Chinese cuisine

Chinese cuisine
A Chinese painting of an outdoor banquet. The painting is a Song Dynasty remake of a Tang Dynasty original.

Chinese cuisine is any of several styles originating in the regions of China, some of which have become highly popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa. The history of Chinese cuisine stretches back for many centuries and produced both change from period to period and variety in what could be called traditional Chinese food, leading Chinese to pride themselves on eating a wide range of foods. Major traditions include Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang cuisines.[1]


Eight Culinary Traditions of China

Chinese dishes may be categorized as one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, also called the "Eight Regional Cuisines" and the "Eight Cuisines of China". They are as follows:[citation needed]

  • Hui: Anhui
  • Yue (Cantonese): Guangdong
  • Min: Fujian
  • Xiang: Hunan (Can include Xiangjiang Region, Dongting Lake and Xiangxi styles)
  • Su (aka Huaiyang Cuisine): Jiangsu
  • Lu: Shandong (Include Jinan, Jiaodong styles, etc.)
  • Chuan: Sichuan
  • Zhe: Zhejiang (Can include Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing styles

Regional cuisines

Chinese fried rice

A number of different styles contribute to Chinese cuisine, but perhaps the best known and most influential are Guangdong (Cantonese) cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine and Sichuan cuisine.[2][3][4] These styles are distinctive from one another due to factors such as available resources, climate, geography, history, cooking techniques and lifestyle. One style may favour the use of lots of garlic and shallots over lots of chilli and spices, while another may favour preparing seafood over other meats and fowl. Jiangsu cuisine favours cooking techniques such as braising and stewing, while Sichuan cuisine employs baking, just to name a few.[2] Hairy crab is a highly sought after local delicacy in Shanghai, as it can be found in lakes within the region. Beijing Roast Duck (otherwise known as 'Peking Duck') is another popular dish that's well known outside of China.[2] Based on the raw materials and ingredients used, the method of preparation, and cultural differences, a variety of foods with different flavours and textures are prepared in different regions of the country. Many traditional regional cuisines rely on basic methods of preservation such as drying, salting, pickling and fermentation.[5]

Chuan (Sichuan)

Szechuan cuisine, also called Sichuan cuisine, is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China famed for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of the Sichuan peppercorn (花椒, huājiāo) and zhitianjiao(指天椒, zhǐtiānjiāo). Peanuts, sesame paste and ginger are also prominent ingredients in Szechuan cooking.

Hui (Anhui)

Anhui cuisine (Chinese: 徽菜 or 安徽菜, Ānhuīcài) is one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China. It is derived from the native cooking styles of the Huangshan Mountains region in China and is similar to Jiangsu cuisine, but has less emphasis on seafood, and more on a wide variety of local herbs and vegetables. Anhui province is particularly endowed with fresh bamboo and mushroom crops.

Lu (Shandong)

Shandong Cuisine is commonly and simply known as Lu cuisine. With a long history, Shandong Cuisine once formed an important part of the imperial cuisine and was widely promoted in the north China. However it isn't so popular in south China and even in the all-embracing Shanghai.

Shandong Cuisine is featured by a variety of cooking techniques and seafood. The typical dishes on local menu are braised abalone, braised trepang, sweet and sour carp, Jiuzhuan Dachang and Dezhou Chicken. Various Shandong snacks are also worth trying.

Min (Fujian)

A bowl of Fujian thick soup, or geng (羹, gēng)

Fujian cuisine is a traditional Chinese cuisine.[1] Many diverse seafoods are used, including hundreds of types of fish, shellfish and turtles, provided by the Fujian coastal region.[1] Woodland delicacies such as edible mushrooms and bamboo shoots are also utilized.[1] Slicing techniques are valued in the cuisine, and utilized to enhance the flavor, aroma and texture of seafood and other foods.[1] Fujian cuisine is often served in a broth or soup, and cooking techniques include braising, stewing, steaming and boiling.[1]

Su (Jiangsu, Huaiyang cuisine)

Jiangsu cuisine, also known as Su (Cai) Cuisine for short, is one of the major components of Chinese cuisine, and consists of the styles of Yangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Zhenjiang dishes. It is very famous in the whole world for its distinctive style and taste. It is especially popular in the lower reach of the Yangtze River.

Typical courses of Jiangsu cuisine are Jinling salted dried duck (Nanjing's most famous dish), crystal meat (pork heels in a bright, brown sauce), clear crab shell meatballs (pork meatballs in crab shell powder, fatty, yet fresh), Yangzhou steamed Jerky strips (dried tofu, chicken, ham and pea leaves), triple combo duck, dried duck, and Farewell My Concubine (soft-shelled turtle stewed with many other ingredients such as chicken, mushrooms and wine).

