REGIONAL CHINESE FOOD
Kung Pao Chicken in LondonFood in China varies from province to province. The four main styles of Chinese cooking are Beijing, Cantonese, Sichuan, and Shanghai. Other well-known regional Chinese cuisines include Chaochou, Fujian, Mongolian, and Hunan styles.
Chinese cuisine is generally categorized as either "northern" or "southern." Northern dishes are typically oily, flavored strongly with vinegar and garlic, and often feature noodles or dumplings. Peking, Tientsin and Shantung are the best known northern styles. The food eaten at home in northern China features a lot of cabbage and potatoes. Noodles are more common in the north than rice because wheat grows better in northern China than rice.
Southern Chinese cuisine often features stir-fried dishes and rice. Spicy Sichuan (Szechuan) and Hunan cooking, Chekiang cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh and tender ingredients, and Cantonese food are all examples of southern styles.
Good Websites and Sources: Good Academic site on regional cuisines kas.ku.edu ;shanghaifinance.com ; China.org Foof Guide china.org ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; Anhui Dishes China Vista ; Xinjiang cuisine China Vista ; Beijing dishes China Vista ; Cantonese Dishes China Vista ; Helongjiang dishes China Vista ; Fujian dishes China Vista ; Hunan cuisine China Vista ; Shanxi dishes China Vista ; Shandong dishes China Vista ; Sichuan dishes China Vista ; Yunnan dishes China Vista ; Zhejiang dishes China Vista
Food in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Eating China Blog eatingchina.com/blog ; Chinese Government site china.org.cn; China Tour.com chinatour.com ; Open Directory List dmoz.org ; Nice Chinese Food Blog nicechinesefood.com ;Wikipedia article on History of Chinese Food Wikipedia ; Chopstix chopstix.com ; Asia Recipe asiarecipe.com ; Chinese Food Recipes chinesefood-recipes.com Food Tours in China: Infohub Infohub ; China Highlights China Highlights . There are more listings if you google “Food Tours in China.” Chinese Food History: Wikipedia article on History of Chinese Food Wikipedia ; Qing Food China Vista ; Ming Food China Vista ; China.org Imperial Food Guide china.org ; Books: Beyond the Great Wall; Recipes and Travels in the other China by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 2008) features travel stories, political analysis and recipes from Tibet, Xinjiang, Guizhou, Inner Mongolia and other places off the beaten track in China.
Links in this Website: FOOD IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MEAT, VEGETABLES, SWEETS AND FRUIT Factsanddetails.com/China ; RICE, TOFU, DUMPLINGS AND NOODLES Factsanddetails.com/China ; REGIONAL CHINESE FOOD Factsanddetails.com/China ; RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEIRD FOODS IN CHINA NO. 1 Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEIRD FOODS IN CHINA NO. 2 Factsanddetails.com/China ; FOOD SAFETY IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EATING AND DRINKING CUSTOMS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China
Main Cuisine Families of China
China is a country with a long history, vast territory, and multiple ethnic groups. Because of differences in climate, production, customs, cooking raw material, cooking methods and people's tastes many local styles of cuisine have formed. Local cuisines have generally developed progressively on the basis of local dishes augmented and influenced by cooking characteristics of different regions and nationalities. For example, Beijing cuisine combines the dishes of Manchu nationality, Meng nationality, Hui nationality, and Han nationality. In addition, main cuisine families are often broken down into several branches. For example, Guangdong cuisine includes Guangzhou, Chaozhou and Dongjiang dishes. How many cuisine families are there in China? Opinions vary a lot. There are generally acknowledged to be four major cuisine families, namely Sichuan cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Guangdong cuisine and Jiangsu cuisine. The other famous ones include Beijing cuisine, Shanghai cuisine, Fujian cuisine, Hunan cuisine, Zhejiang cuisine and Anhui cuisine. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]
