China is a vast country and it is therefore no surprise that there are many regional variations in Chinese cuisine. Chinese cooking are usually broken down into five styles of regional cuisines: Peking and the north, the Yangtze River and the east, Szechuan in the west, Fukien and the southern coast, and Canton and the south.
Peking or Beijing has been the capital of Chinas throughout most of its history and it remains one of its greatest cultural and gastronomic centers. The food in Peking, also known an the Mandarin cuisine is rich in taste, flavored with dark, strong soy sauce or paste, and the taste known to the west as sweet and sour is very popular. Garlic is often added to food and although rice is served, wheat based dishes such as noodles and dumplings are more common. China's most famous dish, Peking duck originates here where mouth watering thin slices of barbecued duck skin, wrapped in thin pancakes together with onion and radish are eaten with
|sweet plum sauce. Other famous dishes include
Sweetened Vinegar Spareribs and mutton hotpot.
The food in the eastern part of the Yangtze River which includes Shanghai tends to saltiness, and is often, in fact preserved in salt.
Salted meats and preserved vegetables are commonly used to spice up dishes.
A lot of fish is eaten due to its proximity to East China Sea, and rice is the staple accompaniment rather than noodles. The food, even the quickly made stir-fry dishes, is cooked slightly longer than usual in other parts of the country since the people prefer the meat and vegetable well done. Xiao Long Bao - a smaller version of the meat-filled steamed bun and more delicately made, century's egg, smelly tofu and
Beggar's Chicken - a legendary dish wrapped in lotus leaves, covered in clay and oven baked to steamy are all Shanghai's famous food.
Szechuan or Sichuan cooking from the province of the same name in western China is the cuisine most familiar to the west, next to Cantonese cooking. Szechuan cooking has a fine balance of flavors except that hot pepper ( Szechuan peppercorns) or chilies are added freely either during cooking or when the dishes are served. Szechuan produces by far the hottest, spiciest food in China. Like their northern neighbors, Szechuan cooks use a lot of garlic, ginger and onions to sharpen their food. Some notable Szechuan dishes include Kung Pao Chicken, tea smoked duck, Chengdu chicken and Mapo tofu.
Fukien or Fujian is famous throughout China as producer of the finest soy sauce in the land. As a result, many of the most famous local dishes are cooked in lavish quantity of soy sauce and called 'red cooked'- pork and cabbages are two foods considered to be particularly suitable for this type of treatment. Fukien excels in seafood too.
An old Chinese saying indicates how highly the cuisine of the Guangzhou ( Canton ) area is regarded:
"To be born in Suzhou
to live in Hangzhou
to eat in Guangzhou
and to die in Liuzhou "
Canton, the capital city of Guangdong is, perhaps, the most famous and versatile of the food areas. In most cases, the word Cantonese is used in the wide sense to include all Guangdong Province. Cantonese and southern cooking is what most people in the west think of as Chinese cooking for most of the Chinese restaurants outside China are owned by Cantonese. Cooking methods and recipes here are sophisticated and varied. May stir fry dishes originate in Canton for the Cantonese do not like their food to be overcooked. Cantonese food highlights its freshness, relying less on loud sauces rather than the heavier type preferred in the north. Cantonese chefs specialize in roasting too where barbecued meats are popular at Chinese restaurants. Dim sum originate here too, especially the steamed varieties, as did the delicate omelets known as foo yung. Other well known Cantonese dishes include the shark's fin soup, roasted suckling pig, barbecued pork or char siu and Lo mein.
"Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible." Cantonese saying.
Another similar Cantonese saying "We eat everything on the ground with four legs except tables and chairs. We eat everything in the sky except airplanes."