use onions as a seasoning. The dishes include braised sea cucumber with onion, cartilage stewed with onions, and meat stewed with onions. Roast meats are also served with onions. The onions are first deep fat fried before the dishes are quick fried, stir fried, stewed, or sauted so they absorb the onion flavor. People in Shandong also like foods made of wheat flour, such as steamed buns, baked buns, pancakes, crisp cakes, and big cakes stuffed with minced meats.

 

China Guangdong (Cantonese) cuisine

Cantonese cooking is light and fresh tasting and Cantonese restaurants are widely spread throughout the world, so it´s a cooking style that westerners are familiar with. Guangdong food includes delicacies of Guangdong, Chaozhou, Hainan and Dongjiang.
The most important aspect of Guangdong cuisine is freshness. Cantonese cooking uses cooking methods such as stir frying, grilling, stewing, soups, deep frying, roasting and braising. A speciality is roasted suckling pig. Typical menu items include steamed fish, shark fin soup, roasted piglet and dim sum.

Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Guangdong has become more prosperous, and it has developed closer contacts with the hinterland. As Western culture has been introduced, Guangdong cuisine has absorbed the cooking skills of the West as well as the cooking skills of other Chinese regions to develop its own unique methods. The most characteristic cooking methods are cooking in salt, cooking in wine, baking in a pan, and soft-frying.
Cooking in salt means the preserved ingredient (a whole chicken, for example) is buried in heated salt until it is well done. The most famous of these dishes is Salt- Cooked Chicken from Dongjiang.
Cooking in wine means the main ingredient is steamed in alcoholic vapor. The most typical dish is twin pigeons cooked in rose wine. Two cleaned pigeons on two chopsticks are placed in an earthen bowl so as to keep them away from the bottom. Place a cup of rose wine between the pigeons, then put the bowl inside an iron pot and heat the pot until the pigeons are well done. Half a cup of wine will remain without the slightest smell of wine, but the pigeons will have acquired an appealing fragrance of rose wine.
Baking in a pan means the ingredients are put in an iron pan with a cast iron lid. The pan is covered with a red hot cast-iron lid and heated until the dish is done. A typical dish of this type is baked egg.
Soft- frying is another unique cooking method of the Guangdong cuisine. The main ingredients are liquid or semi- liquid, such as fresh milk and minced chicken. The technique is: heat the pan over a hot fire, then pour some oil in the pan to coat the bottom, Add a little more oil and stir in the ingredients over a medium to low fire. Typical dishes are stir- fried fresh milk and stir- fried eggs.
Guangdong cuisine emphasizes seafood, and unique, mixed flavorings. For example, one flavoring liquid is a mixture prepared from onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and spices. The gravy is prepared from a mixture of peanut oil, ginger, onion, Shaoxing rice wine, crystallized sugar, anise, cassia bark, licorice root, clove, ginger powder, dried tangerine peel, and Momordica grosuvenori. Spiced salt is prepared from refined salt, sugar, powdered spices, and anise. These flavorings, along with other favorite condiments such as oyster sauce, fish sauce, clam oil, and curry, give Guangdong cuisine its unique taste.
Guangdong cuisine is divided into three branches: Guangdong food is traditional Guangdong cuisine; Chaozhou food is similar to Fujian cuisine because Chaozhou neighbors Fujian Province. It stresses seafood and many dishes are served in soup. Its flavors are thick, delicious, and sweet. Cooks like to use fish sauce, hot sauce and red vinegar. Dongjiang food, which is represented by Huizhou food, emphasizes domestic animals and poultry. Its dishes are slightly salty with simple sauces. Guangdong cuisine has been heavily influenced by foreign cooking cultures.

 

China Huaiyang Cuisine (Jiangsu Style)

Huaiyang cuisine was originated in Yanghou. The most important patron of Huaiyang cuisine in history was Emperor Zhu YuanZhang (1328-1398).
It’s popular in the lower regions of the Yangtze River, and its specialities are light flavours and fresh tasting. Jiangsu style cooking is also well known for its carving techniques, especially on melon carvings.