"Sichuan cuisine" describes dishes mostly from Chengdu but also Chongqing, Leshan, Jiangjin, and Hechuan. Sichuan cuisine tends to use chicken, duck, and meat rather than fish. The main flavoring includes brood-bean sauce, hot pepper, Chinese prickly ash, red oil, mashed garlic, dried orange peel, and aromatic vinegar. The basic characteristics of the taste are sour, sweet, rough, hot, fragrant, heavily oiled, and strong flavor. The major cooking techniques include frying, frying without oil, pickling and braising. Some traditional famous dishes are Smoked Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork and Mapo Dofu. ~
"Lu cuisine" is an abbreviation for Shangdong dishes, mainly developed from the local dishes in Jinan and Jiaodong. It features careful selection of ingredients, fine cutting and slicing skills, and moderate flavor. The cooking methods include deep-frying, grilling, pan-frying, stir-frying, stewing and braising. The main flavors are salty, sour, hot, fragrant, with spring onions and garlic. The color of the cuisine is bright and usually yellow or purplish red. Traditional dishes include Jiuzhuan Large Intestine, Tang Bao Shuang Chui, Dezhou Braised Chicken, Milk Soup and Fish Maw. ~
"Yue cuisine" describes Guangdong dishes and embraces local dishes from Guangzhou, Chaozhou, and Dongjiang. Its basic characteristics include meticulous material selection and various characteristic raw materials and flavoring. Basic raw materials cover not only chicken, duck, fish and shrimps, but also wild animals, such as snake, racoon dog and monkey as well as dogs and occasionally cats. The main cooking methods are frying and stewing. The cuisine is well-known for its clean, light, crisp and fresh taste. Some typical menu items are Roasted Piglet, Salted Chicken, Fried Crisp Chicken and Oyster Sauce Beef. ~
"Su cuisine" describes Jiangsu dishes, including local dishes from Yangzhou, Nanjing, and Suzhou, which are near Shanghai. It features rigorous selection of materials, exquisite cooking, harmonious color matching, and handsome modeling. Su cuisine often features fresh river fish, lake crab, and vegetables. Its cooking methods include stewing, braising, steaming, burning, frying, and emphasizes the making of exquisite soup. Highlighted flavors have been described as fresh, slippery, soft, fat but not oily, light but not thin. The traditional dishes include Crabmeat Meatball, Squirrel with Mandarin Fish, Poached Crucian, Braised Chub Head, Crisp Eel, Phoenix Chicken, Steamed Gansi. ~
Shanghai is famous for its fish and seafood dishes. Shanghai people love fish and crabs from rivers not the sea, plus they like to cook fish when it is alive. Incorporating cooking styles from other provinces, Shanghai dishes are made from steamed or stewed meat or seafood with heavy seasonings, often cooked with a brown sauce that is slightly oily, lightly spiced and slightly sweet.
Shanghai specialties include fried freshwater crab with red beans; braised carp in sweet brown sauce; braised abalone; beggar's chicken; paper wrapped chicken; sweet and sour spare ribs; West Lake fish; prawns in tomato sauce; Eight Treasure duck; salted fish with bamboo shoots and mushrooms; dancing crab (marinated and sautéed crab in pepper sauce); bullfrog; and braised beef. Popular Shanghai snacks include steamed rice stuffed in a lotus leaf; pot stickers (pan fried buns); steamed dumplings filled with pork, mushroom and scallions; and crab and pork dumplings.
Shanghai is famous for its freshwater crabs. Regarded as an autumn, winter and cold weather delicacy, the crabs are indigenous to rivers and lakes in the Shanghai and Kuangchou regions and are raised in fish farm ponds, often filled with Yangtze River water. In markets the crabs are sold live with their legs bound together with rubber bands. Smaller crabs are said to be tastier than large ones. Freshwater crabs are said toe tastiest in October or November. See Fish and Seafood, Different Foods
Offering a guest some fresh crab is regarded as the best possible form of hospitality in Shanghai. A banquet featuring Shanghai fresh water "hairy crab" from the Yangtze River can set one back $1,000 or more.
