In the US, we typically know only one type of Chinese food; there are a few standard dishes served at most Chinese restaurants across the country. However, in China itself, the cuisine is much more diverse and based on regions. They classify their food into eight types: Sichuan, Shandong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Anhui, Fujian, and Hunan.
Sichuan cuisine is not for the faint of heart. These dishes often feature peppercorns, which causes the mouth to feel tingly or numb. Peppercorns, chili peppers, and garlic are paired with chicken or tofu, or mixed into a flavorful broth for hot pot. Sichuan locals are used to this level of heat in their food, but if you are not, then we recommend having a cold drink on hand to put the fire out in your mouth.
This type of cuisine comes from Shandong Province, located on the northeastern coast of China. Their dishes mainly feature fresh seafood due to the region’s proximity to the ocean. No matter the dish, cooks making Shandong cuisine focus on emphasizing the fresh taste and appearance of the seafood and vegetables they use.
Zhejiang cuisine is great for those who prefer more mild flavors in their food. Fried seafood of all kinds often take center stage in Zhejiang dishes, as locals love the crispy texture and savory taste. Though it is fried, it is not greasy; it retains a delicate, luxurious mouth feel. We recommend trying this cuisine throughout the year since the ingredients used change depending on the season.
Jiangsu cuisine is as beautiful as it is delicious. These dishes are made with a wide variety of vegetables and meats, and are cooked in a way that allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to shine without the addition of too many seasonings or spices. If you are looking for an introduction to Jiangsu cuisine, we recommend starting with meatballs.
Also known as Cantonese cuisine, Guangdong cuisine is absolutely exquisite. These dishes are light, fresh, and diverse. Unlike Sichuan cuisine, Guangdong food does not use many spices or chili peppers, so you can easily taste the natural flavor of the ingredients. The most iconic Cantonese food served not just in this region but also around the world is Dim Sum.
This cuisine comes from Anhui Province, a region of China known for its majestic mountains. Anhui dishes primarily feature ingredients found in the mountains, such as mushrooms, wild plants, and frogs. Salted meats and flavorful stews are especially popular with locals from this region. People looking for hearty, healthy food will surely love Anhui cuisine.
“Buddha Jumps Over The Wall” is a dish that perfectly represents Fujian cuisine. Various seafoods are simmered for 10 hours in a spiced broth, then served in a clear soup. A poet once wrote that this meal is so delicious that even Buddha would jump over a wall to eat it. Many other Fujian dishes also include all kinds of fresh seafood and soups that are spiced, but not so spicy that they overwhelm the flavor of the solid ingredients.
Is Sichuan food not spicy enough for you? Try Hunan cuisine. Their dishes are just as loaded with spice and chili peppers, but without the peppercorns to numb your mouth. The result is an explosion of heat and sourness that is unique to Hunan cuisine. It is not to be missed if you have the opportunity to try it.
Which of the eight cuisines of China would you like to try first?
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