There’s a lot to love about China. From the many beautiful sceneries to the great and ancient architecture, to the adorable giant pandas. You’ll also fall in love with its deep and rich culture and the experience of interacting with a large variety of people. But one thing that makes China such a popular destination is its food. Whether street food or fine dining, Chinese delicacies are renowned worldwide, but you haven’t enjoyed their cuisine until you’ve had it in China.
The food in China varies based on regions. Each region has different staples and dishes they are known for that are dependent on factors like climate. They each have a different way of preparing their dishes and the ingredients they use. These varieties of food can be grouped into major cuisines, that are recognized nationally and globally. In this post, we are going to look at what these cuisines entail and the regions they come from.
How Many Types of Cuisines Are There in China?
There are eight major cuisines in China from which Chinese their foods. Each cuisine has a distinct style and benefit. While some of the cuisines might not be as well known outside of China, they are those that are internationally praised and recognized. The following are the eight cuisines:
Sometimes it is called Guangdong, after the people and region where it originated from. This the most popular type of cuisine known worldwide. It incorporates almost any type of palatable meat but is mostly known for seafood and rice dishes. The major cooking techniques are stir-frying and steaming. The general flavor of these cuisine tends to be sweeter and milder than most. Its most notable dish is dim sum, usually served alongside tea either for breakfast or lunch.
This type of cuisine is known for its heavy use of oil and uses techniques such as quick-frying, stir-frying, smoking, and braising. It has four major specialized cooking styles. Ningbo involves seafood and is said to be saltier than most. Hangzhou is characterized by the use of bamboo shoots. Shaoxing whose specialty is fish and poultry and lastly the Xiao long bao style of making dumplings.
This type of cuisine is famous for its bold and spicy flavors. It’s known to use garlic, chili, ginger, and sometimes nuts in all of its dishes. The pepper usually uses in the Szechuan pepper that has an intense fragrance, unique taste, and numbing feeling. It often incorporates food that’s been preserved through salting, drying, or pickling.
Like Sichuan cuisine, this type of cuisine is also known for being spicy and hot. It however doesn’t have the numbing effect, Sichuan dishes have. The dishes are normally colored red and due to the dried chilies incorporated in each dish for the spicy flavor. The favored cooking techniques are steaming, smoking, and sautéing.
This cuisine is known for its colorful and artistic food presentation and the balance of flavor. The food is both moderately sweet and salty. The preferred cooking technique is braising and the food mostly tends to be soft and tender but not to the point of falling apart.
This cuisine is known for its seafood and soups. The dishes normally have a light and flavorful taste. Aside from seafood, the dishes also incorporate ingredients like bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Most tend to use wine in the dishes for the emphasis on umami and pickled taste.
This cuisine is similar to Jiangsu, only it has less emphasis on seafood and more on wild herbs and plants. Sometimes ham is added to the dish for additional flavor. The preferred cooking techniques are braising and steaming, hence the dishes have a light flavor.
Although not widely known outside of China, this cuisine is the most influential and has the longest history in China. The main styles in this cuisine are Jiaodong that specializes in light seafood dishes and Jinan which specializes in soup dishes. The favored cooking technique is normally slow braising and a salty flavor due to the use of salt and vinegar in most dishes. Also, unlike the other cuisines, it incorporates the most wheat-like noodles and rice in its dishes.
Which Provinces Have the 8 Famous Chinese Cuisines?
As we mentioned before, Chinese cuisine varies by region. The eight major cuisines we’ve discussed above are popular in various provinces in China, especially where the dish originated from. The following is a little insight into the provinces where you can find these 8 cuisines:
- Guangdong – this is a coastal province in South China. It’s where Cantonese cuisine originates from and is most popular.
- Zhejiang – this is another coastal province on the Eastern side of China. It is bordered by Shanghai and Jiangsu and is where the Zhejiang cuisine originated from and is most popular.
- Sichuan – this is a landlocked province in the southwest of China with four rivers passing through it. Aside from the Sichuan cuisine also known as Szechuan cuisine, the province is also famed for being the home to giant pandas.
- Hunan – another landlocked province in southern China famed as the birthplace of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. It is also the origin of the popular Hunan cuisine.
- Jiangsu – a coastal province north of Shanghai, loved for its elegance and beautiful classic gardens. It is also the origin of Jiangsu cuisine, where you go to enjoy food that’s not only delicious but visually appealing.
- Fujian – another coastal province in the Southeast of China famed for its coastal cities and mountains. It is also home to the delicious Fujian cuisine and the place to go if you’re looking for amazing seafood.
- Anhui – this landlocked province is located on the Eastern side of China. Aside from the infamous Anhui cuisine, the province is also home to the popular Huangshan mountains.
- Shandong – this eastern Chinese province is the second most populous one and one of the first areas to be civilized in China. It is where the Shandong cuisine originates from and is popularly enjoyed.
Now you know all eight of the major cuisines in China and where to find them. On your next trip to China be sure to stop by any one or more of the provinces and enjoy the delicacies they have to offer.