Chinese not only eat the meat the also enjoy consuming the crab innards (known as kanimiso), which is found under the carapace. The eggs of females are also eaten. Much of the time the crab is prepared in a bamboo steamer. The carapace is opened by hand and the meat and kanimiso are plucked out with chopsticks and dipped in soy sauce with vinegar and ginger.
Drunken crabs is a specialty that needs to be ordered in advance. The crabmeat and roe are soaked in Chinese wine-based marinade for at least four days. The marinade includes crushed garlic, ginger, leeks, pepper, sugar and star anise. After the soaking the meat and roe take on a gelatinous texture and have a rich, sweet, peppery taste.
Cantonese cuisine is known for its subtle flavors and fresh ingredients and the lightness and variety of the lightly spiced but colorful dishes, which are often stir-fried to preserve the texture and flavor. Cantonese dim sum and seafood are popular throughout the world. A Cantonese meal can range from a quick snack from a food stall to an elaborate 12-course banquet, featuring delicacies such as shark fin soup, abalone, bird's nest soup, roast suckling pig, and deep-fried prawn paupiette.
Cantonese cooking features a lot of rice and fresh vegetables. Food is parboiled, steamed, or quickly stir fried. The Cantonese love seafood, and freshness is of the utmost importance. According to a popular Cantonese saying "if it doesn't move, we don't eat it." Most seafood restaurants have tanks filled with fish and other sea creatures, with patrons picking out what they want and telling the waiters how they want it prepared. Cantonese prefer their fish steamed, which they say brings out freshness. Fish is also grilled, poached, fried and broiled.
In many ways what the world knows as Chinese food is Cantonese cuisine. Popular Cantonese dishes include sweet and sour pork, shark fin soup, bird's nest soup, barbecued pork ribs, diced chicken with walnuts, slow-cooked soup, roast goose in pickled plums, Cantonese stuffed bean curd,prawns in chili sauce, roast pork ribs, steamed chicken in peanut oil, fried prawns with salt, and diced beef with garlic.
Dim Sum Siu Maai
Popular seafood dishes are made with prawns, garoupa (a white, meaty, slightly sweet fish), squid, and octopus. They include fried octopus, steamed prawns in garlic sauce, steamed garoupa with ginger and scallions, fried shrimp balls, baked lobster with cheese sauce, three-colored lobster and dragon and tiger fight. Abalone, crab and lobster are often extremely expensive. Favorite deserts include fresh melon and rice flour coconut balls.
The Winter Solstice Festival (“Dongzhi”) is an important festival in China typically celebrated on or around December 22nd. This tradition dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) when both government officials and commoners would have a day to reunite with their families. In southern China, particularly Hong Kong, the Winter Solstice Festival is a time for family members to meet, gather for dinner, and have tangyuan, a type of small dumpling made of glutinous rice flour and stuffed with either a peanut paste, red bean paste, or sesame paste. Due to the round shape of these dumplings and of the serving bowls, tangyuan symbolizes togetherness, fullness, and completeness—things associated with the Winter Solstice Festival. [Source: YestoCooking.com. December 21, 2012]
Chaochou cuisine is food from Chachou, a district within Canton province known for its own unique style. Chaochou food has been described as gutsy and hearty, and chefs from the region pride themselves on their vegetable-carving skills. Designs of flowers, birds and dragon are featured at many Chaochou-style banquets. Favorite Chaochou dishes include shark fin soup, steamed goose in soy sauce and various seafood dishes. Chaochou restaurants usually stay open late.
