In the United States, Chinese food is often spoken of as if it is one cuisine. However, China is a very large country, and its cuisine actually varies a lot from region to region. If you want to expand your palate and enjoy Chinese food with a little more knowledge of what, exactly, you are tasting, then keep reading. You'll discover four of the different regional cuisines of China.
Cantonese cuisine is the type of food common in Canton City. This area has a large port, and as such, the people here have incorporated a lot of international foods into their cuisine. Cantonese cuisine uses a lot of meat, and it is traditional to use the whole animal, so you will see ingredients like chicken's feet and duck's tongue. The cuisine mostly calls for spices, not fresh herbs. Sugar, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil are often used in dishes. Five-spice, star anise, and chili peppers are also popular.
Hailing from the northern Chinese province of Shandong, this cuisine is known for its lighter, fresher flavors. It incorporates a lot of seafood, which is typically seasoned with scallions and fresh herbs. Soups are really common in Shandong cuisine, too. This regional cuisine is also known for its heavy use of complex vinegar. Steamed breads are more common than rice.
Derived from the traditional cooking of the Jiangsu province, this cuisine is characterized by a lot of soft foods. Fish is really common, and many of the dishes are sweet, thanks to the addition of sugar and a cooking method that involves caramelization. Jiangsu cuisine places an emphasis on the shapes and colors of foods. It's common for foods of the same shape and color to be paired and served together.
Sichuan or Szechuan cuisine hails from the Szechuan province. It is known for its bold flavors and heavy use of garlic and chili peppers, most notably a variety called the Sichuan pepper. Sichuan experienced a lot of trade during the Qing dynasty, and ingredients like sweet potatoes, corn, and white potatoes came to the region. There are also a lot of pickled foods in the cuisine, many of which are made with chili oil. Duck, pork, and rabbit are all common meats.
Hopefully, you now have a better grasp of some of the most popular regional cuisines from China. Szechuan and Cantonese cuisines are most often seen in the United States, although you may see some dishes from other regions in restaurants from time to time.
To learn more about Chinese food, contact a Chinese restaurant.