For centuries, the influence of Chinese food has made its way around the globe. The country’s cuisine is incredibly popular everywhere you go, and lovers of Chinese food are well being catered for with different options ranging from Chinese street food to boutique Chinese restaurants.
Experience Chinese food in China
Still, the best way to experience authentic Chinese cuisine is by going to China. You would be surprised by how many remarkable dishes and exotic ingredients you will come across.
Want to travel China seeking out the spiciest soups, best bamboo-pounded noodles, and crispiest duck? Here’s how you can eat like a local in China.
What the Chinese locals eat
A well-known Chinese joke is that the Chinese eat everything with four legs, except tables, anything that flies, except for an airplane, and anything that swims, except for a submarine. Though exaggerated, it vividly demonstrates the variety of ingredients found in Chinese cuisine.
When in China, take a good look at your plate. You’ll see that Chinese dishes are perfectly prepared, with vivid colors, rich flavors, and exquisite tastes. Chefs carefully cut and carve the different ingredients to make your plate look like a piece of art.
Another look at your plate, and you’ll most likely find either rice or noodles as part of your dish. These staple foods are probably the most famous and frequently used ingredients in the Chinese kitchen.
Chinese people eat rice or noodles almost every day, but if you think that makes Chinese food is boring, think again! China’s different regions all have their very own distinct regional cuisine. Let’s take a look.
The culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine
China is an ancient civilization with a long history of over 5000 years. Throughout the centuries, China has established an authentic food culture, with its very own unique dining etiquette. One that foreign visitors may consider quite different from what they’re used to.
Chinese food has five key flavors that must be balanced according to traditional Chinese medicine, namely sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. Flavors vary by region, all influenced by the geographical location, available resources, cultural customs, and cooking techniques.
Chinese food can be divided into the following eight distinguished regional cuisines.
Simple Shandong cuisine
Simplicity is key in Shandong cuisine (or Lu cuisine), one of the most prevalent cuisines in China, and popular in northeast China, Beijing, and Tianjin. Shandong cuisine specializes in simple dishes, highlighting the original flavors of the ingredients. Making soups and soup dishes is this region’s forte.
Spicy Sichuan cuisine
Universally famous for being spicy-hot, the Sichuan cuisine (or Chuan cuisine) uses chilis, peppers, and over 40 different cooking techniques to spice things up in the kitchen. Classical Sichuan dishes include Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, and boiled pork slices.
Exquisite Cantonese cuisine
Originating from China’s Guangdong Province, Cantonese cuisine (or Yue cuisine) is almost considered a work of art. Think dishes with fresh and tender taste, full of exotic and innovative ingredients, prepared by excellent chefs.
Mountain-style Fujian cuisine
Fujian chefs are renowned for their masterly cutting skills, endeavoring to highlight the original flavors of the used ingredients. Fujian dishes are light and fresh and vary from mouthwatering mountain delicacies to steamy seafood. Fujian cuisine (or Min cuisine) also offers a dazzling variety of soup dishes.