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The 8 Great Cuisines of China 八大菜系

There are many styles of cooking in China, but Chinese chefs have identified eight culinary traditions as the best.These have set the course of how Chinese cook food, and are looked to as models. Each of these schools has a distinct style and different strengths.

The Features of the Eight Great Cuisines of China

  • Shandong Cuisine: fresh and salty with a lot of seafood dishes.

  • Sichuan and Hunan cuisines: hot spice.

  • Guangdong (Cantonese), Zhejiang, Jiangsu cuisines: great seafood, and generally sweet and light flavours.

  • Anhui and Fujian cuisines: inclusion of wild foods from their mountains.

1. Guangdong/Cantonese Cuisine

Making a great variety of soup is a feature of Cantonese cuisine.

  • Chinese: 粤菜 Yuècài

  • Sweeter, favouring braising and stewing, adding various mild sauces

Cantonese food is the most popular style internationally. Guangdong Province and Hong Kong are noted for fine seafood dishes and rice dishes

2. Sichuan  Cuisine 

  • Chinese: 川菜 Chuāncài

  • Spicy and bold, often mouth-numbing, using lots of chili, garlic, ginger, and peanuts

Sichuan Province produced the most widely served cuisine in China. Their dishes are famous for their hot-spicy taste and the numbing flavour of Sichuan peppercorn that is rare in other regional cuisines. It is the food of Chengdu and Chongqing (which used to be part of Sichuan).

3. Jiangsu Cuisine

Su cuisine features sweet foods. Sweet and sour spare ribs is a famous dish from Jiangsu.

  • Chinese: 苏菜 Sūcài

  • Fresh, moderately salty and sweet, precise cooking techniques, favouring seafood, soups and artistic, colourful presentation

Jiangsu Province and China's biggest city, Shanghai, have a very refined gourmet cuisine that is often served at government banquets. 

4. Zhejiang Cuisine

  • Chinese: 浙菜 Zhècài

  • Mellow, using fresh seafood, freshwater fish, and bamboo shoots, and a wide variety of cooking methods.

Zhejiang Province is the province south of Jiangsu, and it borders on Shanghai too, so their style is similar to theirs, but it is less elaborately prepared. They focus more on serving fresh food. 

5. Fujian/Min Cuisine

  • Chinese: 闽菜 Mǐncài

  • Lighter, with a mild sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and the mountains

Fujian Province is known for great seafood and soups and the precise use of scintillating but not tongue numbing spices. Adding much wild exotic delicacies from the sea and mountains makes their dishes have unusual flavours. It is like a culinary wild adventure.

6. Hunan Cuisine

People in the Hunan region can't seem to live without chilies; no dish is complete without chilies in Hunan cuisine.

  • Chinese: 湘菜 Xiāngcài

  • Quite spicy, with a hot and sour taste, favouring sautéing, stir-frying, steaming and smoking

If you like Sichuan food, you'll probably like Hunan food too since it is even hotter. It is tastier and more delicious because they don't use peppercorn that numbs the mouth. 

7. Anhui  Cuisine

  • Chinese: 徽菜 Huīcài

  • Uses many wild plants and animals as ingredients, favouring stewing and more oil

Anhui cuisine is even wilder than Fujian cuisine. It is inland, and big mountains such as the Yellow Mountains are the source of lots of different wild foods and herbs. It is basically a hearty mountain peasant food. Some of the best dishes incorporate wild food for an unusual taste. Some dishes are sweet from added sugar.

8. Shandong Cuisine

  • Chinese: 鲁菜 Lǔcài

  • Salty and crispy, favouring braising and seafood

Shandong was one of the first civilised areas, and it set the pattern for northern styles of cooking. With a long coast, seafood is its forte.

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