Chinese cuisines originated from the various regions of China, and has become widespread in the world. With the great differences in the climate, geography, history and culture of different regions, Chinese cuisine culture is extensive and profound with unique characteristics. China has local cuisine, imperial dishes, and dishes of ethnic minorities, such as, Islamic dishes with a strong religious flavor and vegetarian dishes.
Chinese cuisine is classified into four schools (the north, south, east, and west), which are further divided into eight main regional cuisines: Anhui, Guangdong, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. There are also featured Buddhist and Muslim sub-cuisines within the greater Chinese cuisine, with an emphasis on vegetarian and halal-based diets respectively.
Anhui Cuisine chef may stress the temperature in cooking and are good at braising and stewing. Often ham will be added to improve taste and candied sugar added to gain freshness.
Guangdong cuisine tastes clean, light, crisp and fresh. Its basic techniques include typically steamed, braising, boiled or stir-fried. The main ingredients of this type of Chinese food are seafood, pork, chicken and vegetables, but could include almost anything. It is a very healthy food since it uses minimum of oil.
Fujian Cuisine is renowned for its seafood, beautiful color and magical tastes of sweet, sour, salt and savory. The most distinct feature is their pickled taste. Such a taste combines Fuzhou Cuisine, Quanzhou Cuisine, and Xiamen Cuisine.
Hunan Cuisine is known for its hot and spicy dishes. Chili, pepper and shallot are necessities with thick and pungent flavor for Hunan food.
Jiangsu Cuisine, also called Huaiyang Cuisine, is popular in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Huaiyang Cuisine tastes light, fresh and sweet. Fish and crustaceans are the main ingredients. Cooking techniques consist of stewing, braising, roasting, and simmering.
Shandong Cuisine, clean, pure and not greasy, is characterized by aroma, freshness, crispness and tenderness. Shallots and garlic are frequently used as main seasonings. Jinan chefs are adept at deep-frying, grilling, pan-frying and stir-frying while Jiaodong chefs are famous for cooking seafood, tasting fresh and light.
The typical Sichuan Cuisine tastes spicy. Many Sichuan dishes are prepared using chili pepper oil, which gives a special taste to the food. The most famous Sichuan dish is the Gongbao (Kung Pao) chicken, fried with peanuts and chili pepper.
Zhejiang Cuisine is not greasy. It wins its reputation for freshness, tenderness, softness, and smoothness of its dishes with their mellow fragrance. Hangzhou Cuisine is the most famous one among them.
Vegetarian Cuisine became popular in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and developed further in Ming and Qing (1368-1911) dynasties. It is made of green vegetables, fruits, edible fungi, and bean products, and cooked in vegetable oil. Vegetarian dishes are tasty, nourishing, and highly digestible.
Muslim dishes became popular at the time when Islam spread to China. The most representative dishes include instant-boiled mutton, fried mutton pieces, mutton shashlik, fried rice with mutton, dumplings with fillings of mutton, cakes braised with mutton, and beef-entrails soup.
Medicinal cuisine is also called therapeutic food. It is an important part of Chinese cooking. Master Chefs have developed food therapies by combining cookery and traditional Chinese medicine. Famous medicinal dishes include lily and chicken soup, shrimp meat with pearl powder, tianfu carp, duck braised with soy sauce and orange peel, and steamed dumplings stuffed with minced meat and poria coccos, a medicinal plant.
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