Chinese cuisine has become immediately popular in the world when most Westerners found its uniqueness. The history of Chinese cuisine could date back to thousands of years ago. During this long time, traditional Chinese food that is various in kinds and tasty in flavor developed to quite a leading place in front of other types of cuisines. Chinese people are always proud to enjoy a wide range of foods by culinary skills of frying, stewing, steaming, braising, and so on.
The most famous traditions of Chinese cuisine are Lu cuisine (Jinan, Jiaodong styles of cuisine within Shandong Province), Chuan cuisine (Sichuan Province and Chongqing City), Yue cuisine (Cantonese, today’s Guangdong Province) as well as Huaiyang cuisine (mainly in Jiangsu Province). Besides those Four Major Cuisines well-known in the world, the Eight Major Cuisines, or the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, is possibly more famous as it contains more branches of colorful cuisine culture. They are Hui cuisine (Anhui Province), Min cuisine (Fujian Province). Xiang cuisine (Xiangjiang River Region, Dongting Lake region and west Hunan styles of cuisine within Hunan Province), Zhe cuisine (Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing styles of cuisine within Zhejiang Province) plus the Four Major Cuisines.
CHUAN Sichuan cuisine, also know as Szechuan cuisine, originates in the southwestern China (including Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality which was formerly the second largest city of Sichuan). Famed for its bold flavors, especially the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavor of the Sichuan peppercorn, Sichuan cuisine has become the most popular food in China. Recognized as the "Land of Abundance”, Sichuan owns not only natural resources but also dishes of good flavor. The four best known regional sub-styles of Sichuan cuisine are Chengdu style, Chongqing style, Zigong style and Buddhist vegetarian style. In the year of 2011, UNESCO has declared Chengdu to be a city of Gastronomy, mainly because of its Sichuan style of cooking. Although Sichuan people are fond of spicy taste and many dishes live up to their spicy reputation, only a small portion of Sichuan food is spicy. Generally Sichuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavors: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty. Throughout the history, there have been five different types of Sichuan cuisine: sumptuous banquet, ordinary folk banquet, popularized food, home-style food, and Sichuan snacks. Over hundreds of years, Sichuan food has changed little, remaining a symbol of Chinese cuisine. As Sichuan is a populous province, many migrants bring Sichuan food to other cities that we can nearly see Sichuan restaurant in each town of China. Some well-known Sichuan dishes are: Kung Pao (Gongbao) Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork, Tea Smoked Duck, Mapo Dofu (stewed beancurd with minced pork in pepper sauce), fried Spicy Chicken. In addition, Sichuan Hotpot and snacks are what tourists could not miss to degust.
Min is the abbreviation of Fujian Province in south China. Fujian cuisine is a traditional Chinese cuisine known to be light but flavorful and tender, with particular emphasis on umami. It keeps trying to retain the original flavor of the main ingredients instead of masking them by seasonings. The most commonly employed cooking techniques in Min cuisine include braising, stewing, steaming and boiling. Particular attention is paid on the finesse of knife skills and cooking techniques because Fujian dishes are likely to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of food materials. It is worth a moment to mention the utilizing of soup in Fujian area as the people there hold the idea that one broth can be changed into numerous forms of dishes". Local residents think that soup is a must in each meal, and that "it is unacceptable to have no soup in a meal”. Thus different kinds of seafood including fish, shellfish and turtles, provided by the coastal region of Fujian Province, are used to make soup stock. The most well-known dish in Min cuisine is Fo Tiao Qiang, which means “Buddha jumps over the wall” in English to show its deliciousness that even the Buddha would forgot his vegetarian vows and leap out the monastery to see what it is after smelling the aroma. This dish contains over 30 ingredients such as shark's fin, abalone, sea slug, dried scallops, duck, chicken breast, pig's trotters, mushrooms, pigeon eggs and so on. Other famous dishes in Fujian cuisine are Stuffed Fish Balls, Oyster Omelette and Thin Pancake.
Shandong cuisine is commonly and simply known as Lu cuisine. Recognized as the best of the Eight Regional Cuisines, it is derived from the native cooking styles of Shandong, an eastern coastal province of China. Shandong Cuisine was once an important part of the imperial cuisine and is considered the most influential in Chinese cuisine. It occupies the most important position in palace cooking, and the flavor of Confucian is the master piece of Lu cuisine. Since Shandong cuisine was widely promoted in China’s northern part, the majority of the culinary styles in China have developed from it. In most North China households, meals are prepared in simplified Shandong methods. Modern schools of cuisines in North China, such as Beijing cuisine, Tianjin cuisine, and Northeast China cuisine, are all branches of Shandong Cuisine. Featured by a variety of cooking techniques and seafood, Shandong cuisine still remains rooted in its ancient traditions although modern science has greatly increased the transportation convenience of ingredients. The staggering array of seafood, including scallops, prawns, clams, sea cucumbers, and squid in Shandong food are the most notable parts. Typical dishes on local menu are as following: Braised Abalone, Braised Pig Hoof (Tipang), Sweet and Sour Carp as well as Dezhou Braised Chicken. In addition, various Shandong snacks are also worth trying. However, it isn't so popular in southern China, even in Shanghai, the all-embracing city known to most people.
Blang, also spelled Bulong, is a Chinese ethnic group which lived in the Lancang river valley during ancient times. It is believed that these people were one branch of a number of peoples that were collectively known to the ancient Chinese as the “Baipu”, literally the "Hundred Pu".
Traditionally, Blang people considered teeth blackened by chewing betel nuts a beauty characteristic. The people of this minority are mostly animists, in addition to ancestor worship. They also combine their native beliefs with Theravada Buddhism.
