Chinese cuisine has various styles, depending on the region of China, and some of the characteristic meals became very popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to America, Australia, Western Europe and South Africa. In addition to being one of the world’s oldest cuisine, Chinese food is known as healthy, and the Chinese are known for their long life and thinness. Vegetables and meat have a very important place in Chinese food, and the main feature is their short heat treatment. They are always fried briefly and left almost half-raw and that’s the most important thing about it. When choosing meat, it is important to be of a high quality and cut into thin strips. Spices are a different story, something that you cannot imagine this cuisine without. The whole meal represents an excellent balance of vegetables and meat. The method of making Chinese food is also quite specific and needs to be known and understood. To make everything perfectly, it is necessary to have a quality wok, and in traditional Chinese culture sticks are used. The Chinese dishes are never cooked in the way the rest of the world does. Everything happens quickly, short and fast. In many dishes of Chinese cuisine, food is prepared with parts of food that are cut into bite-size and are ready to be eaten immediately.
Chinese cuisine is in a way based on the opposites. For example, the hot food is always served with some cold dish, and spicy dishes always come with something to soften the taste. The flavors are achieved by using numerous spices like vinegar, pepper, hot peppers, or sugar, and a great attention is paid to decorating the plate.
Cuisines of China
As previously mentioned, Chinese cuisine is not just about one typical style, but rather various styles throughout the country. They are sometimes so different, that it is almost unbelievable that they are typical for one country. There is something that is familiar in China by the name of “Eight Cuisines”, and it includes Shandong Cuisine, Guangdong Cuisine, Sichuan Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine and Anhui Cuisine. These cuisines differ in many ways, regarding history, ways of cooking and preparing, foodstuff used and many more things.
Shandong Cuisine is all about shallots and garlic, and they usually prepare soups, meat, seafood, and offal. It is one of the most familiar cuisines and is a part of Four Great Traditions.
Guandong Cuisine is characterized by the usage of rice, sweet potatoes, corn, taro beet and wheat. Also, the area is quite known for oranges, bananas, peaches, pineapples, so they are used as well. Considering the wealth of ingredients that this province has, this cuisine is very diverse.
Regarding the fact that Sichuan Province has large fields of wheat, rice, canola, corn and mushrooms, Sichuan Cuisine is known for their use. If you are not a fan of hot and pretty spicy food, you should avoid trying it. In almost every dish, hot peppers may be put.
Hunan Cuisine, being quite interesting, was the favorite cuisine of Chairman Mao. It uses a lot of oil, chicken meat, and pork, no matter whether preparing them as the main dish, or a soup.
The original flavor of the ingredients in the meal is quite important for Jiangsu Cuisine, where stewing and braising are mostly performed cooking techniques. It includes the recipes from Yangzhou, Suzhou, and Nanjing, and all of them have something in common, yet very unique.
Zhejiang Cuisine uses frying as the main technique while preparing the food, and it is quite successful in it. Vinegar and sugar are the most important spices.
Fujian Cuisine is all about the thin slices of meat, and sweet and sour flavors that mix at times, providing the unique taste.
Eventually, Anhui Cuisine, being last though not the least, is not very much into frying and more into braising. Ham is the most important ingredient, and can be found in almost every meal.
Popular dishes in China
In general, though Chinese cuisine is a very complex term, there are several meals that come to mind whenever someone mention it. These meals are often served in most of the Chinese restaurants throughout the world.
The most famous dish that is mostly served in the west, as well as in the whole world is Beijing roast duck (北京烤鴨; Běijīng Kǎoyā). In order to prepare it, duck is baked in a special oven and marinated in special flavors. Pancakes and various sauces accompany it. In Beijing, this is sometimes served as the main dish.
Dim sum (點心; Diǎnxīn) is the common name for small cooked meals that are usually served in baskets of braided bamboo. Meals can consist of rolls stuffed with meat or shrimp, topped with soy sauce, or dumplings filled with meat, vegetables and nuts, and baked pastry stuffed with vegetables and soy.
Dumplings, also known as Jiaozi (饺子; Jiǎozi) are also inevitable in China, in various shapes, with diverse stuffing, whether of meat or vegetables. They have a long history, and are quite popular, no matter the region in China.
Since Chinese like to mix flavors, and they use pork a lot, it is not strange that one of the most famous meals is Sweet and Sour Pork (糖醋里脊; Táng Cù Lǐjǐ). The name says enough about this meal, and if you are a lover of the combined flavors and pork, this is the right meal for you.
Spring Rolls (春卷; Chūn Juǎn), whether fresh or fried, also have a special place in Chinese cuisine. They are made of pork, vegetables, flour and oil, and are usually served during the Spring festival, hence the name.
Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁; Gōng Bǎo Jī Dīng), where the main ingredients besides chicken are red peppers and peanuts, also represent a perfect combination of flavors. The dish is popular both, among the Chinese and foreigners, and represent one of the main dishes from Sichuan Cuisine.
Tea in China
Besides the delicious meals, Chinese people are also very much into drinking tea (茶; Chá), and for them, it is not just an ordinary beverage. They drink tea with snacks such as nuts, prunes, dried fruits and many more. China is the first country to cultivate and drink tea, and even today it is enjoyed by people of all social classes. Chinese tea is usually divided into several different categories according to the type of plant which is obtained, the region where it is grown and the method of production. So, according to that, there is green tea, oolong tea, black tea, scented tea, white tea, and compressed tea. There are four main regions for the cultivation of tea in China. These are Jiangbei, Jiangnan, Huanan and the Southwestern region. Today, China is the world’s largest exporter of green tea.