Yue (Hong Kong and Guangdong)

Dim sum, literally "touch your heart", is a Cantonese term for small hearty dishes.[2] These bite-sized portions are prepared using traditional cooking methods such as frying, steaming, stewing and baking. It is designed so that one person may taste a variety of different dishes. Some of these may include rice rolls, lotus leaf rice, turnip cakes, buns, shui jiao-style dumplings, stir-fried green vegetables, congee porridge, soups, etc. The Cantonese style of dining, yum cha, combines the variety of dim sum dishes with the drinking of tea. Yum cha literally means 'drink tea'.[2] Cantonese style is the unique and charm dishes, possess reputation abroad or in the domestic. Long, long history. It is common with other parts of the diet and cuisine in Chinese food culture. Back in ancient times, and the Central Plains on Lingnan Yue Chu family has close contacts. With the historical changes and the changes of dynasty, many people escaped the war and crossed the Central Plains, the increasing integration of the two communities. Central Plains culture gradually moved to the south, their food production techniques, cookware, utensils and property turned into a rich combination of Agriculture, and this is the origin of Cantonese food. Cantonese cuisine originated in the Han.(a paragraph published in a recognized scientific journal)

Xiang (Hunan)

Hunan cuisine is well known for its hot spicy flavor,[6] fresh aroma and deep color. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, ingredients for Hunan dishes are many and varied.


The cuisine of Xinjiang reflects the region's many ethnic groups, and refers particularly to Uyghur cuisine. Signature ingredients include roast mutton, kebabs, roast fish and rice.[7] Because of the Islamic population, the food is predominantly halal.

Zhe (Zhejiang)

Zhejiang cuisine (Chinese: 浙菜 or 浙江菜, Zhèjiāngcài), one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, derives from the native cooking styles of the Zhejiang region. The dishes are not greasy, having but instead have a fresh, soft flavor with a mellow fragrance.

The cuisine consists of at least three styles. These a each originate from a different city in the province:

  • Hangzhou style, characterized by rich variations and the use of bamboo shoots
  • Shaoxing style, specializing in poultry and freshwater fish
  • Ningbo style, specializing in seafood


Many other regions with unique dishes and styles are represented in China, including the cuisine of Macau and Hainan.

Staple foods


Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China.[citation needed] It is most commonly eaten in the form of steamed rice. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars.


Misua noodle making in Lukang, Taiwan

Chinese noodles come dry or fresh in a variety of sizes, shapes and textures and are often served in soups or fried as toppings. Some varieties, such as Shou Mian (寿面, literally noodles of longevity), are symbolic of long life and good health according to Chinese tradition.[2]


Tofu is made of soybeans and is another popular product that supplies protein.[5]


In wheat farming areas in Northern China, people largely rely on flour based food such as noodles, breads, dumplings and steamed buns.[2]


Some common vegetables used in Chinese cuisine include bok choy (Chinese cabbage), Chinese Spinach (dao-mieu), On Choy, Yu Choy, and gailan (guy-lahn).


Herbs were important to the Chinese people, especially during the Han Dynasty.[citation needed]


When it comes to sauces, China is home to soy sauce, which is made from fermented soya beans and wheat. Oyster sauce, transparent rice vinegar, Chinkiang black rice vinegar, fish sauce and fermented tofu (furu) are also widely used. A number of sauces are based on fermented soybeans, including Hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce and yellow bean sauce. Spices and seasonings such as fresh root ginger, garlic, spring onion, white pepper, sesame oil are widely used in many regional cuisines. Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves.[8] To provide extra flavors to dishes, many Chinese cuisines also contain dried Chinese mushrooms, dried baby shrimps, dried tangerine peel,[9] dried Sichuan chillies as well.


Deep-fried mantou, a popular Chinese dessert, served with sweetened condensed milk
Panfried water chestnut cake (馬蹄糕), a type of Chinese gao dessert

Chinese desserts are sweet foods and dishes that are served with tea, along with meals[10] or at the end of meals in Chinese cuisine.[citation needed] Bings are baked wheat flour based confections, and include moon cake Red bean paste pancake and sun cakes. Chinese candies and sweets, called táng[10] are usually made with cane sugar, malt sugar, honey, nuts and fruit. Gao or Guo are rice based snacks that are typically steamed[10] and may be made from glutinous or normal rice. Ice cream is commonly available throughout China.[10] Another cold dessert is called baobing, which is shaved ice with sweet syrup.[10] Chinese jellies are known collectively in the language as ices. Many jelly desserts are traditionally set with agar and are flavored with fruits, though gelatin based jellies are also common in contemporary desserts. Chinese dessert soups typically consist of sweet and usually hot soups[10] and custards.