If Shandong cuisine is characterized by stirring and frying over a hot fire, Huai-Yang cuisine is characterized by stewing, braising, and steaming over a low fire for a long time. Famous dishes cooked this way are chicken braised with chestnuts, pork steamed in lotus leaf, duck stewed with eight treasures, pork meat balls Yangzhou style, and butterfly sea cucumber (sea cucumber cut into butterfly shapes and cooked with flavorings).
Yangzhou dishes stress the stock and extract, and require chicken to taste like chicken and fish to taste like fish, with clear distinctions between the primary and secondary ingredients. The dishes are cooked over a low fire and the pots are covered or sealed so the marrow cooks out and the primary taste and form are kept. These traits stock fresh and delicious (this is the main difference between stewing and braising). Stewed dishes are tender, fragrant, and tasty.
The vegetarian banquet is a special feature of the Huai-Yang cuisine, and the vegetarian dishes in the Beijing cuisine are mostly variants of the Huai - Yang cuisine. This is not true for the vegetarian foods of the other cuisines, The Huai-Yang snacks and refreshments are exquisite, such as boiled, shredded, dried bean curd; steamed dumplings with minced meat and gravy; steamed meat dumplings with the dough gathered at the top; steamed stuffed meat buns; steamed buns filled with meat, bamboo shoots and vegetables; Huangqiao baked sesame cakes; multi-layer cake; boneless fish and noodles; quick- fried eel and noodles; noodles with seasoned topping; and steamed crystal buns from Zhenjiang.

Fujuan China Cuisine

Fujian cooking is a combination of Fuzhou, QuanZhou and Xiamen cuisine styles. Fujian cuisine emphasized seafood such as fish and shrimp.
The seafood products are widely used in Fujian cuisine. It was during the mid of Qing dynasty when Fujian cuisine gradually spread through other parts of China.

The most characteristic aspect of Fujian cuisine is that its dishes are served in soup. Its cooking methods are stewing, boiling, braising, quick-boiling, and steaming, The most famous dish is Buddha Jumps Over the Wall. The name implies the dish is so delicious that even the Buddha would jump over a wall to eat it once he smelled it. A mixture of seafood, chicken, duck, and pork is put into a rice-wine jar and simmered over a low fire. Sea mussel quick-boiled in chicken soup is another Fujian delicacy.
Cutting is important in the Fujian cuisine. Most dishes are made of seafood, and if the seafood is not cut well the dishes will fail to have their true flavor. Fujian dishes are slightly sweet and sour, and less salty. For example, litchi pork, sweet and sour pork, soft fish with onion flavor, and razor clams stir-fried with fresh bamboo shoots without soy sauce all have this taste. When a dish is less salty, it tastes more delicious. Sweetness makes a dish more tasty, while sourness helps remove the seafood smell.
In the Fujian cuisine, an important flavoring and coloring material is red distiller's grain. It is a glutinous rice fermented with red yeast. After being kept in a sealed vessel for one year, the grain acquires a sweet and sour flavor and a rose-red color. Chicken, duck, fish, and pork can be flavored with the red grain as well as spiral shells, clams, mussels, bamboo shoots, and even vegetables. When the red distiller's grain is used for flavoring, the fishes can be cooked in many ways, including quick-frying, frying, quick-boiling, and pickling.
Fujian cuisine comprises three branches:Fuzhou, southern Fujian, and western Fujian. There are slight differences among them. Fuzhou dishes are more fresh, delicious, and less salty, sweet, and sour. Southern Fujian dishes are sweet and hot and use hot sauces, custard, and orange juice as flavorings. Western Fujian dishes are salty and hot. As Fujian people emigrate overseas, their cuisine has become popular in Taiwan and abroad. )

Since a majority of the dished are made using seafood, cutting is a very important aspect of the cooking process.(cut off) One of the most important dishes of Fujian cuisine is Buddha Jumping Over The Wall – a name implying that the dish is so delicious that a Buddha is jumping over the wall just to get it.

