The Eight Culinary Cuisines of China & Recipes You Must Try

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Let’s Order Chinese food for today! This is the general terminology used when we think about Chinese Food but how many of us do really know that Chinese Cuisine is not about one style of cooking but there are a variety of techniques and regions that have been involved for a very long time. We have been introduced more towards Indo-Chinese cuisine to suit our Indian palate. Due do this, our usual assumption to Chinese food are only limited to Chow mein, Fried rice and Manchurian. 

The history of Chinese Cuisine has evolved depending on the variety of produce used and the changes in the cooking techniques. It is said that people in China always prefer to eat food by placing the dishes at the center of the table. Chopsticks were used only for cooking, stirring the food and picking up small food particles and never used as an eating utensil until now. So, Chinese cuisine has gone through a major change with regards to the practices and social customs.

After years of battle due to the differences in culinary techniques, finally, China ended up with 8 main culinary Traditional region.  The regions in China are called as “School” and they vary depending on their cooking method and the local produce.

Insight about each region:

Sichuan Cuisine 

The Sichuan Cuisine comes from the southwest region of China. It is popularly called the “Heavenly Country” because of the abundance of local produce and natural resources. The cuisines are known for its bold flavors such as the hot and spicy taste which mainly comes from the usage of garlic and most commonly known Sichuan pepper. There are also 4 sub- styles to this cuisine which have their own method of cooking. The most popular among them is the Chuan Cuisine.

  • The common flavors found are star anise, fennel, cinnamon, clove, and peppers.
  • The everyday ingredients used are poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetable, and tofu.
  • The cooking method that people usually follow in this region is Fast Frying, steaming, braising and baking so that they like to keep the texture of the ingredients intact.

Cantonese Cuisine 
The most widely consumed style of Chinese cuisine, originating from Guangdong province in the Southeastern part of China. It is popularly called as Yue cuisine. The Guangdong has been a trading port so therefore many imported ingredients are used in this cuisine. The Chefs having a Cantonese style always look for their dish to be well balanced and does not look greasy on the plate. The amount of spices that they use should also not overpower the flavors of the main ingredients that is being used.  The dish should speak for its freshness and the quality.
  • The flavors are subtle, commonly used spices are ginger, chili peppers, five-spice powder, black pepper, star.
  • The ingredients most commonly used are Soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, sesame oil, spring onion. In meats, they prefer using parts of offals like chicken feet, snails etc.,
  • The cooking method that they follow includes shallow frying, double steaming, braising and deep frying.

Hunan Cuisine
Popularly known as Xiang Cuisine, has hot and spicy flavors and even hotter than the region of Sichuan. As Sichuan cuisine uses Sichuan peppercorns to numb the palate, in Hunan cuisine the mixed vinegar with chili to increase the spiciness in the dish which stimulates the taste buds. By using vinegar in most of the dishes it helps in lowering the blood pressure and cholesterol levels too.
  • The flavors that are prominently used are chili peppers, garlic, and shallots.
  • The ingredients used are citrus fruits being one of their major crops, white rice is their staple food, and they prefer to eat seafood more.
  • The cooking method that is used is stewing, stir-frying, sautéing, baking, braising, smoking,pickling and fermenting.

Shandong Cuisine

One of the greatest traditional cuisine among others and is commonly called as Lu Cuisine. It is present in the northern coastal province of China. The cuisine is said to the first to be the civilized region in China. They mainly consume seafood and vegetables. Their dishes are not that oil because of the style of cooking in high heat which locks all the flavor.

  • The main flavors are the spices used which are relatively less, general spices are ginger and red peppers.
  • The ingredients mainly used are onions in most of their dish, soya bean products. Vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, mushroom, onions, eggplant, seaweed and cabbage.
  • The have mastered in cooking methods like quick frying (Bao),  quick frying with corn flour ( Liu), Stewing, roasting, boiling, using sugar to make fruit, crystallizing with honey. Their staple food includes wheat and other temperate grains and rice.

Jiangsu Cuisine 

This cuisine is less aware to people outside China as the food is refined and very Gourmet style. This is because the per capita income of the consumers of this cuisine is higher. The texture of the food in this cuisine is very soft but not to an extent where it becomes too mushy. The cuisine is dominated by consumption of the variety of seafood and even sea vegetables are one of their delicacies.

  • The flavors are simple and they do not add much seasoning to the dish.
  • The common ingredients used are more of lake produce such as water shield, lotus, Chinese chestnuts, winter bamboo shoots, water bamboo.
  • The common cooking methods are stewing, braising, simmering and keeping warm to preserve the original flavors.

Zhejiang Cuisine

This cuisine originates from the richest province on the pacific side. The cuisine prefers seafood but it is not spicy. As the city is known for its wealth the food is also very refined. The focus is not more towards colorful dish and less artistry. Food prepared is often raw and fresh and presented fresh.  The province is known mainly for the sweet confections which are mainly made from beans, rice, and wheat.

  • The flavors used are mainly from the usage of soy sauce.
  • The ingredients used are mainly seafood and sea vegetables.
  • The cooking methods are stir fried and steaming.

Fujian Cuisine 

This cuisine is from the Fuzhou region which is very lightly flavored, soft and tender in texture and emphasis more on umami taste. This is done to retain the original flavor instead of removing the raw flavor.  More attention is given to the knife skills which in turn changes the texture, aroma and enhances the flavor of the ingredient. Emphasis is given more into making the broth or soup.

  • The flavors are broadly divided depending upon the seasoning used: Salty seasoning – sea salt, shrimp sauce, shrimp oil and soy sauce. Sour seasoning – white vinegar Sweet seasoning – brown sugar, anise, cinnamon Hot seasoning – pepper, mustard
  • The ingredients used are mainly exotic such as edible mushroom, bamboo shoots, sea cucumbers, sea worms and peanuts.
  • The common cooking methods are pan frying, seep frying, and sautéing with wine, cooking with red rice wine, smoking, and salting.

Anhui Cuisine

It is one of the poorer inland province present in the west of Shanghai.  As the region is present in the mountain regions, the cuisine is mainly a comforting mountain type of peasant food. The ingredients used are very local to the place, it is very tasty, unique and healthy as a diet.

  • The ingredients used mainly are of wild food from both land sea. Delicacies like wild caught frogs, shrimps, turtles, wildly cultivated mushroom and fungi.
  • The cooking method that is being followed are is simple by braising and stewing.