Longjing tea, also known as Dragon Well tea, is a variety of roasted green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, where it is produced mostly by hand and has been renowned for its high quality, earning the China Famous Tea title.

As well as with dim sum, many Chinese drink their tea with snacks such as nuts, plums, dried fruit (in particular jujube), small sweets, melon seeds, and waxberry.[2] China was the earliest country to cultivate and drink tea and it is enjoyed by people from all social classes.[11] Tea processing began after the Qin and Han Dynasties.[11] Chinese tea is often classified into several different categories according to the species of plant from which it is sourced, the region in which it is grown, and the method of production used. Some of these are green tea, oolong tea, black tea, scented tea, white tea, and compressed tea. There are four major tea plantation regions in China. They are Jiangbei, Jiangnan, Huanan and the southwestern region.[11] Well known types of green tea include Longjing, Huangshan, Mao Feng, Bilochun, Putuofeng Cha, and Liu'an Guapian.[12] China is the world’s largest exporter of green tea.[12] One of the most ubiquitous accessories in modern China, after a wallet or purse and an umbrella, is a double-walled insulated glass thermos with tea leaves in the top behind a strainer.


Yellow wine has a long history in China, where the unique beverage is produced from rice and ranges between 10–15% alcohol content.[2] The most popular brands include Shaoxing Lao Jiu, Shaoxing Hua Diao and Te Jia Fan.[2] Wheat, corn and rice are used to produce Chinese liquor which is clear and aromatic, containing approximately 60% alcohol. This also has a long history in China, with production believed to date back to the Song Dynasty.[2] Some popular brands of liquor include Er guo tou, Du Kang, Mao Tai, Lu Zhou Te Qu and Wu Liang Ye.[2]

Herbal drinks

Chinese herb tea, also known as medicinal herbal tea, is a kind of tea-soup made from purely Chinese medicinal herbs.[citation needed]

Medicine Cuisine

Chinese medicine cuisine is an important part in Chinese cuisine, which originated in B.C 1046 and developed in Han Dynasty (A.D 200). In Chinese traditional medicine, medicine can be characterized as 'four properties and five flavors (四性五味)'. The 'four properties' refer to 'cold','cool','warm', and 'hot', and the 'five flavors' refer to 'spicy','sour','sweet','bitter', and 'salty'[13][unreliable source?]. Chinese medical doctors believe that some kinds of food have the 'four properties and five flavors' as well, which can not only serve for meal, but are also beneficial for health. This theory is called 'the homology of medicine and food (药食同源)' in traditional Chinese medicine, and this is also the basis for Chinese medicine cuisine.

Chinese medicine cuisine applies 'the homology of medicine and food' theory and makes the food and medicine consistent with each other according to the 'four properties', while the 'five flavors' aim at curing specific symptoms or strengthening body[14][unreliable source?]. It is because the medical property of medicine and the edible property of food are combined in cooking that the Chinese medicine cuisine is beneficial for health with good color,flavor, and taste.

Based on the effect, Chinese medicine cuisine can be categorized into four categories.

Health Care

This mainly aims at recuperating or strengthening the body.'Stewed pig heart with the Chinese Arborvitae kernel (柏子仁炖猪心)' may soothe the nerves; 'Semen Cassiae and chicken liver soup (决明子鸡肝汤)' is beneficial for improving eyesight;'Ten Major Tonics Decoction (十全大补汤)' can supplement qi and blood.[medical citation needed]

Skin Nourishment

This mainly aims at beautifying the skin. 'dahurian angelica root and Poria cocos porridge (白芷茯苓粥)' may remove freckles on skin; 'Flatstem Milkvetch Seed turtle soup (沙苑子甲鱼汤)' may prevent skin laxity.[medical citation needed]

Illness Treatment

This mainly aims at curing diseases.'hew jelly (山楂糕)' can deal with dyspepsia; 'the root of angelica with chicken (当归鸡)' may relieve pain; 'tendril-leaved fritillary bulb steamed with white pear (川贝蒸白梨)' may cure a cough.[medical citation needed]


'a hawthorn with shelled walnut (山楂桃仁蜜)' may help rehabilitating from coronary heart disease; 'a fritillary turtle soup (贝母甲鱼汤)' may help rehabilitating from diabetes.[medical citation needed]