Cantonese cuisine comes from Guangdong Province in southern China, is one of the eight divisions of Chinese cuisine. Its prominence outside China is due to the great numbers of early emigrants from Guangdong Province. Yue cuisine is mainly made up of three flavors: Guangfu, Kejia and Chaoshan. In most parts of China, Cantonese restaurants could be easily found. As Yue cuisine has great influence on both domestically and externally, there are many people, especially local residents in Guangdong region insist that Yue cuisine takes the first place of the eight culinary cuisines of China. Yue cuisine is the second widely spread cuisines right lower to Sichuan cuisine. At abroad, Cantonese cuisine is taken as the representative of Chinese food by foreigners. Perhaps the most famous type of Yue cuisine is Dim sum, which literally means "touch one’s heart". It is a Cantonese term for small sweet snacks that are prepared by traditional cooking methods such as frying, steaming, stewing and baking. It is designed small in size so that one person may taste a variety of different dishes at once. Dim Sum commonly consists of rice rolls, lotus leaf rice, turnip cakes, buns, dumplings and congee porridge. Besides, the Cantonese style of dining, Yum Cha, combines a variety of Dim Sum dishes with the drinking of tea. Guangdong and Hong Kong style of afternoon tea (desserts and tea) has successfully entered most other cities of China for the past few years, becoming a new type of relaxation way for the youth generation.
Xiang is the abbreviation of Hunan Province in south China. Xiang cuisine is always considered to take the third place among the distinctive cuisines in China. As one of the eight culinary cuisines of China, Hunan cuisine is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color. The common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, ingredients for Hunan dishes are quite varied. The wide use of chilli peppers, shallots and garlic makes Xiang cuisine dry hot, which is opposed to the better known Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan cuisine is famous for its hot and numbing seasoning. Sichuan dishes frequently employ Sichuan peppercorns along with chilies which are often dried, and utilize more preserved ingredients as well as condiments. Hunan Cuisine, on the other hand, is often spicier by pure chili content, contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients, and tends to be oilier. A great example is that Chairman Mao Zedong, who loves to eat hot pepper alone. Another remarkable feature of Hunan cuisine is that its menu changes with the seasons. In summer days, a meal will usually begin with cold dishes, while in winter time a popular choice is the hot pot, thought to heat the blood in cold months. Typical dishes in Xiang cuisine include Beer duck, Changsha-style Rice Vermicelli, Homemade Beancurd, Lotus Seeds in Sugar Syrup and Mao's Braised Pork.
Huaiyang cuisine, also known as Su (Jiangsu Province) Cuisine for short, is one of the major components of Chinese cuisine. Known as one the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, it is derived from the native cooking styles of Huai River region in south China and is particularly popular in the lower reach of the Yangtze River. Generally, characters of Jiangsu cuisine mainly include soft texture, strict selection of ingredients according to different seasons, emphasis on the matching color and shape of each dish, preference in using soup to improve the flavor. Huaiyang cuisine consists of Nanjing, Suzhou and Wuxi styles of cooking, each of which has its own features. Nanjing cuisine emphasize on taste and color match, with dishes incorporating river fish, shrimps and duck. While Suzhou dishes values more on the selection of ingredients. They have a stronger taste than Nanjing food with a tendency to be sweeter than other varieties of cuisines. However Wuxi cuisine is likely to use more sugar and soy sauce to make many savory dishes. In the form of "Hong Shao" (braised), food especially the meat is soft with delicate taste. Typical courses of Jiangsu cuisine are: Jinling Salted-Dried Duck, the most famous food in Nanjing, Zhenjiang Crystal Pork that is pork heels in a bright, brown sauce, Clear Crab Shell Meatballs, Yangzhou Steamed Jerky Strips and Farewell My Concubine which is soft-shelled turtle stewed with chicken, mushrooms and wine.
Anhui cuisine is derived from the native cooking styles of the Huangshan Mountains region in China. Hui cuisine, which was originated in Song Dynasty, became prosperous in Qing Dynasty and continued to develop in Republic of China. As one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, Anhui cuisine is to some degree similar to Huaiyang cuisine for Anhui Province and Jiangsu Province are not far apart. Hui cuisine contains rich local characteristics and deep cultural inside. It is a shining pearl of the Chinese food culture. Known for the use of wild herbs and simple methods of preparation, Anhui cuisine mainly consists of three styles listed separately for regions: Yangtze River region, Huai River region, and southern Anhui region. Braising and stewing are common techniques in Anhui cuisine, while frying and stir-frying are used much less frequently than that in other Chinese culinary traditions. There are more than 200 kinds of dishes in Hui cuisine.Famous and popular dishes in Anhui cuisine are Li Hongzhang Hodge-Podge, Luzhou Roast Duck, Sanhe Shrimp Paste, Egg Dumplings, Wushan Imperial Goose, etc.
Zhejiang cuisine, one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, was derived from the native cooking styles of the Zhejiang Province of Yangtze Delta region. This branch of Chinese cuisine has a long history and evolves from three styles, each of which originates from a different city in Zhejiang Province. All in all, Zhejiang dishes are not greasy, with fresh, soft flavors and mellow fragrances. Hangzhou style of cooking, the representative of Zhe cuisine, is characterized by rich variations and the use of bamboo shoots. About half of the dishes on a Hangzhou menu contain bamboo shoots, which add a tender element to the food. Shaoxing style of cooking paid special attention to poultry and freshwater fish. Yet Ningbo style of cooking is specializing in seafood and known for its salty flavor. Locally renowned dishes are Dongpo Pork (fried pork belly stewed in soy sauce and wine), Beggar's Chicken (Baked Chicken) and West Lake Vinegary Fish.