People from Guangzhou and Guangdong are also famous for having a fondness for eating wild animals, which they like to eat fresh. See Weird Food
Dim sum restaurants in southern China feature goodies wheeled around on carts from table to table by a dim sum maids. Dim sum chefs often prepare 40 to 70 different items, including Western favorites such as shrimp dumplings (hargau), open faced pork dumplings, sui mai (steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce), char siu bau (sweet barbecued pork), steamed spare ribs, meat dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings, rice and chicken in a lotus leaf, spare ribs with a special sauce, steamed rolls with chicken, and chicken legs steamed with black beans. Many are served in small bamboo steamers
Also features are things like fresh rice-flour crepes filled with minced meat and steamed vegetables; football-shaped dumplings made with rice-flour dough stuffed with minced pork, shrimp and vegetables; steamed shrimp dumplings with shrimp and minced bamboo enclosed in a wheat-starch wrapper; roast pork buns made with sweet bread filled with sliced roast pork; assorted meats such as Chinese sausage, roast pork, and diced shrimp wrapped and steamed in lotus leaves with and sticky rice.
Among those favored by Chinese are fish balls, jellyfish skins, sea snails, beef tendons, duck tongues, chicken feet, chewy beef tripe, turnip cakes, steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce; green tea balls with black sesame paste and pigs intestines. Foremost among dim sum sweets is daan-taat (a tart filled with baked egg custard)
Dim sum means “heart’s delight” in Cantonese and is known in southern Chinese as yum cha (meaning tea time). The dishes and snacks are often eaten with tea. Aficionados put as much care into selecting the right tea, with many selecting a pu-he, chrysanthemum or oolong variety.
Skilled dim sum chefs like to experiment, dream up new dishes and give them color ful names like “Blooming Flower for Good Luck.” Sometimes they flip through nature magazines for inspiration. Describing a dim sum chef from Taishan in Guangdong, Walter Nichols wrote in the Washington Post, “Working quickly, using the side of a Chinese cleaver, he flattens one ball of each color of dough into a three-inch disk. The disks are then layered together, and a glob of sticky lotus paste is centered on the top of the disk. Tucking and trimming the dough into a ball that encloses the paste. Ruan uses a razor blade to secure the dough, then gently pulls back layers to form the lotus flowers.”
Soup Dumplings and Other Favorites from Northeast China
Reporting from a restaurant in Tianjin famous for its soup dumplings, Seiichiro Takeuchi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Chinese dumplings are called baozi in China and are a daily food for Chinese people. Goubli, an old restaurant established in Tianjin in 1858, is regarded as the national brand. The bun, only five centimeters in diameter, is visually appealing. When you bite into it, pork soup with the scent of ginger fills your mouth. Its filling, seasoned with soy sauce, is encased with the thick skin. Great skill is required to quickly wrap up the bun by creating about 20 ruffles to seal in the center. “At the restaurant, this cooking procedure is entrusted only to skilled staff,” a 25-year-old employee said at Goubli’s main restaurant. The restaurant serves a set of eight kinds of dumplings with a variety of fillings such as meat, seafood and vegetables for 120 yuan (about $10).” Tianjin is a couple hours by train from Beijing. [Source: Seiichiro Takeuchi, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 27, 2015]
Reporting from Shenyang in northeast China, Kazuhiko Makita wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Spring pancakes” are a dish that serves up such tasty fillings as stir-fried vegetables, meat and eggs wrapped inside of a lightly baked, crepe-like flour shell. Called chunbing in Chinese, the traditional food is commonly found in the northeastern part of China. As “chun” means spring and “bing” means pancake, the dish is customarily eaten on Lichun, the holiday marking the beginning of spring. [Source: Kazuhiko Makita, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 25, 2014]
Chunbing Dawang Zongdian, a restaurant in central Shenyang, is always crowded with locals. The restaurant’s standard fillings for the dish are jingjiangrousi, shredded pork sauteed in a salty-sweet fermented soybean paste, which costs 24 yuan (about $3.50) and stir-fried bean sprouts and scallions, which are priced at 14 yuan (about $2.25) The fillings are richly flavored so that they are delicious when eaten wrapped inside thin flour shells that are individually baked in the kitchen. The restaurant offers about 30 different kinds of fillings for the dish. The best part of spring pancakes is ordering a wide variety of fillings and enjoying different tastes by selecting fillings from the plates that are spread out all over the table.Speech
Peking Cuisine is famous for its freshness, tenderness, mild seasoning and use of many ingredients. Typical dishes include celestial beef, noodles, steamed dumplings, various kinds of steamed buns and baked bean curd.
