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Eastern China Food

Eastern China Food

Written by Candice SongUpdated Aug. 17, 2023
Steamed Hairy CrabSteamed Hairy Crab - a Shanghai Delicacy

Eastern China food is the food of the Yangtze Delta area - Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, the Yellow Mountains… - and as far south as Xiamen.

Eastern China food mainly features a sweet and subtle flavor, using sugar, wines, vinegars, and soy sauces. It's basically the similar cuisines of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Fujian, four of China's Eight Major Cuisines.

An Abundance of Ingredients

Eastern food features an abundant use of seafood, fish, pork, poultry, and vegetables.

The Yangtze River Delta is a fertile region with rich farming land, nourished by the subtropical climate, which allow for production of a wide variety of vegetables. Both rice and wheat are common staples.

The large number of lakes and river tributaries provide abundant fish and shellfish to this region. It also has abundant seafood due to its proximity to sea.

Cooking Methods

The most widely-used cooking methods are stir-frying, steaming, braising, and simmering.

The most common seasonings include rice vinegar, rice wine, sugar, soy sauce.

Jiangsu Cuisine

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs - a famous Jiangsu dish

Jiangsu Cuisine, also known as Su Cuisine (苏菜 Sūcài /soo-tseye/), originates in Jiangsu Province, consisting of Yangzhou, Nanjing, and Suzhou dishes. Jiangsu Cuisine has a good reputation for its distinctive style and fresh taste, with moderate saltiness and sweetness.

Jiangsu Cuisine features extensive ingredients that mainly come from rivers, lakes, and the sea, various cooking techniques, and exquisite cutting techniques. It commonly uses stewing, braising, simmering, and warming to preserve the original flavors, and maintain clarity, freshness, and mildness.

Some of the famous dishes of Jiangsu Cuisine include salted dried duck (咸水鸭 xiánshuǐyā /sshyen-shway–yaa/ 'salty water duck'), beggar's chicken (叫花鸡 jiàohuājī /jyaoww-hwaa-jee/), and sweet and somandarin fish (松鼠桂鱼 sōngshǔ guìyú /song-shoo gway-yoo/ 'squirrel mandarin fish' or 'squirrel Chinese perch').

Learn more about Jiangsu Cuisine.

Zhejiang Cuisine

West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy - a popular Hangzhou dish

Zhejiang Cuisine, or Zhe Cuisine (浙菜 Zhècài /jer-tseye/) derives from the native cooking styles of the Zhejiang region, comprising the styles of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Shaoxing, and Shanghai. Zhejiang cuisine is not greasy, and has a reputation for freshness, softness, and smoothness, with a mellow fragrance.

All styles of Zhejiang Cuisine are characterized by the careful selection of ingredients and elaborate preparation, but each style is noted for its special flavor and taste, and has its own specialization in ingredients.

For example, the Shaoxing style specializes in poultry and freshwater fish, Ningbo style specializes in seafood, Hangzhou style is characterized by rich variations and the use of bamboo shoots, and Shanghai style is a combination of different styles of Zhejiang Cuisine.

Learn more about Zhejiang Cuisine.

Fujian Cuisine

Fish Balls SoupFish Ball Soup - one of the most famous Fujian dishes

Fujian Cuisine, also called Min Cuisine (闽菜 Mǐncài /min-tseye/), originates in Fujian Province (Xiamen is its main tourist city.). Due to Fujian's coastal position and mountainous terrain, Fujian Cuisine is rich in high-quality ingredients, and its main ingredients are from the mountains and sea, such as local fish, turtles, shellfish, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. It is famous for its light, soft, tender, and flavorful taste.

The most characteristic aspect of Fujian cuisine is its ever-present soups. Two sayings about this regional cuisine go: 'one soup ten (many) forms' (一汤十变 yī tang shí biàn /ee taang shrr byen/) and 'no soup, no go' (不汤不行 bù tāng bùxíng /boo taang boo-sshing/).

Cutting techniques are important in the Fujian Cuisine to enhance the flavor, aroma, and texture of seafood and other foods. Learn more about Fujian Cuisine.

Anhui Cuisine

Anhui cuisine, or Hui Cuisine (徽菜 Huīcài /hway- tseye/) is derived from the native cooking styles of the Yellow Mountains (Huangshan) region of China. Anhui Cuisine is characterized by the extensive choice of cooking materials and the strict procedures of the cooking process.

Most ingredients of Anhui Cuisine come from rural mountain areas, so the freshness of the dishes is unparalleled.

Some popular Anhui dishes include stewed turtle with ham (火腿炖甲鱼 huǒtuǐ dùn jiǎyú /hwor-tway dwnn jyaa-yoo/), Fuliji roast chicken (符离集烧鸡 Fúlíjí shāojī /foo-lee-jee shaoww-jee), and steamed chicken wrapped in lotus leaves (荷叶鸡 héyè jī /her-yeah jee/ 'lotus leaves chicken'), and steamed chestnuts with chicken (板栗鸡 bǎnlì jī /ban- lee jee/ 'Chinese chestnut chicken').

Learn more about Anhui Cuisine.

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