The wide geography and many flavors of Chinese cuisine

February 25, 2011 | Posted by Vicky

Gongbao chicken, above, may be the most famous dish belonging to Sichuan cuisine

Perhaps little known to Chinese learners that haven't lived in China, the phrase "Have you eaten yet?" is often used as a greeting. While some linguists suggest this phrase was born of the period of great food scarcity in China in the late 1950s, it is an illuminating example of how important food is in Chinese culture. Chinese cuisine has developed over thousands of years and is significantly intertwined into Chinese culture and philosophy. There are over 8,000 well-known Chinese dishes and 48 basic ways of cooking, including roasting, frying and boiling.

Chinese regional cuisines

There are many different and distinctive styles of Chinese food that have been shaped by history, geography, resources, cooking method and lifestyle. Of the many varieties of Chinese food, perhaps the most famous are Sichuan cuisine, Guangdong (Cantonese cuisine) and Shanghai cuisine. Below are examples of the many kinds of Chinese food and what makes them special.

Chinese regional food Chinese name and pinyin General characteristics Representative dishes
Hunan Food 湘菜/Xiāngcài spicy, sour Spicy hot hunan beef
Mao's braised pork
Shandong Food 鲁菜/Lǔcài Seafood & fresh Shandong fish
Beijing Food 京菜/Jīngcài Based on the northern dishes and features flavors of all the Chinese cuisines Roast duck
Instant-boiled mutton
Kung Pao chicken
Spicy deep-fried chicken
Sichuan Food 川菜/Chuāncài Spicy, numbing Kung Pao chicken
Spicy deep-fried chicken
Cantonese Food 粤菜/Yuècài Flavors change with seasons, with more delicate food in Spring and Summer, and stronger flavored food in Fall and Winter Cantonese fried rice
Roast sucking pig
Dongbei Food 东北菜/ Dōngběicài Salty, spicy, oily, using a lot of sauce Stewed pork ribs and cabbage
The five spices- beef
Shanghai Food 上海菜/ Shànghǎicài Focus on keeping the original flavor, light and sweat Fried bun
Shredded meat soya soup
Shanxi Food 山西菜/ Shānxīcài Mainly salty, some may be sour and sweet Mutton soup
Fried boiled pork
Guizhou Food 贵州菜/ Guìzhōucài Sour, spicy Catfish sour soup
Griddle cooked chicken with pepper

Authentic local cuisine in Beijing

Visitors to Beijing are often delighted and at the same time confused by the great array of authentic local dining options in the city. One of the best known is Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, whichhas a history of 147 years. Another famous one is Donglaishun, which was established in 1903 and is famous for Mongolian hot pot. There is also restaurant named Fang Shan in Beihai Park, which was established by a chef from the Imperial Palace over 80 years ago and serves palace cooking and dim sum. However, no matter what the visitor to Beijing is looking for, there are authentic outlets waiting to be discovered.

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