Peking duck is one of the best known Chinese dishes. The duck is marinated many hours, skin-roasted in a special oven, carved up into pieces that are rolled up in paper-thin pancakes with spring onions or leeks and hoisin sauce or plum sauce. Sometimes the meat is wrapped in doughy sesame buns rather than pancakes. The meat is very rich.
Peking duck was reportedly invented 1,200 years ago in the Tang capital of Chang'an when two nobleman put live ducks in an iron cage that was placed over a charcoal fire. As the temperature rose the thirsty ducks drank from a bowl, accidently placed before them, filled with a mixture of vinegar, salt, honey, malt and ginger, and kept drinking the mixture until they died. The noblemen ate the ducks and were delighted with the taste. The flavor of the meat was delicious because the duck had been poached their own sweat and the ingredients in the mixture.
The ducks used to make Peking Duck are 35 days old and have been fattened for the last 10 days when they are slaughtered. Properly prepared Peking duck is roasted in an apricot-wood-fired oven for one hour and 15 minutes and cut up with a giant clever at the diner's table. Diners are first presented with a plate of crispy skin and meat then a platter of moist duck meat. Sometimes the pancakes arrive in a bamboo steamer. Usually they arrive piled on a plate. Diners place some meat on the pancake along with hoisin sauce, salt and scallions or cucumbers and roll it up and pop it in their mouthes.
Other popular duck dishes include wind duck, made by air curing ducks outside in the winter for several months; juicy pepper-and-salt roast duck; duck and chestnut soup; and duck wings in sweet and sour barbecue sauce
Mongolian hot pot is a traditional winter dish consisting of frozen bean curd, bean flour noodles, beef and mutton cooked with other ingredients and spices in a hot pot in boiling oil and broth. In hot pot restaurants, customers often cook the ingredients in their own individual pots or a pot eaten collectively by a group that is heated by a burner under the table. When the ingredients are ready you pluck them out of the pot with your chopsticks and dip them in a tasty sauce and eat them. Hot pot was created by nomads on the steppes of Mongolia. A Mongolian barbecue---an American invention---consists of meat, poultry and vegetables picked by the customer and then cooked on a big grill.
Hot pot is summer dish in Sichuan, and the hotter it is---both in terms of temperature and spiciness---the better. The idea is that if you eat a very hot dish, it will make you sweat and keep you cool. One man at a hot pot restaurant in Chongqing told the New York Times, "If you want to get cool, you have to get hot."
Hot pot in Sichuan is made in an iron pot filled with boiling oil and hot chili peppers. Ingredients include pig's or cow’s brains, cow's throat, calf's liver, seaweed, vegetables and most anything that a cook wants throw in. Pig's blood is often added to give it body. Sometimes the selections are dipped fondue-like into the pot.
According to local lore, Sichuan hot pot developed in the 19th century in Chongqing, where laborers who pulled river boats upstream on the Yangtze River were based. The laborers were poorly paid and lived in camps. The first hot pots were pots placed on campfires and filled with water and whatever the laborers threw in.
Hot pot restaurants resembles saunas in which eating is allowed and are packed when the temperatures rise above 100̊F in the middle of the summer. They generally have no air conditioning and each table has hearth that emits heat like a small furnace. One of the diners said "There is no way you can feel hot when you leave here, because every place else feels cool.”
Describing the inside of the Jin Jianglan Hot Pot restaurant in Chongqing, Seth Faison wrote in the New York Times, "Meng and his pals took of their shirts and hung them on a hook on the wall, as though it were time to get down to business, which in this case simply meant eating and sweating. So accustomed are they to the ritual, however, that none of the friends showed more than a thin bead of forehead perspiration until well into the meal."
