China is an incredibly diverse country, and with it comes a great diversity of cuisines. The population of China is the largest in the world, and many different ethnic groups make up that community. With so many people across such a wide expanse of land, it’s natural that the food in one part of the country can differ so much from another. You might think of Chinese food as the dishes you find on your local takeaway menu. But they’re much more likely to be particular to Britain (or wherever you live). If you go to China to sample the food, you could find that a lot of it is unrecognisable. Have a look at some of these regional cuisines to see how they differ.
Cantonese cuisine is one of the most well-known Chinese cooking types around the world. Also known as Yue cuisine, it comes from the Guangdong province, and you can find it in restaurants worldwide. So what distinguishes it from other Chinese cuisines from other parts of the country? Cantonese dishes often have a taste that’s a bit sweet and flavourful without being strong. You’ll find that sauces are crucial in Cantonese cooking. And you’re sure to know some of the most prominent ones, such as Hoisin and oyster sauce. Spices are usually used sparingly, but you’ll find a range of other ingredients, from spring onions to sesame oil. You’ll also find just about anything you can think of in traditional Cantonese food, with no part of an animal (and no animal) going to waste.
Hunan is another popular and well-known Chinese cuisine. People often call Hunan “the land of rice and fishes”, and you’ll find much of these two things in their cooking. The area is very fertile, making agriculture easier than some other areas. One of the things you might notice about Hunan food is the effort that goes into preparing each dish. Some meals can take a day or more to make to ensure they’re flavourful. Unlike Cantonese food, Hunan cuisine uses spices a lot more and especially chillies. It also features garlic a lot, and of course rice, fish and poultry.
Just as China has a diverse cuisine with many influences, the province of Yunnan is a culinary melting pot of its own. Many people struggle to identify a distinct Yunnan food because it has influences from Thailand, Burma, Tibet and the Middle East. You might not find this cuisine on your takeaway menu, but you can spot its influence in many places, such as the Lonaslileats menu for a restaurant in St Louis, Missouri. Both the ingredients and cooking styles are influenced by different ethnic groups, passed down through the generations. So it can be difficult to find one identity. However, this means that if you visit the province, you can sample a range of foods in one place.
There are many other types of Chinese cuisine from different regions of the country. To explore them all, a tour of China would be in order.