Hunan China Cooking

 Hunan cuisine has a history of over 2,100 years. Hunan province is located in south-eastern China, along the middle stretch of the Yantze River.
Because of the humidity in Hunan, its food is spicy and consists of more than 4,000 dishes.
Hunan cuisine cooking methods use stir frying, deep frying, steaming, simmering, stewing and quick trying.
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The cooking skills employed in the Hunan cuisine reached a high standard as early as the Western Han Dynasty, giving it a history of more than 2,100 years. Hunan is located in southeastern China along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, north of the Five Ridges. It contains rivers, lakes, mountains, rolling hills, plains, and pools, which provide abundant delicacies, such as game, fish, shrimp, crab, and turtle. Making full use of these rich resources, local people created a wide variety of delicacies. Hunan cuisine consists of more than 4,000 dishes, among which more than 300 are very famous. Hunan food is characterized by its hot and sour flavor, fresh aroma, greasiness, deep color, and the prominence of the main flavor in each dish. It consists of regional cuisines from the Xiangjiang River Valley, the Tongting Lake region, and the western mountainous area.
Human food is hot because the air is very humid, which makes it difficult for the human body to eliminate moisture. The local people eat hot peppers to help remove dampness and cold.
The Xiangjiang River Valley is represented by Changsha, Xiangtan, and Hengyang. The region has good transportation, talented people, and abundant resources. Local dishes require meticulous care of the raw materials and stress cutting skill, length and degree of cooking, color, and appearance. Cooking methods include stewing, simmering, curing, steaming, stir-frying, frying, and quick- frying. The flavors are pungent, chili, fresh and fragrant, and thickly fragrant. Such dishes as fried chicken with hot and spicy sauce, stir - fried tripe slivers, tripe in duck’s web soup, dried scallop and egg-whites, and dog meat in hot pot are all typical foods.
The Dongting Lake region, surrounded by Changde, Yiyang, and Yueyang, is a tourist area. The Story of Yueyang Tower, written by Fan Zhongyan, a man of letters and a statesman during the Song Dynasty, stressed the beauty of the landscape, and gave a cultural aspect to the making and naming of local dishes. Representative dishes are Xiaoxiang Turtle, Wuling snake in its own soup, mashed shrimp in lotus pod, Tongting wild duck, jade-belt fish roll, and fish fillet in velvet. Deep color, hot and salty flavor, aroma, softness, and beautifully shaped and patterned serving dishes characterize these famous local dishes.
Jishou, Huaihua, and Dayong represent the western mountainous area. Because this area is mountainous, it has abundant game, mushrooms, and fungi. Its dishes are simple, rich, and pure. The mountain dwellers also make smoked, cured meats that are salty, fragrant, hot, sour, and delicious. For example, steamed cured meat, Double Ninth Festival could fungi, deep - fried loach (a fish similar to a carp), and hot and spicy frog legs all have the rich flavors of this mountainous region. Hunan cuisine stresses a pungent flavor, and dishes made of cured products also make an important contribution to Hunan food.

 

Zhejiang China Cuisine

Zheijiang cuisine is well known for its fresh, tender and fragrant dishes. Zheijiang cooking stresses the use of vegetables, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The fish and shrimp are usually kept alive until cooked, so the food server is very fresh.

A Zheijiang dish come in a slightly sweet flavour and has less of a salty taste. Emperor Qianlong of Qing dynasty praised the Mandarin Fish topped with sweet and sour tomato sauce as the best dish in the world.

