In Chinese education most topics have a number associated with them and a list of proponent parts to learn. China’s cuisines are no different and the number here is eight. The eight cuisines represent the characteristic food of eight of China’s 22 provinces. The food of the other 14 provinces (not to mention autonomous regions and municipalities) was not deemed sufficiently distinguished or desirable to be included in the canonical list.
What follows is a summary of China’s eight recognized culinary styles, including their shortened names (which correspond to the single character abbreviation for their provinces). The two styles most famous in the West, Cantonese and Sichuan, are at the top. Follow the links for more detailed descriptions and fully translated menus.
- Guangdong Cuisine (Cantonese Food/Yue Cuisine): sweeter, favoring braising and stewing, adding various sauces.
- Sichuan Cuisine (Chuan Cuisine): spicy and bold, using lots of chili, garlic, ginger and peanuts.
- Shandong Cuisine (Lu Cuisine): salty and crispy, favoring braising and seafood.
- Fujian Cuisine (Min Cuisine): lighter, with a sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and the mountains.
- Jiangsu Cuisine (Su Cuisine): fresh, salty and sweet, favoring soups and precise cooking techniques.
- Hunan Cuisine (Xiang Cuisine): quite spicy, favors sautéing, stir-frying, steaming and smoking.
- Anhui Cuisine (Hui Cuisine): uses many wild plants and animals as ingredients, favoring stewing and more oil.
- Zhejiang Cuisine (Zhe Cuisine): mellow, uses freshwater fish, seafood and bamboo shoots, and a wide variety of cooking methods.