Hunan cuisine is considered to be the best and spiciest in China. Similar to Szechuan cuisine but oilier and richer, Hunan dishes are often spiced with garlic and scallions, and have a hot and sour, or sweet and sour taste. The original sweet and sour sauce is said to have come from Hunan. The Hunan region has traditionally been known for bountiful harvests and large numbers of wild animals.
Common spices include fresh star anise, fennel seed, coriander, chili bean paste, garlic and a wide variety of chilies and peppers that are used to enliven mundane things like mashed eggplant and smoked and cured meat. Many dishes have distinctive “two-layer” sauces and are prepared through steaming, pot roasting or “slow” cooking. Watch out for the “strange flavor” sauces. They can be quite intense and make a beer drunken after eating them taste like water.
Popular Hunan dishes include minced pork in cantaloupe (pork and scallions steamed in a half cantaloupe); honey ham (sliced raw ham steamed with honey and black dates; and steamed again with sugar and served with bread). Exotic Hunan dishes are made from frog's legs, turtle, duck, tripe, and sea cucumbers. One dish that doesn’t sound very good but is said to be quite tasty is steamed fish heads in chili sauce. Soup and vegetables are usually served with meals, and often there is no rice or noodles.
Sichuan (Szechuan) is famous for its spicy, oily and richly-flavored dishes made from chicken, pork, shellfish and river fishes and featuring sauces made with hot Sichuan peppers, star anise, garlic, scallions, fennel seed, rice wine, soy, ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy bean pastes and Sichuan Well Salt (a distinctly flavored salt mined in Sichuan in places such as Ziyong)
Sichuan dishes are often are quite salty and are spiced with tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper (derived from peppercorns from a prickly ash tree) and are known for their multiple rather than singular flavors. It is said that within Sichuan cooking there are 23 flavors and 56 cooking methods. Fragrant, Sichuanese dan dan noodles are best when ma la (“hot and numbing”).
Sichuan cooking has been famous in China for centuries. One ancient document traces its origin back to the 7th century B.C.. A multi-volume Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) record catalogued 1,328 Sichuan dishes. The liberal use of spices dates back to a time when the poor consumed things like chicken feet, fish heads and intestines and used hot peppercorns and other seasonings to mask the taste. A good book on authentic Sichuan cooking is Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fushsia Dunlop (W.W. Norton & Co., 2003).
Sichuan dishes are difficult to prepare at home because they often employ numerous steps. Smoked duck, for example, is flavored with peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and coriander, marinated for 24 hours, steamed for two hours, and finally smoked over a fire made with charcoal, camphor wood and tea leaves.
Among the popular spicy Szechuan dishes are chicken with peanuts; stir-fried chicken and hot sauce; sizzling rice and chicken; eggplant Szechuan style; squid rolls with dried pepper; chicken baked in salt and served with peanut oil sauce; salt-baked chicken livers; stir-fried pork and hot sauce; dan dan noodles (noodles, pork cooked in a hot sauce); ma po dofu (a famous Chengdu dish made with dried tofu, and a hot sauce made with chilies and Sichuan peppers); hot and sour soup (filled with Sichuan pickles and strips of pork), spicy tea mushrooms pork pot; red hot sesame noodles; duck smoked in camphor and tea; Man and Wife meat slices; Pockmarked Lady’s bean curd; crispy roast duck, and Husband and Wife pork lung slices.
