Experience the Delights: China's Famous Cuisines Part 1

Experience the Delights: China's Famous Cuisines Part 1
By Talbot Leiter , eChinacities.com

Food in China is taken extremely seriously. There are enough varieties of cuisines to supplant all of Europe and its many diverse approaches to cooking. By utilizing locally grown ingredients, unique preparation methods, and plenty of spice, China succeeds in creating some of the world's most delightful cuisine. The eight traditions of Chinese cooking are divided by province. They are: Anhui, Guangdong (Cantonese), Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. Incidentally, these provinces are also home to much of the Chinese ethnic majority, the Han. 

To the untrained pallet, the differences in China's eight culinary traditions may seem subtle. In fact, the smells, spices, ingredients, and origins vary greatly from province to province. With a brief glance at the history and specialty dishes, one can learn and experience the eclectic tastes of each region.

In Part I we will explore what makes the eight traditional cuisines so special and where to try them in Beijing, while Part II will explore China's ethnic regions including Dongbei, Taiwan, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Gansu, and Mongolia.

A Typical Sichuan Dish - Source: Katherine Lim

1) Shandong
This province is said to be the standard of Chinese food throughout the country. A delectable variety of seafood, sautéed, fried, and contained in fish broths and soups are this cuisines strongest contending methods of preparation. The main ingredients include corn, eggplant, freshwater fish (preferably from the Yellow River) and sea cucumber. Shandong is also said to have the best selection of vinegar in all of China – experts even drink it straight for its refined taste.

Try: Dezhou stewed chicken or sweet potato quick-fried in caramelized sugar

Fengzeyuan Restaurant (丰泽园饭庄(珠市口总店)) View In Map
Add: 83 Zhushikou Xidajie, Xicheng District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6303 2828/6318 6688
Opening hours: 11:00-14:00; 17:00-21:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 2 to Qianmen station,then take bus No.5, 48, 66 to Mieshi Jie Nankou (煤市街南口) stop

2) Jiangsu
Do you appreciate meticulously arranged and presented dishes? How about textural, fall-off-the-bone meats? Then Jiangsu cuisine is a must-try. Just south of Shandong Province on China's east coast, this province also boasts an array of seafood, including white bait, but is also well known for its use of on-shore delights. Topped with their famous sweet red sauce (sugar and soy sauce), many of the dishes are good for any season, any time of day.

Try: Congee with cream and fish, Santao duck and meatballs

Song He Lou (松鹤楼 [悠唐店])View In Map
Add: 4/F, U-Town Lifestyle Center, 2 Sanfengbeili, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8562 3558/9
Opening hours: 10:30-14:00; 17:00-21:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 2 or 6 to Chaoyangmen station

Zizhuyuan BranchView In Map
Add: 2F, Bingqi Dalou, 69 Zizhuyuan Lu, Haidian District, Beijing
Tel: 010 5883 0078/9
Opening hours: 11:30-13:30; 17:00-21:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 10 to Chedaogou station

3) Anhui
Anhui is home not only to several dialects of Mandarin, but also some of China's most prized cultural traditions; including a local form of Chinese opera and Chinese calligraphy tools. With a varied topography, Anhui has access to wild game, mountain herbs and mushroom varieties, as well as river fish and bamboo. Common methods of cooking include slow-cooked stews, ham flavoring and the use of medicinal herbs. Anhui cuisine is considered healthy because of the herbal and natural raw ingredients.

Try: Red-cooked chicken, ham and bamboo stew

Anhui Province Beijing Office restaurant  (安徽大厦中餐厅)View In Map
Add: 1 Huixin Xijie, Beisihuan Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6495 6083/8
Opening hours: 11:00-14:00; 17:00-21:30
Getting there: Take subway Line 5 to Huixin Xijie Beikou station

4) Sichuan
Sichuan food is one that most people who are in China for any period of time have tried. Heavy on the garlic, chili pepper, and the flowery, numbing Sichuan pepper, it is one of China's most unique culinary experiences, and well known throughout the world. Just about any vegetable, starch, meat, or fish is enhanced by the magic combination of ingredients. Dish may also include pickled, dried or salted ingredients to help bring out flavors in the dish. Beware of too much chili oil and always order a side of rice for relief from the deep red heat.

Try: Kung Pao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Dan Dan Noodles

Dezhao Xiaoguan  (得着小馆)View In Map
Add: 1 Beijixiang hutong, Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6407 8615
Opening hours: 11:00-14:00; 17:00-22:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 6 to Nanluoguxiang station, then take the 612 bus and get off at Jiaodaokou Nan (交道口南) stop

5) Zhejiang
Finally we have a province known for its mellow flavors. With salty hints of vinegar and pork broth, Zhejiang cuisine balances meats and fish with vegetables like bamboo shoot and spring onion; keeping away the intensity of its spicier neighboring cuisines in Sichuan and Hunan. Hangzhou, Zhejiang's biggest city, is the province's cultural center and boasts one of China's most famous teas, longjing, as well as its own take on the province's cuisine. It is said that Emperor Qianglong of the Qing dynasty, often came to this city to enjoy its tasty delights. 

Try: Dongbo pork, Beggar's Chicken

Xu Xian Lou (许仙楼餐厅)View In Map
Add: Gongti West Gate, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6551 8812/6327 7777
Opening hours: 11:00-23:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 2 to Dong Sishitiao station

6) Hunan
You may have heard of Hunan: it is Mao Zedong's home province. In honor of Mao's favorite dish – braised pork belly – the province has since regulated the recipe and renamed it ‘Mao's braised pork’. Hunan is also known for its stewing, braising, smoking and frying, accompanied by a dry-hot spiciness; unlike the numbing spice of Sichuan, the dry heat actually makes your temperature rise. Try the yellow chili sauce served at the table of any Hunan restaurant - it will call into question your tolerance for spice.

Try: Dry-wok chicken, cured ham with cow peas and mashed shrimp in lotus

Karaiya Spice House (辣屋) View In Map
Add: 3F Taikooli, 19 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6415 3535
Opening hours: 10:00-22:00
Getting there: Take subway Line 10 to Tuanjiehu station

7) Fujian
Fujian is famous for its delicacies like Bird's Nest soup and Buddha Jumps Over the Wall – but we don't recommend either, but particularly the latter: it contains shark fin and Yao Ming would not approve. There are, however, plenty of other seafood options, along with specialties like litchi pork and mussel chicken soup. Fujian cooks love to use orange flavorings, tangy mustards, and all varieties of stews. It is also a cuisine commonly found in Taiwan's famous night markets.

Try: Preserved fruits, wine marinated dishes, oyster omelette and fish balls

Ba Min Restaurant (八闽食府)View In Map
Add: 3F Fujian Mansion, 11 Anzhen Xili Sanqu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6442 8833-5855
Opening hours: 9:30-14:30; 17:30-23:30
Getting there:  Take subway Line 8 to Anhuaqiao station

8) Guangdong
Guangdong cuisine is almost as diverse as its history: Guangdong is home not only to Hakka and Cantonese speaking people (including the famous Sun Yat-sen), but is also the site of the First Opium War, numerous foreign and civil engagements, and the best economy of all the provinces. Guangdong is also the ancestral home of many Chinese living overseas. Definitely for those with more adventurous taste buds, Guangdong (or Cantonese) cuisine makes use of many more species and parts of animals than others in China.

Try: Sweet sausages, tofu skin, snow mushroom soup, and sweet and sour spare ribs and of course dim sum

Jin Ding Xuan (金鼎轩[地坛店])View In Map
Add: 77 Hepingli Xi Jie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6429 6699/400 6766 111
Opening hours: 24 hours
Getting there: Take subway Line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong station

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Keywords: Chinese cuisines in Beijing China’s Fam65878ous Cuisines


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My wife's family and our children live in Hunan in fact in Changsha. the capitol of chillies as far as I am concerned. I just love Fish in boiling oil impregnated with the Hunan chillies and flavours. World class food and dishes here and between Beijing, Changsha and Shanghai I rate them all the same DELICIOUS. Mao Zedong pork dish is something to die for!

Mar 13, 2014 12:37 Report Abuse