Zhejiang cuisine, also called Zhe Cai for short, is one of the eight famous culinary schools in China. Comprising the specialties of Hangzhou, Ningbo and Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province regarded as "land of fish and rice", Zhejiang cuisine, not greasy, wins its reputation for freshness, tenderness, softness, and smoothness of its dishes with mellow fragrance. Hangzhou cuisine is the most famous one among the three.
Hangzhou cuisine is characterized by its elaborate preparation and varying techniques of cooking, such as sauteing, stewing, and stir- and deep-frying. Hangzhou food tastes fresh and crisp, varying with the change of season. Ningbo food is a bit salty but delicious. Specializing in steamed, roasted and braised seafood, Ningbo cuisine is particular in retaining the original freshness, tenderness and softness. Shaoxing cuisine offers fresh aquatic food and poultry that has a special rural flavor, sweet in smell, soft and glutinous in taste, thick in gravy and strong in season.
Each of the three sub-cuisine traditions is noted for its special flavor and taste, but they are all characterized by the careful selection of ingredients, emphasizing minute preparation, and unique, fresh and tender tastes.
Zhejiang cuisine specializes in quick-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, simmering and steaming, obtaining the natural flavor and taste. Special care is taken in the cooking process to make the food fresh, crispy and tender. Thanks to exquisite preparation, the dishes are not only delicious in taste and but also extremely elegant in appearance. Zhejiang cuisine is best represented by Hangzhou dishes, including Hangzhou roast chicken (commonly known as Beggar's chicken), Dongpo pork, west lake fish in vinegar sauce, Songsao Shredded Fishsoup, etc.
Legend has it that "Beggar's chicken" was invented by a Hangzhou thief. The story goes that because the thief had no stove, he wrapped the stolen bird in clay and baked it in a hole in the ground; another version explains that he was a hungry thief who found a way to cook his bird and keep it and its aroma secret.

 

Anhui China Cooking

Anhui cuisine (Hui Cai for short), one of the eight most famous cuisines in China, features the local culinary arts of Huizhou. It comprises the specialties of South Anhui, Yanjiang and Huai Bei. The highly distinctive characteristic of Anhui cuisine lies not only in the elaborate choices of cooking materials but also in the strict control of cooking process.
Most ingredients in Anhui cuisine, such as pangolin, stone frog, mushroom, bayberry, tea leaves, bamboo shoot, dates, games, etc., are from mountain area. Huangshan Mountain has abundant products for dish cooking. Huangshan Chukka has tender flesh and a sweet taste. It can be boiled in clear soup or braised in soy sauce. The dishes help relieve internal fever and build up vital energy. The white and tender bamboo shoots produced on Huangshan Mountain can be made into very delicious food. Xianggu, a kind of top-grade mushroom grows on old trees, is also very tasty.
Anhui cuisine chefs pay more attention to the taste, color of dishes and the temperature to cook them, and are good at braising and stewing. They are experts especially in cooking delicacies from mountains and sea. Anhui dishes preserve most of the original taste and nutrition of the materials. Generally the food here is slightly spicy and salty. Some master dishes usually stewed in brown sauce with stress on heavy oil and sauce. Ham is often added to improve the taste and sugar candy added to gain freshness.
High up on the menu are stewed soft shell turtle with ham, Huangshan braised pigeon, steamed stone frog, steamed rock partridge, stewed fish belly in brown sauce, bamboo shoots cooked with sausage and dried mushroom, etc.
1. Stewed soft shell turtle with ham
One whole soft shell turtle, pork, ham, bamboo shoots, a clove of garlic, shallot, ginger, soy sauce, salt, rice wine, black pepper, lard are all stewed together in a pot on charcoal fire. The dish is not greasy and can lead diners to endless aftertastes.
2. Steamed stone frog
Inhabited in caves, stone frog is a special product in Huangshan Mountain. It weights 250 grams or so, whose belly is white and back black with stripe. Stone frog is rich in protein, calcium and so on. It has the functions of clearing heat, improving vision and nutrition. It is one of the best exotic dishes from mountains.
3. Bamboo shoots cooked with sausage and dried mushroom
It is one traditional flavor in Huizhou mountainous area. Cooked with sausage and dried mushrooms, the bamboo shoots are more fragrant. It is delicious, and noted for its good color, juicy meat and thick soup.
4. Li Hongzhang Hotchpotch
Li Hongzhang hotchpotch is a popular dish named after one of Anhui's famous personages. Li Hongzhang was a top official of the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). When he was in office, he paid a visit to the US and hosted a banquet for all his American friends. As the specially prepared dishes continued to flow, the chefs, with limited resources, began to fret. Upon Li Hongzhang's order, the remaining kitchen ingredients were thrown together into an impromptu stew, containing sea cucumber, squid, tofu, ham, mushroom, chicken meat and other less identifiable food materials! Thus appetites were quenched and a dish was created.