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      China's Cuisine Article
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Cuisine of China

by Kirsten Hawkins

Copyright 2005

It’s easily one of the world’s favorite foods. No matter where

you are, someone you know is bound to suggest, “Hey, let’s do

Chinese.” For decades, Chinese food meant one thing – Cantonese

cuisine. It was the style of Chinese cooking with which most of

the world was familiar – the appetizers and roasted meats and

delicate sauces that blend vegetables and spices in a perfect

marriage of flavors. But Chinese food is far more than just the

Cantonese cuisine. There are four major styles of cooking across

China, and several more subdivisions to divide them even


Cantonese is the most well-known and popular of the Chinese

regional cuisine styles. Cantonese chefs specialize in delicate

sauces and roasted meats, in steamed and stir-fried dishes with

vegetables that are as carefully chosen for appearance and

appeal to the eye as to the palate. Steamed rice is a staple of

Cantonese cuisine, and is the base of most meals. Every

vegetable is sliced to best show off its color and shape, even

in a stir-fry or sauce. One of the more enduring and widely

enjoyed traditions of Cantonese cooking is ‘dim sum’ – ‘little

hearts’. In many cities, both in China and in other countries

around the world, you’ll find little dim sum shops tucked

beneath stairways and in storefront shops. They serve tea and

the delicious savory and sweet little dim sum pastries to

businessmen and afternoon shoppers.

Szechwan cuisine has grown in popularity over the last few

decades. Most famous for searingly spicy foods like Kung Pao

Chicken and Double Cooked Spicy Pork, Szechwan cuisine is a

distinct style of cooking that is native to the landlocked

mountainous center of China. The pungent flavors of ginger,

fermented soybean, onions and garlic characterize much Szechwan

cuisine, but there are also more subtle dishes that rely on the

interweaving of texture and flavor. The typical cooking methods

include frying, frying without oil, pickling and braising.

Hunan cuisine is the most well known of the several regional

Chinese cuisine styles from Zheijiang region of China. It is

characterized by thick, rich sauces and complex pungent

flavors. Typical ingredients include scallions, chili and

pepper. A popular favorite dish in the Hunan style is Pepper

Chicken, with small chunks of succulent chicken quick-fried

with black pepper and onions.

Shangdong cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on fresh

ingredients in combinations that emphasize the flavor, aroma,

color and texture of each ingredient. The Shangdong regional

cuisine is known for delicate flavor combinations that are

surprisingly pungent. Garlic and scallions are frequent

ingredients, as are seafood, fresh vegetables and shoots. The

soups are either thin and clear with a light flavor, or thick

and pungent, rich with cream and spices. One of the most famous

dishes from the Shangdong area, Bird’s Nest Soup, is typically

served at major affairs of state.

While these are four of the main styles of Chinese regional

cuisine, there are a number of others worthy of note. Fujian

and Jiangsu Cuisine both focus on seafood and shellfish,

accompanied by fresh vegetables. Fujian cuisine blends sweet,

sour, savory and salt flavors in magical combinations. Jiangsu

cuisine is light, fresh and sweet, and is characterized by its

elegant presentation. More than any other style of Chinese

regional cuisine, it emphasizes appearance as an important part

of the appeal of a meal.

China is a complex country, with many smaller nationalities and

regions within its borders. Most have typical styles of cooking

that are starkly different than those of other regions around

them. It is, however, a nation whose love affair with food has

produced some of the most complex, rich, delicate and delicious

dishes ever created.

About The Author: Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition

expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food.

Visit for more information

on cooking delicious and healthy meals.

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