As one of the so-called three luxuries in a man’s life (the other two are an American house and a Japanese wife), Chinese food is widely known for its variety and abundance with about 8,000 renowned ancient and modern dishes, 600 types of ingredients, and over 48 basic ways of cooking.
Want to feel on top of the world? Go and taste some mouth-watering Chinese food!
Features of Chinese Food and Cuisine
Chinese people attach particular importance to a triple-principle of their food, namely, color, aroma, and taste:
- Color refers not only to the hue of a dish but also it is modeling. Food is often decorated by carving in a specific appearance, which actually requires more than a few years’ hard training by chefs.
- Aroma involves the appetizing smell of the dishes making one's mouth water.
- Taste refers to utilizing suitable condiments and perfect food matches to create a unique flavor.
To achieve this standard, every exquisite culinary dish involves a long and complicated process from selecting the ingredients to finally serving it to diners. The superb skills of Chinese chefs make a great contribution to the development of the Chinese food industry. Sometimes, watching their work is like enjoying a splendid acrobatic show.
China's Regional Cooking Styles
China is vast with complex geographical features. Thus it has various regional cuisine. The most famous cooking styles in China are the Eight Great Cuisines, but there is more than that.
China’s Eight Great Cuisines
From the Ming (1368-1644) to the Qing (1616-1911) dynasties, there emerged eight great cuisines respectively, from Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangsu, Shandong, and Zhejiang Provinces.
Every cuisine is distinct from the other and the differences in their formation have much to do with the geography, climate, natural resources, and eating habits of the specific area.
1. Sichuan Cuisine 川菜 - Spicy and Numbing
Apart from favoring a spicy-sour, pungent flavor, Sichuan Cuisine distinguishes it from the similar Hunan or Guizhou Cuisine by applying Chinese prickly ash seeds (Huajiao in Chinese), leaving a special feeling of numbness in one’s mouth.
And thanks to various ways of cooking, such as stir-frying and steaming, the cuisine has numerous dishes with different flavors but utilizing the same ingredients.
|Recommended Sichuan Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Sichuan Cuisine Characteristics|
|Sichuan Hotpot||四川火锅||prickly ash (the numbing spice), spicy|
|Water Boiled Beef||水煮牛|
|Husband and Wife Lung Slices||夫妻肺片|
- Recommended Chengdu tours and services: 1-Day Ultimate Chengdu Food Tour.
2. Hunan Cuisine - Spicy and Sour
Double-Flavored Steamed Fish Head
Hunan Province provides a menu rich with a potent punch of chili, so the uninitiated may easily mix up the cooking styles of Hunan and Sichuan.
Yet the special characteristics of Hunan Cuisine focus on pickled chilies and vegetables, sour relish, and heavier use of a kind of fatty preserved meat called larou in Chinese, tasting a bit like smoky bacon.
|Recommended Hunan Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Hunan Cuisine Characteristics|
|Tasty Crawfish||口味虾||pickled chilies and vegetables, sour relish, larou|
|Steamed Fish Head with Diced Red Peppers||剁椒鱼头|
3. Cantonese Cuisine (粤菜) - Light and Refreshing
White Cut Chicken
The Cantonese are widely recognized as gourmets as their food catalogue is very extensive and varied. Because of the location of Guangdong Province and its climate features, the Cantonese are fascinated by light, refreshing and aquatic food, in which the tender and original taste of the ingredients is kept intact.
Besides, this cuisine abounds in vegetables, and its congee and dim sum receive a warm welcome from both the public and gastronomists. See more from Cantonese Cuisine.
|Recommended Cantonese Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Cantonese Cuisine Characteristics|
|White Cut Chicken||白切鸡||
seafood, light and refreshing taste, dim sums
- Recommended Guangzhou tours and services: 4-Day Guangzhou & Shenzhen Tour.
4. Anhui Cuisine - Fresh Local Produce
Stewed Loach with Ham
The excellent geographical advantage of the Huangshan Mountains endows local people with a great deal of fresh flora and tasty fauna, composing the major ingredients of the dishes.
Anhui Cuisine chefs focus a lot of attention to preserve most of the original taste and nutrition of the materials, but they sometimes add ham or sugar candy to improve their dishes’ taste.
|Recommended Anhui Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Anhui Cuisine Characteristics|
|Ham and “Whippy” Bamboo Stew||火腿炖鞭笋||
abundant flora and fauna, like to add ham or sugar candy
|Stewed Loach with Ham||火腿炖泥鳅|
5. Fujian Cuisine - Often with Soup
Stewed Chicken with Three Cups Sauce
Fujian Cuisine is sourced from the native cooking style of Fujian Province and shares a few common characteristics with nearby Taiwan and Guangdong. There’s a wealth of seafood and woodland-based ingredients forming dazzling choices for diners.
