China's 8 Distinct Regional Cuisine

Written by Matteo Updated Jun. 17, 2021

Chinese cuisine has more than ten thousand different kinds of dishes. Many dishes boast regional cooking styles and are made of regional ingredients, which conform to regional characteristic tastes. There is no better way to understand this cuisine than to examine it geographically.

There are eight outstanding Chinese culinary styles linked to particular regions. Alphabetically, they are Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang;

1. Sichuan Cuisine

Sichuan hot pot

Sichuan cuisine originates in West China's Sichuan Province ( in the Chengdu and Chongqing areas). It is the most famous cooking style in China which is also well-known in the West. 

The most distinctive feature of Sichuan cuisine is its strong, numbing, and spicy flavor.  A variety of unique seasonings with intense flavors are used for the distinctive taste of Sichuan food, such as Sichuan pepper,  garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise, and Sichuan bean chili paste. 

Sichuan is located in West China. In the region, there are big mountains, rivers, valleys, and plains. The complex geographic features have shaped its food customs with diverse ingredients. Prok, beef, fish, mushroom, and lots of vegetables and herbs are used in Sichuan food. Seasonings with intense flavors such as Sichuan pepper, garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise, and broad bean chili paste are essential for the rich taste of Sichuan cuisine. 

Recommended Sichuan Dishes:

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

Read more details on Sichuan cuisine and its top dishes

2. Cantonese Cuisine

cantonese dim sum

Cantonese cuisine or Yue Cuisine is the most famous Chinese cooking style abroad. Cantonese cuisine originates in South China's Guangdong Province close to Hong Kong. 

Cantonese cuisine is light and sweet.  Rice, vegetables, and fresh fish are steamed, blanched, or poached and frequently served with the simple addition of vinegar, ginger, scallions, and Chinese parsley. Soy, hoisin, and oyster sauces are among the traditional ones used for Guangdong food. There are also many forms of barbecue or lacquer-roasted poultry and meat.

Recommended Cantonese Food Corresponding Chinese Name Cantonese Cuisine Characteristics
White Cut Chicken 白切鸡

seafood, light and refreshing taste, dim sums

Char Siu 叉烧
Boiled Prawns 白灼虾

Read more on Cantonese Cuisine

3. Hunan Cuisine

Hunan fish

Hunan Cuisine or Xiang Cuisine originates in central China's Hunan Province (the Changsha and Zhangjiajie areas). It is the spiciest cuisine in China.

Similar to Sichuan food, Hunan food is also very spicy, which is the spiciest food in China. However, compared with the spicy, hot-numbing flavor of Sichuan cuisine, Hunan cuisine is spicy and sour.

One unique feature of Hunan cuisine is that it uses a lot of vinegar-pickled and smoked ingredients. Pickled vegetables, garlic, ginger, etc. are used for the special sour and fragrant taste of a dish. Smoked meat is widely consumed in the region. 

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
Steamed Ham 腊味合蒸

Find out more details of Hunan food

4. Fujian Cuisine/Min Cusine

Fujianese dishes benefit from the abundance of wild foods and herbs found in the mountain regions, fertile flatlands, and extensive coastlines. Rice, wheat, and sweet potatoes are culinary staples, and fish and meat are often mixed together to great effect. Fujian dishes are characterized by their tantalizing combinations of sweet and pungent flavors.

One of the region’s most famous specialties is Buddha Jumping the Wall, which combines ingredients from the land and sea, including shark’s fin, abalone, scallops, ham, chicken, mushrooms, yams, medlar, scallions, and garlic, to name a few. More information on Fujian Cusine

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

5. Jiangsu Cuisine/ Su Cusine

Jiangsu province is a wealthy area and is not the land of rice and fish but, because of its location on the Grand Canal, has been influenced by northern, southern, and off-shore cultures. Both snacks and main dishes are well known. Steamed Mandarin fish and crab-roe dumplings are two examples. 

Freshness is a key concept in the food of Jiangsu cuisine, but it is more than freshness.  For example, for a dish of steamed fish to be xian, the fish must have been swimming in the tank one hour ago; it must exude its own natural flavor and must be tender yet slightly chewy.

Some dishes are steamed or stewed and thus require less heat and a longer cooking time than most fried dishes;  examples include Chicken with Chestnuts, Pork Steamed in Lotus Leaves, Duck with an Eight-Ingredient Stuffing, and “Lion head” Meatballs.


Recommended Jiangsu Food Corresponding Chinese Name Jiangsu Cuisine Characteristics
WaterMelon Chicken 西瓜鸡 freshwater seafood, plenty of river produce
Brine-Boiled Duck 盐水鸭
Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish 松鼠桂鱼

6. Shandong Cuisine

Shandong is included in what Westerners generally refer to as the “Mandarin” cuisine in the north. These regions were greatly influenced by Manchurian and Moslem cuisines and are famous for their aromatic lamb dishes. Some feast delicacies such as shark’s fin soup and bird’s nest soup originated elsewhere, but have long been elaborated on and served there.

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

7. Zhejiang Cuisine/Zhe Cuisine

Zhejiang Cuisine originates in east China's Zhejiang Province where West Lake (Hangzhou) is located.  The region is wealthy as the so-called land of fish and rice. There are lakes, and rivers in the region, and the region meets the sea in the East.

Zhejiang cuisine is famous for its fish and seafood. There are various seafood dishes. People in Zhejiang eat almost everything from the sea which you may have never seen such as sea cucumbers and varieties of sea vegetables.

The area was very rich in ancient times, so except for the taste, people also expect some extra refined touch to their food.

Recommended Zhejiang Food Corresponding Chinese Name Zhejiang Cuisine Characteristics
Dongpo Pork 东坡肉

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
“Beggars” Chicken 叫花鸡

8. Anhui Cuisine/Hui Cusine

Anhui Cuisine is mainly limited to the Anhui province (where the Yellow Mountains are located) west of China. Anhui is a poor inland mountainous region so its food custom is basically mountainous food.  

Anhui food uses a variety of wild animals and plants from the mountains for its cooking ingredients such as wild-caught frogs, local small shrimp, turtles, and mushrooms. 

The food tastes light and fresh. 

Except for these 8 regional cooking styles, China has many other regional cuisines, but they are may not as so distinctive as these 8 ones, hence lesser well-known. 

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

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