Information about some of the most popular regional dishes in China...
Chinese cuisine can be broken down into five major regions:
- Northern China, around Beijing: Here centuries of imperial rule have had an enormous influence on the region's food. Its most famous dish is probably Peking duck, but it is also known for its noodle dishes and steamed breads. The cuisine is rich in garlic, leeks and chives, and popular dishes include roast meats, herrings, pancakes, silk thread noodles, dim sum pastries and toffee apples or bananas.
- Western China: The Szechuan cuisine in this area is known for its spicy dishes which make use of local citrus fruits, bamboo, rice, chillies and mushrooms. Other flavourings include ginger, onions and brown peppercorns. In contrast to most Chinese food, meals are not served with many extra condiments, as the dishes are already well seasoned. Renowned local dishes include deep-fried chicken wrapped in paper, sliced Hoisin pork, bean curd dishes and smoked duck. The duck is a gourmet speciality. It is seasoned with cinnamon, orange peel and coriander, before being marinated in rice wine and steamed. Finally, it is smoked over a charcoal fire sprinkled with red tea leaves and camphor wood chips.
- Eastern China: Here the Shanghainese cuisine is known for having more international influence. Seafood is popular, with rice being a staple. Both soy sauce and sugar are widely used in the region's cooking. The Shanghai "red cooking" technique is typical of cooking in this part of China: food is slowly stewed in a liquid based on soy sauce, sugar and spices. A typical meal in this part of China includes at least one clear, light soup. Popular dishes include sour and hot soup with eel, and chicken and duck with prawn rounds.
- Central China: The Honan region's cuisine is based around coy carp from the Yellow River. Yellow carp is a sought-after food throughout the country. Central China is also known for its sweet and sour dishes.
- Southern China: The Cantonese and Chaozhou regions are known for their light cooking which uses plenty of vegetables. Freshness is important here, and food is often quickly stir-fried or steamed with few seasonings. Roasted meat and steamed fish are popular. Common dishes include sweet and sour carp (coy) and Dezhou stewed chicken.