There are many styles of cooking in China, but Chinese chefs have identified eight culinary traditions as the best. These have set the course of how Chinese cook food, and are looked to as models. Each of these schools has a distinct style and different strengths.
The Features of the Eight Great Cuisines of China
- Shandong Cuisine: fresh and salty with a lot of seafood dishes.
- Sichuan and Hunan cuisines: hot spice.
- Guangdong (Cantonese), Zhejiang, Jiangsu cuisines: great seafood, and generally sweet and light flavors.
- Anhui and Fujian cuisines: inclusion of wild foods from their mountains.
1. Guangdong/Cantonese Cuisine
- Chinese: 粤菜 Yuècài
- Sweeter, favoring braising and stewing, adding various mild sauces
Cantonese food is the most popular style internationally. Guangdong Province and Hong Kong are noted for fine seafood dishes and rice dishes.
They eat a very wide variety of foods. The dishes they serve don't have strong flavors since it is lightly seasoned, and they often tend to be a little sweet. More on Yue cuisine...
2. Sichuan Cuisine
- Chinese: 川菜 Chuāncài
- Spicy and bold, often mouth-numbing, using lots of chili, garlic, ginger, and peanuts
Sichuan Province produced the most widely served cuisine in China. Their dishes are famous for their hot-spicy taste and the numbing flavor of Sichuan peppercorn that is rare in other regional cuisines. It is the food of Chengdu and Chongqing (which used to be part of Sichuan). More on Chuan cuisine...
3. Jiangsu Cuisine
- Chinese: 苏菜 Sūcài
- Fresh, moderately salty and sweet, precise cooking techniques, favoring seafood, soups and artistic, colorful presentation
Jiangsu Province and China's biggest city, Shanghai, have a very refined gourmet cuisine that is often served at government banquets.
What makes it special is the exquisite cooking techniques that produce richly aromatic and visually artistic dishes. Their chefs also focus on serving meals that promote health. More on Su cuisine...
4. Zhejiang Cuisine
- Chinese: 浙菜 Zhècài
- Mellow, using fresh seafood, freshwater fish, and bamboo shoots, and a wide variety of cooking methods.
Zhejiang Province is the province south of Jiangsu, and it borders on Shanghai too, so their style is similar to theirs, but it is less elaborately prepared. They focus more on serving fresh food.
The food is often served raw or almost raw and is fresh and crispy and seasonal. It is more like Japanese food. Ningbo cuisine is very salty. More on Zhe cuisine...
5. Fujian/Min Cuisine
- Chinese: 闽菜 Mǐncài
- Lighter, with a mild sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and the mountains
Fujian Province is known for great seafood and soups and the precise use of scintillating but not tongue numbing spices. Adding much wild exotic delicacies from the sea and mountains makes their dishes have unusual flavors. It is like a culinary wild adventure. More on Min cuisine...
6. Hunan Cuisine
- Chinese: 湘菜 Xiāngcài
- Quite spicy, with a hot and sour taste, favoring sautéing, stir-frying, steaming and smoking
If you like Sichuan food, you'll probably like Hunan food too since it is even hotter. It is tastier and more delicious because they don't use peppercorn that numbs the mouth.
It is a rich agricultural area that produces a broad range of vegetables and herbs, and these are served up. More on Xiang cuisine...
7. Anhui Cuisine
- Chinese: 徽菜 Huīcài
- Uses many wild plants and animals as ingredients, favoring stewing and more oil
Anhui cuisine is even wilder than Fujian cuisine. It is inland, and big mountains such as the Yellow Mountains are the source of lots of different wild foods and herbs. It is basically a hearty mountain peasant food. Some of the best dishes incorporate wild food for an unusual taste. Some dishes are sweet from added sugar. More on Hui cuisine...
8. Shandong Cuisine
- Chinese: 鲁菜 Lǔcài
- Salty and crispy, favoring braising and seafood
Shandong was one of the first civilized areas, and it set the pattern for northern styles of cooking. With a long coast, seafood is its forte.
They preserve the original taste of the seafood by using simple ingredients and braising, and they like vinegar and salt. Unlike southern cuisines, they serve much more wheat food, including their noodles. More on Lu cuisine...
Travel with China Highlights and Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisines
If you want to try china's authentic food, our tours can take you to authentic local restaurants as you tour around China. See our most popular food tour as follow:
- 12-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, and Hong Kong Cuisine tour — This tour explores the most popular destinations in China and savors five different regional cuisines.
- Tailor-make a Chinese food tour by telling us your interests and requirements.