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Four Regions of Chinese Cuisine

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Authored by Michelle Fairbrother in Food and Cooking
Published on 10-22-2009

Each culture has its own style of cuisine and one of the most eclectic by far is the Chinese cuisine. Chinese food is incredibly popular and perhaps more than anything this is because it symbolizes comfort and tradition.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Chinese cuisine is in regards to the variety of food that is offered. Most North Americans are only used to the Chinese food that is laid out for them at all you can eat Chinese buffet restaurants but there is much more to the Chinese style of cuisine than just that. There are in fact four separate regions of Chinese cuisine that are recognized, each which holds its own importance: Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western.

The Northern or Beijing region of Chinese cuisine, also known as Mandarin, is one of the most well recognized regions of Chinese cuisine. Wheat is the staple food in the Mandarin cuisine and other ingredients frequently used include onion, garlic, cabbage and dark soy sauce. The flavors of Northern China are much more robust than in other regions and it is easy to taste in the food. The cuisine of Northern China has many important aesthetic qualities as well. There are a lot of cold dishes that are favorites of the Northern cuisine including seafood-based meals which are always very popular.

Then there is the Southern Chinese cuisine. This is also known as Cantonese cuisine and uses vegetables and meats as the staple foods for cooking. Sweet and sour chicken balls and vegetable fried rice which are two of the most popular Chinese dishes in America, reign from this region’s cuisine. Most of the dishes from this area are prepared by stir-frying, and vegetables such as peas and sweet corn are included in almost all recipes.

For the Eastern Chinese cuisine it is wheat and rice which are the major contributors. This style of Chinese cuisine is known for its seafood and clear light soups. Typical dishes from the Eastern or Shanghainese cuisine would include duck with prawn rounds, steamed beef in rice flour or boiled Crucian carp with clam, shrimps of two colors, black sea cucumber with shrimp rose or sour and hot soup with eel and chicken.

Finally there is the Western Chinese cuisine. More commonly referred to as Szechwan cuisine, this style is famous for its spicy flavors and bold tastes in a variety of dishes. Sweet, sour and salty flavors come together in this region’s cuisine and the basis of Eastern Chinese cooking is to bring together all of the fundamental taste sensations.

Chinese cuisine is delicious and for the most part it is all creative dishes that are not only mouth watering but nutritious as well. Chinese cuisine is truly an art form as the Chinese take cooking very seriously and put their all into it rather than following a given set of instructions as most Americans do. This allows for a personal and stylistic touch to the cooking, and while some of the dishes are quite complex there are many that are very easy to prepare.

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