Today, Chinese cuisine can be found nearly everywhere, whether it be slightly modified to fit certain cultural standards and behaviors. In many perspectives, people can argue that Chinese cuisine contains many of the world’s most flavorful and distinct dishes. Throughout China, the dishes and food you may find will vary depending on the region’s preferences and climate. China has “eight cuisines” of Anhui, Cantonese/Guangdong, Sichuan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan, Fujian/Min, and Shandong.
Anhui cuisine is known for its great use of herbs that you may find in both the sea and land. Anhui cuisine tends to focus on stewing and use of oil. The Anhui cuisine may be one of the lesser known cuisines, but some well known dishes may be the li hongzhang stew, a stew with ingredients that often depend on the season, or the luzhou roast duck.
Cantonese cuisine is the most well known and widely served cuisine of China. Most of the time when Westerners speak of Chinese food, they refer to Cantonese cuisine. Most of the dishes served are known to be quite sweet, mild, and fresh. Cantonese cuisine tends to favor the cooking methods stir frying and steaming. Some well known dishes would include gànchǎo niú hé, dry-fried beef and noodles, and yúchì gēng, known as shark fin soup.
Sichuan cuisine is known to be very hot and spicy. Often times, meats and veggies are seasoned with the famous Sichuan pepper. Fast frying is the most common used cooking method for Sichuan cuisine, but stir frying and steaming are also pretty popular. Known dishes will include the Sichuan hotpot and mapo tofu.
Jiangsu cuisine, like Anhui cuisine, isn’t that well known, but it once used to be very popular with ancient Chinese royals. Jiangsu cuisine tends to have dishes revolving around seafood and is known for its fresh, salty and sweet flavors. Some known dishes would include xīguā jī, watermelon chicken, and sōngshǔ guìyú, sweet and sour mandarin fish.
Like Jiangsu cuisine, Zhejiang cuisine also greatly revolves around seafood. When eating the dishes, you also tend to realize that Zhejiang cuisine does not involve much spice and is known for its mellow taste. Dishes found in Zhejiang cuisine also tend to be considered very refined due to its wealthy and sophisticated influences. One known dish of Zhejiang cuisine would include xīhú cù yú, west lake fish in vinegar gravy.
Like Sichuan cuisine, Hunan cuisine is also known for the spicy adventures it leaves behind in your mouth. Dishes tend to be spicy, sour, salty, or a good balance of all three flavors. Some popular cooking methods among Hunan chefs are fermenting, smoking, and stir-frying. Some dishes known from Hunan cuisine are málàzǐ jī, spicy chicken, and hóng wēi yúchì, roasted shark’s fin.
Fujian cuisine, also known as Min cuisine, revolves mostly around seafoods and soups. Dishes tend to be light, sour, and sweet. Fujian cuisine can date back to five thousand years ago. Seafood in Fujian cuisine can involve things that Westerners have never seen or imagined. For example, the cuisine may serve sea worms or snails. Some well known dishes include suān là làn yóuyú, hot and sour squid, and tàijí míng xiā, prawns.
Shandong cuisine, also known as Lu cuisine, revolves around seafood and vegetables and is referred to as the most traditional of Chinese cuisines. Often times, the dishes are fried in high temperatures in order to “lock” flavors in. One known dish from Shandong cuisine is dézhōu pá jī, Dezhou grilled chicken.