The unique practice of adding red rice wine and shrimp oil to seafood, chicken, and bamboo dishes, aims at improving their flavors. Almost every dish is served with soup just as the local saying goes: “no meal is truly complete without soup (不汤不行)”.
|Recommended Fujian Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Fujian Cuisine Characteristics|
|Stewed Chicken with Three Cups Sauce||三杯鸡||seafood, woodland-based ingredients, soup|
|Buddha Jumping Over the Wall||佛跳墙|
|Tai Chi Prawns||太极明虾|
- Recommended Xiamen tours and services: Xiamen is a great place to taste Fujian food and enjoy a holiday on beaches and the sea. Do you want to pay a visit to Xiamen? We can help you to tailor-make a trip there.
6. Jiangsu Cuisine - Freshwater Seafood
Jiangsu Cuisine is a combination of both the Southern and the Northern relishes in China and the local chefs are dexterous in cooking both different styles of dishes.
The Yangtze River, winding throughout the region, offers plenty of produce in every season. Another characteristic of Jiangsu Cuisine is its exquisite refreshments and snacks which cater to the taste buds of lovers of food.
|Recommended Jiangsu Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Jiangsu Cuisine Characteristics|
|WaterMelon Chicken||西瓜鸡||freshwater seafood, plenty of river produce|
|Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish||松鼠桂鱼|
In addition, Nanjing, Suzhou, and Yangzhou have been famous since ancient times. Ancient private gardens and water towns such as Zhouzhuang and Tongli are also the charms of Jiangsu Province.
- Jiangsu tour suggestions: 2-Day Suzhou’s Exquisite Gardens Tour.
7. Shandong Cuisine - High-calorie and High-protein
Stewed Pork Hock
Shandong Cuisine with a long history has a great impact on other cuisines. With historical roots originating in sophisticated cuisine, the ingredients selected are more costly than those of others, usually seafood due to the favorable location.
Besides, its long duration of cold weather makes local chefs skilled in producing high-calorie and high-protein dishes. Major cooking techniques are quick-fry and deep-fry, which create the distinctive crispy texture of the dishes.
|Recommended Shandong Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Shandong Cuisine Characteristics|
|Stewed Pork Hock||水晶肘子||
seafood, high-calorie, and high-protein
|Four Joys Meatballs||四喜丸子|
8. Zhejiang Cuisine - Mellow and Non-greasy
Shrimp Meat with Longjing Tea
Characterized by the mellow and non-greasy flavor, Zhejiang Cuisine serves as a representative of the food from along the lower Yangtze River.
Situated in the so-called “land of fish and rice”, Zhejiang has a substantial scope of local produce, nutrients, and tastes for its diners. The main methods of cooking are quick frying, stir-frying, braising, and deep-frying.
|Recommended Zhejiang Food||Corresponding Chinese Name||Zhejiang Cuisine Characteristics|
mellow and non-greasy flavor, plenty of lake produce
|Shrimp Meat with Longjing Tea||龙井虾仁|
|Fish Cooked in Vinegar Gravy||西湖醋鱼|
If you want to fully enjoy Zhejiang Cuisine with the view of beauty, Hangzhou would be a good choice, which provides both a West Lake boat trip and a water town experience.
- Recommended Hangzhou tours and services: 2-Day Hangzhou Tour from Shanghai.
Chinese Food Culture
Food is one of the few things that stick to culture. See what we can learn from Chinese food.
Use Chopsticks to Eat
Chopsticks are said to be a great invention by the Chinese and nearly 30% of the world population make use of chopsticks. They are the flexible extension of your hands, keeping your fingers clean with no grease and safe without touching extreme heat and coldness.
It is documented that properly handling chopsticks requires the coordination of over 80 joints and 50 muscles, which makes people more dexterous and intelligent.
Chinese Culinary Customs
In the West, people take what they like on a separate plate since ancient times. Different from Westerners, Chinese people prefer to share food. The elders select food for the young; the hosts apportion the best part of the dishes to their distinguished guests to show their respect and warm welcome.
Such Chinese culinary customs add to the hospitable character of the Chinese people. Through sharing food with guests, friends, and families, Chinese people tend to be more sensitive about the need of others at the table and often firstly take the group needs into consideration.
Taste Chinese Food Your Way!
Our Customers Tasting Chinese Food
No one who loves food will say “no” to the delicacies of China, especially after admiring natural and cultural beauties – how would a perfect journey be without delicious food? Below are three sample tours we hand-pick for your inspiration: