You may have every Chinese restaurant within fifty miles on speed dial, but unless you’ve been to China, you’ve never really experienced the country’s cuisine. China is a vast country with enough people to create subcultures within subcultures. ‘
The traditional dish of one region is vastly different from that of its neighbor, and what’s served in America is a watered-down conglomerate of the real thing. In reality, there are eight primary styles of Chinese cuisine.
The Sichuan Style
Sichuan cuisine hails from the Sichuan Province, and includes some of the spiciest dishes in the country. Their focus is on the mouth-numbing flavor of the Sichuan peppercorn combined with a bold mix of peanuts, garlic, and other not-so-subtle spices. For a real taste of Sichuan, try to mapo doufu or beef soup.
The Jiangsu Style
For a more delicate dining experience, you’ll have to look Northwest of Shanghai. The Jiangsu Province creates highly refined dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients and carefully prepared meats. You can expect sweeter aromatic dishes with an emphasis on soup when sampling Jiangsu cuisine.
The Hunan Style
Hunan cuisine might be the only style with spicier dishes than Sichuan. This is a landlocked province that uses bold seasoning to accentuate agricultural offerings. Hot and sour flavors are the norm. Try Dong’an chicken for an authentic taste of this province.
The Fujian Style
The Fujian Province offers a unique variety of dishes because of their proximity to both the mountains and the bordering sea. This food is made up of a mix of seafood and wild mountain vegetation, creating a sweet and sour contrast with milder spices.
The Cantonese Style
Cantonese style cuisine is some of the most popular in the U.S. It can be sampled in major cities like Hong Kong, and boasts a lighter and sweeter approach to seasoning. It’s one of the few cooking styles that’s close to the Americanized versions, and produces some of our favorite menu options, including dim sum.
The Shandong Style
The Shandong cuisine takes its flavors straight from the Yellow Sea. Located in Northeastern China, the Shandong province creates dishes using fresh and fried seafood combined with dense breads in place of rice. The use of rice vinegar brings everything together for a flavor that’s genuinely unique to this area of the world.
The Anhui Style
If you want to experience a cuisine that’s still reminiscent of a hearty mountain culture, look no further than the Anhui Province. Bordered by mountains and wild terrain, this area produces a gamey and earthy flavor that favors wild game, berries, and fresh bamboo.
The Zhejiang Style
The Zhejiang Province offers a simpler fare with a focus on fresh seafood dishes. Not a lot goes into the cooking process, and it’s this simplicity that makes these flavors deliciously unique.