Singing the Praises of Sichuan Cuisine
Facing heaven chili Victor Paul Borg wrote in the China Daily, On a trip to China in July 2014, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel...learned to cook gongbao jiding (diced chicken cooked with peanuts, chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns) from a cook in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Presumably, Merkel's gesture was aimed at using food as a cultural bridge between the West and the East... Another reason could be the eminence of Sichuan cuisine. [Source: Victor Paul Borg, China Daily, July 12, 2014 |::|]
“I may be biased because I have lived in Sichuan, but after years of traveling and writing about food extensively I can say that Sichuan cuisine is probably the most varied and creative in the world. Sichuan cuisine owes its variety to its diverse topography and amenable climate that have fostered the farming of an impressive and rich range of spices and vegetables. Not for nothing was Chengdu honored by UNESCO as a food heritage city a few year ago. |::|
“Yet Sichuan cuisine is relatively unknown in the West... Cantonese cuisine continues to dominate the Chinese restaurant scene in the West, although many now also serve dishes from other regions, particularly the ever-popular Peking Duck and some Sichuan fair such as mapo toufu and gongbao jiding. Yet another thing that the West can learn from China is how to acquire a taste for different parts of animals, fowls, plants and vegetables. For example, people in Sichuan eat the leaves of the pea plant, and use almost all the organs and parts of animals and fowls to prepare dishes - a commendable practice to prevent waste at a time when food production can hardly keep up with population growth. Perhaps when another eminent Westerner visits China, he or she will try one of my favorite dishes: fried duck's tongue, a premium dish in many upscale Sichuan restaurants, or even duck's brain, which tastes as good as foie gras.” |::|
Fujian and Guanxi Cuisine
Fujian cuisine (Taiwanese Cuisine) is dominated by seafood and noted for its large variety of soups. Influenced by cooking-styles from Japan, it is often served at restaurants with large tanks containing live shrimps, lobsters, crabs and fish, with customers often choosing the particular fish or sea creature they want.
Fujian cooking is also known as “Min food” and is the most common type of cuisine found in Taiwan. It is generally light, simple, easy-to-prepare and liberally spiced with ginger and frequently cooked in pork fat. Fujian soups are usually made with seafood, turtle, shark's fin or clams. The seasonings are sweet and mild. One flavoring unique to the region is the so-called “red distillers grain”---glutinous rice fermented for more than a year with red yeast in special container. It has a sharp sweet and sour flavor.
Favorite Fujian dishes include steamed rice with crab; raw fish and shellfish wrapped around pickles; crispy pork in the shape of lychee balls; flash-boiled squid in chicken soup; yeast cakes preserved in jelly; and Buddha Jumps Over a Wall. The latter is a rich soup that gets its name form an old saying: “It was so tasty that a monk learned to jump over a wall to get his share.” Nickle-size Fujian wontons are served in a clear soup. “smooth fish” features finely chopped white fish mixed with potato flour and dropped pinch by pinch into the soup. [Source: Taiwan Guide, International Travel Press]
Guangxi lies in subtropical region with plentiful rain. A wide variety of livestock, fruit and vegetables are produced there the year round. These including the duck and Shanhuang chicken from the plains; Palea steindachneri, bamboo rat and a variety of wild mushrooms from hilly areas; and fresh oysters, prawns, mud crab from marine areas. Among the well-known staple and specialty products are HuanJiang Dishes, Bama miniature pigs, Lianjiang squid, Guilin Water Chestnut, LiPu taro, GuiGang lotus root, dried tangerine peel, star anise, cinnamon, and mangosteens. Some of these are essential ingredients for Gui dishes.
Gui dishes are divided into Northern Gui, Southeast Gui, coastal cuisine and ethnic dishes. Northern Gui food is known for its rich taste, strong color, stews and spicyness. Southeast Gui dishes stress fresh and tender, use a wide range of materials. Coastal food stress seasoning and color and of foods and feature several kinds of seafood. Ethnic dishes are made from local materials and emphasize affordable and unique methods of cooking.
Zhejiang and Jiangsu Cuisine
Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces---known as yu mi zhi xiang (“land of fish and rice”) for their soil, water and climate---are famous in China for their regional cuisines. One Hangzhou chef told The New Yorker, “Our flavors are as varied as the Sichuanese, but they tend to be light and bright, without the heavy spiciness. We emphasize regional produce, and the essential tastes of raw materials.”