In most dishes in Chinese cuisine, food is prepared in bite-sized pieces, ready for direct picking up and eating. In traditional Chinese cultures, chopsticks are used at the table. Traditional Chinese cuisine is also based on opposites, whereby hot balances cold, pickled balances fresh and spicy balances mild.[citation needed]

Story and legend about Chinese cuisine

  • New Year Cake

New year cake is made of rice flour and different ingredients, such as red bean, to add flavor. It is always severed in Chinese New Year Eve, so Chinese call it New Year Cake. The story of the New Year Cake is-- once upon a time, there was a monster called 'Year'. In the winter, there was lack of food and Year came out to find food and hurt people sometimes. People were afraid of it. One person, named Gao, made some rice cakes and fed Year. Year loved the rice cakes and did not hurt people anymore. To celebrate this, people started to call the rice cake New Year Cake. Chinese celebrate the New Year is actually celebrate the leaving of Monster Year.[citation needed]

  • Pao Ding Jie Niu

Pao means Chef. Ding is the name of a famous chef. Jie means carve up. Niu means an ox. So the translation of this word should be "Chef Ding is Carving Up an Ox". The story is recorded in a Chinese philosophy book Zhuangzi (book). It says Chef Ding was butchering an ox for King Wen Hui. His skill was perfect and the King asked why he was so good. Chef Ding answered "I have been using my knife to carve up for 19 years. When I see the ox, I see it by my mind. In my mind, the ox is made up with different joints. My work is to separate the joints more than carve an ox." The whole translation of this story can be found in [Whole translation of Paoding The meaning of this story is there is lots of complex things in the world. If we study hard and practice hard, finally, we will get the secret of how to do it perfectly. In addition, when we deal with the difficulties start from the details(joints), the work will be easier.[citation needed]

  • Madam Song's Fish Soup

Madam Song's Fish Soup is made with fish, bamboo shoot, mushroom, ham, egg yolk and seasoning. It is a famous Chinese dish with history of 800 years. In 1171(Song Dynasty), Emperor Gou was travelling in West Lake and purchased some fish. Madame Song made one bowl of fish soup for Emperor Gou. Gou was so happy with the soup and offered rewards for Madame Song. Afterward, Madam Song's Fish Soup was becoming popular.[citation needed]

Recent trends

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates for 2001–2003, 12% of the population of the People’s Republic of China was undernourished.[15] The number of undernourished people in the country has fallen from 386.6 million in 1969–1971 to 150.0 million in 2001–2003.[16] Prior to the increased industrialization and modernization following the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 (and the late 1950s famine), a typical Chinese peasant would have eaten meat or animal products (including eggs) rarely and most meals would have consisted of rice accompanied with green vegetables, with protein coming from foods like peanuts and soy products.[citation needed] Fats and sugar were luxuries not eaten on a regular basis by most of the population. With increasing wealth, Chinese diets have become richer over time, consuming more meats, fats, and sugar.


Where there are historical immigrant Chinese populations, the style of food has evolved and been adapted to local tastes and ingredients, and modified by the local cuisine, to greater or lesser extents. This has resulted in a number of forms of fusion cuisine, often very popular in the country in question, and some of these, such as ramen (Japanese Chinese) have become popular internationally. These include:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Fujian Cuisine. Accessed June 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Yao, Zhang. China Everyday!. Page One Pub. 2007. ISBN 978-9812453303
  3. ^ "Regions of Chinese food-styles/flavors of cooking." University of Kansas, Kansas Asia Scholars. Accessed June 2011.
  4. ^ "Eight Cuisines of China - Shandong & Guangdong." Travel China Guide. Accessed June 2011.
  5. ^ a b J. Li & Y. Hsieh. Traditional Chinese Food Technology and Cuisine. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  6. ^ "Hunan Cuisine.", Chinese Imperial Cuisines. Accessed June 2011.
  7. ^ "Xinjiang Cuisine". All-China Women's Federation. 2006-04-10. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  8. ^ "Top 10 basic ingredients for Chinese cooking." The Times. Accessed June 2011.
  9. ^ Chinese Restaurants Are Adding Herbs for Flavor and HealthThe New York Times
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Chinese Desserts." Kaleidoscope - Cultural China. Accessed June 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Q. Hong & F. Chunjian. Origins of Chinese Tea and Wine. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd. 2005.ISBN 9812293698.
  12. ^ a b Zonglin Chang Xukui Li. Aspect of Chinese Culture. 2006.ISBN 7302126321, 9787302126324.
  13. ^ "四性五味". 
  14. ^ "药膳". 
  15. ^ "Country Profiles" (PDF). Statistical yearbook. FAO. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  16. ^ "Undernourished persons by country". Food security statistics. FAO. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 

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