TGIW! To celebrate the middle of the week, today’s post will be the first of our Chinese customs and cuisine series. We will be dishing out a healthy serving of interesting facts on the Eight Great Cuisines of China, also known as the Eight Culinary Traditions.
What are the Eight Great Cuisines of China?
Typically, from a foreign perspective, many of us tend to base our knowledge and experiences of Chinese food on the high street, Chinatown-esque, Cantonese takeaways that have been with us since the 1960s.
However, there is so much more to China’s rich and diverse cuisines than sweet and sour chicken or egg-fried rice; a hidden culinary world exists that many have yet to discover.
China’s size and diversity has coined it the title of a ‘subcontinent’; with a total of 52 ethnic minorities and a land mass stretching three thousand miles, it is easy to see why this term is so frequently used. Therefore, China’s geographical landscape inevitably led to different regional sub-cultures, with each having their own unique cuisines as a representation of their identity.
But, it is these eight cuisines that have historically earned the recognition as the ‘Eight Great Cuisines of China: Cantonese, Sichuan, Anhui, Zhejiang, Hunan, Shandong, Fujian and Jiangsu.
Why are they so special?
The answer lies in their diversity.
As a whole, they all fall into the category of Chinese food, yet the similarity ends there. From Cantonese to Jiangsu cuisine, every dining experience will surely be unrivalled, because of certain unique characteristics (such as eating style texture, sweetness, delicacy and freshness).
Each culinary tradition differs due to the geography, climate, resources, cooking features and life styles of that region.
Main ingredients: Wide range of ingredients, from herbs and vegetables to seafood, with a minimal use of spices.
Flavour: ‘Hearty’, rich and delicate.
Techniques: Frying, steaming, stewing or baking.
Main ingredients: Garlic and chilli peppers.
Flavour: Strong, pungent and spicy.
Main ingredients: Local herbs and vegetables (from Huizhou and areas around Yangtze). Ham and sugar candy are often used as seasoning to enrich flavour.
Flavour: Fresh and delicate.
Main ingredients: Hangzhou style: (strong use of bamboo shoots),
Shaoxing style: (poultry and freshwater fish), Ningbo style: (seafood) and Shanghai style (dim sum).
Flavour: Fresh and delicate, with a mellow fragrance.
Main ingredients: Strong use of oil, and spices.
Flavour: Rich, spicy and dense.
Techniques: Uses cooking techniques that produce crispness, softness and tenderness.
Main ingredients: Meat and a wide range of seafood ingredients.
Flavour: Sweet, sour and salty.
Main ingredients: Seafood, mushrooms and bamboo.
Flavour: Fresh, savoury and sour.
Techniques: Fine cutting techniques, alternative soups, unique seasoning,
and exquisite cooking.
Main ingredients: Tofu, mushroom, meat and seafood.
Flavour: Rich, smooth, salty and sometimes sweet.
Techniques: Braising and stewing.
So, if you are eager to try some of these diverse cuisines, click on the link below for a low-down on Chinese restaurants in London.
You won’t be disappointed!