Eight Great Cuisines of China

By ExtremeFoodies on February 3rd, 2016

Peking Duck an iconic dish of Shandong Cuisine
Peking Duck is an iconic dish of Shandong cuisine, one of the eight great cuisines of China

The Chinese lucky number is 8 and, sure enough, there are 8 great cuisines of China we are identifying here as a handy guide for choosing where to get your fix. While the sophisticated subtlety of Cantonese and the spicy fireworks of Sichuan get all the attention, the other six cuisines are serious in their own right. Read on!

Map representing Eight Cuisines of China
Courtesy of chinahighlights.com

1. Anhui Cuisine

Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province
The iconic Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province. / Courtesy of absolutechinatours.com

Anhui cuisine is one of the lesser known of the Eight Great Cuisines of China. Anhui Province is a poorer inland province west of Shanghai, and meals are basically hearty mountain peasant food popular in the Yellow Mountains and the tourist area of Huangshan. Dishes showcase many wild plants and food from the mountainous region, favoring stewing and more oil. A few dishes are sweetened with added sugar.

Yellow Crab Shell cake is a famous Anhui cuisine
Yellow Crab Shell Cake / Courtesy of kaleidoscope.cultural-china.com

Famous dishes: Yellow Crab Shell Cake and Luzhou Roast Duck.

2. Cantonese Cuisine

Cantonese cuisine originated from Guangdong Province
Cantonese cuisine originated in Guangdong Province. / Courtesy of discoverhongkong.com

Also called Guangdong cuisine, this regional style features fine seafood and rice dishes, lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meats, and generally sweet and light flavors and sauces. Cantonese (or Yue) cuisine originated in the Guangdong Province (southeast China around Hong Kong). It is the most widely served style of Chinese cuisine in the world, because most Chinese who immigrated and set up restaurants overseas were from Guangdong.

Dim Sum is part of Cantonese cuisine
Dim sum is among Cantonese cuisine’s most iconic dishes. / Courtesy of billmagill.files.wordpress.com

Famous dishes: Chinese Steamed Eggs, Dim Sum, White Cut Chicken and Char Siu (Barbecue Pork).

3. Fujian Cuisine

Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province
The Wuyi Mountains soar above the northern edge of China’s Fujian Province. / Courtesy of cc.nphoto.net

Fujian cuisine originates from the southeastern province of Fujian on the Pacific. The history of the cuisine dates back 5,000 years. This cuisine is lighter, with a mild sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and mountains in the region. The cuisine is known for its great seafood and soups and the precise use of scintillating but not tongue-numbing spices. Adding wild and exotic delicacies from the sea and mountains, such as mushrooms and bamboo, lends unusual flavors to its dishes.  

Buddha Jumps over theWall is part of Fujian.jpg
“Buddha Jumps over the Wall” is a famous dish in Fujian cuisine. / Courtesy of SunSuke

Famous dish: Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,” which includes shark's fin, sea cucumber, abalone and Shaoxing wine.

4. Hunan cuisine 

Yongshun County of Hunan
Furong is an ancient town in Yongshun County in Hunan Province. / Courtesy of wikipedia.org

Hunan Province in southern central China is a rich agricultural area that produces a broad range of citrus, rice, vegetables and herbs, and its cuisine is known for its mix of vinegar and chili that lends a hot and sour taste to dishes. Hunan food sets itself apart from Sichuan cuisine in two big ways: It doesn't use the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn, and savory dishes lack the sweetness of their Sichuan counterparts. Hunanese tend to go for bold savory tastes, chilli-hot tastes and sour-hot tastes.

General's Tso’s Chicken of Hunan cuisine
General's Tso’s Chicken is among Hunan cuisine's most iconic dishes. / Courtesy of Evan Joshua Swigart

Famous dishes: Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork, Steamed Fish Heads in Pickled Chilies, Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs and General Tso's Chicken. 

5. Jiangsu Cuisine 

Liuyuan Garden of Jiangsu Province
Liuyuan Garden in Suzhou reflects the elegance of Jiangsu Province. / Courtesy of cultural-china.com

Sometimes simply called Su cuisine, this cooking style from the Jiangsu Province and China's biggest city, Shanghai, produces a refined gourmet cuisine. Chefs employ precise cooking techniques favoring great seafood and soups and their presentation is artistic, colorful with generally sweet and light flavors. What sets it above most Chinese cuisines is its exquisite cooking techniques that produce richly aromatic and visually artistic dishes. Chefs also focus on serving meals that promote health.

Mandarin Fish of Jiangsu cuisine
Mandarin Fish is an iconic dish of Jiangsu cuisine. / Courtesy of kaleidoscope.cultural-china.com

Famous dishes: “Three Heads of Zhenyang” (simmered pig head and large meatballs in a clear soup with crab meat and braised chub head); “Three Chickens of Jiangsu” (young chicken with watermelon and stewed chicken with Zaohong orange) and “Three Roast Foods of Jinling” (roasted duck, roasted mandarin fish and roasted suckling pig). 

6. Shandong Cuisine

Sea of Shandong province
Shandong Province is surrounded by the sea. / Courtesy of pic.china-sd.com

Shandong Province, on the northeast coast of China, is a large peninsula surrounded by the sea, with the Yellow River meandering through its center, and fresh river fish and seafood are local delicacies. One of the first civilized regions in China and an early cultural center, Shandong’s cooking tradition set the style for the regions around it, especially to the north in Beijing and northeastern China. Its cuisine is relished for its many kinds of salty and crispy seafood and vegetable dishes and its “Bao” style of frying in high heat that locks in the flavors without leaving an oily residue.

Sweet Sour Carp of Shandong cuisine
Sweet and Sour Carp is an iconic dish of Shandong cuisine. / Courtesy of marylandfoodways.org

Famous dish: Sweet and Sour Carp and Peking Duck

7. Sichuan Cuisine

Sichuan Province.jpg
Sichuan Province is known as the “heavenly country.” / Courtesy of china.org.cn

Sichuan Province in southwestern China is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. It also produces the most widely served cuisine in the country. Bold and often mouth-numbing, Sichuan cuisine is pungent and spicy, resulting from its liberal use of chili, garlic, ginger and peanuts, as well as the unique flavor of the Sichuan pepper.  

Kung Pao Chicken of Sichuan cuisine
Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most famous Sichuan dishes. / Courtesy of epicurious.com

Famous dishes: Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, Sichuan Hot Pot and Twice Cooked Pork 

8. Zhejiang Cuisine

Mountains of Zhejiang Province
Zhejiang Province is known for its many mountains. / Courtesy of chinasage.info

The richest province in China, Zhejiang is called the "land of milk and honey.” Its cuisine developed from traditional ways of cooking south of Shanghai and around the former Chinese capital of Hangzhou. Zhejiang-style food is not greasy but has a fresh and soft flavor with a mellow fragrance. Dishes are characterized by lots of fresh seafood, freshwater fish and bamboo shoots. The food is often served raw or almost raw and is fresh, crispy and seasonal. Of all the Chinese cuisines, it is most like Japanese food. 

Dongpo Pork of Zhejang cuisine
Zhejiang cuisine’s famous dishes includes Dongpo Pork. / Courtesy of bbcgoodfood.com

Famous dishes: Hangzhou Roast Chicken (also known as Beggar’s Chicken), Dongpo Pork, West Lake fish in Vinegar Sauce and Songsao Shredded Fish soup.


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