Zhejiang and Jiangsu dishes use little oil, salt sugar or starch and not surprisingly are regarded as very healthy.
shrimp mango rice
Jiangsu Cuisine is known for its sweet, vinegar-laced lake and river fish, shellfish and rice dishes. Famous dishes include West Lake fish in vinegar (made with a live fish thrown in the stewing pot), a soft shell turtle stew known as "The King Bid Farewell to his Consort,” Nanjing pressed-salted duck and squirrel-shaped mandarin Fish.
Zhejiang Cuisine is known for its light-tasting, delicately-seasoned seafood and vegetable soups and dishes. Among the important ingredients are sugar, rice wine, bamboo shoots and distiller’s grain vinegars. Zhenjiang favorites include Sour West Lake fish, steam-fried yellow croaker and wild mushroom casserole in a fragrant broth, Longjing shelled shrimps, spring bamboo shoots braised in oil, Yangzhou fried rice, and glutinous rice balls.
Cuisine from Central China
Shandong Cuisine is salty and uses a lot of spring onions and garlic and soy sause. Seafood dishes, clear soups, offal dishes and sweet and sour flavorings are common. Popular dishes include stir-fried clams and braised abalone, bird’s nest soup, shredded chicken and sea cucumber with meatballs The dish associated most with Shandong is Yellow River carp in sweet and sour sauce made with carp from the Zhengzhou region of the Yellow River.
Shandong dumplings are fat and round. Qingdao, a city in Shandong, features dumplings with a slightly bitter taste produced by thistle tops.
Anhui Cuisine is known for mixing the cuisines of the regions that surround it: hot and spicy from Sichuan, oily and sweet from Jiangsu and salty from Shandong. Small pieces of sugared candy and salted foods are often used as spices. Many famous dishes are made with stone frogs and soft-shelled turtles. Famous dishes include Huangshan Fragrant Fish, Bagong Mountain tofu rolls, Three Rivers gumbo, stewed soft-shell turtle with sweet ham and steamed Huangshan Stone Frog. Henan-style noodles with ruffled edges served in lamb broth with lily bulbs.
Cuisine from Western China
Yunnan Dishes include crispy beef rolls, baked mushrooms, dishes made with caterpillar fungus, chicken soup in a steam pot and dishes made with four different kinds of Yunnan mushrooms. There are a number of weird fods from Yunnan. See Weird Food.
Western Chinese Dishes include jiaozi (stuffed dumplings), lamb kebabs, nang (flat loaves of bread), spicy Xinjiang chicken, lamb, cucumbers with red peppers, cumin-seasoned lamb kebabs, griddle-baked sesame bread, mushrooms and white fungus, zhang cha yazi (excellent chili duck smoked in jasmine tea, rubbed with rice wine, and air dried). Among the typical Muslim dishes are mutton, eggplant, mixed vegetables, steamed bread and rice. Grapes and variety of melons are consumed.
Northeast Chinese dishes include frozen melons, bread, vanilla ice cream, stewed moose nose with mushroom, Mongolian hot pot, "yellow flower" (chopped lily stalks), white fungus soup, monkey-leg mushrooms, Harbin potato-eggplant salad, pheasant shashlik. Near Russia dishes made with fatty meat, potatoes, rice gruel, stuffed cabbage, and green peppers covered in gravy are available.
Tibetan Food eaten by ordinary Tibetans consists primarily of barley gruel, Tibetan dumplings and yak butter tea. Dishes featured at Tibetan restaurants are often made with grilled yak meat, melon, squash, wood-ear fungus, noodles, steamed buns, pig fat, and eggs cooked in yak fat. A typical meal is comprised of seaweed soup, french fries and buns stuffed with yak meat. Chinese style dishes are often made from ingredients that originated outside of Tibet.
Image Sources: Beifan.com , Perrechon blog, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated July 2015