Four Regions of Chinese Cuisine

September 15, 2009 RENU

There are many different types of food in China that can be categorized roughly by four regions: Southern, Northern, Eastern & Western.

  • Southern, or Cantonese cuisine- is the most well known to Americans. It includes a large variety of vegetables & meats, the familiar Fried Rice recipes(since Rice is the staple here). Many of the dishes here are prepared very quickly by stir-frying. Usually here the food is lightly flavored, but there are a large variety of tastes used. Sweet & sour dishes originated here.
  • Northern, or Beijing – Also known as Mandarin cuisine, originated here. Since this area has very sever winters, does not allow for the growing of rice, so wheat is the staple. Wheat is made into noodles, pancakes, & dumplings. The flavors here are more robust, with plenty of onion, garlic, cabbage, bean pastes, dark soy sauce & oyster flavored sauce. With influences from Mongolian & Muslim invaders in the past, Northern cuisine is hearty fare. Beijing (Peking) Duck, Mongolian Hot Pot & Mongolian Beef are some of the more familiar types of this cuisine.
  • Eastern, or Shanghai cuisine- uses a combination of wheat & rice as its staples, so rice & wheat noodles are very popular. Due to lot of rivers & other bodies of water, fish & seafood are a very large part of the cuisine. Sugar is also grown in this area, & includes delicate & refined varieties of sweet & savory pastries. Meatballs from finely minced pork is made here.
  • Western, or Szechwan cuisine- famous for its use of tongue-blistering chili peppers in a variety of dishes. But there’s more to this cuisine than just heat. There are subtle dishes, such as smoked Chicken that is smoked with tea leaves. Szechwan pepper & 5 spice powder are the spices used in this cuisine. Hot &  Sour soup, Twice Cooked Pork are familiar dishes from this area. Ever hear the expression “Oil and water don’t mix”? It’s true, which is why drinking water doesn’t help combat the effects of spicy foods. Since most spices are oily, the water just rolls over the spice. Eat rice instead – it absorbs the hot chili oil. Beer or milk also help. Szechuan pepper is not a pepper at all. Instead, the reddish-brown fruit – one of the ingredients in five spice powder – is a berry that comes from the prickly ash tree. While not as hot as chili pepper, it does have a unique flavor, and is famous for its numbing effect on the tongue.

Authentic dishes

  • Szechuan chicken: Rinse, pat dry with paper towels, cut to thin strips, partially frozen boneless, skinless, 4chicken breasts of 7oz each. Dip strips in whisked 2egg whites+2T cornstarch, deep fry till turn white & remove. In 1T sesame oil, stir-fry 1minute 4carrots julienned, add 1/2 red bell pepper sliced & 1/2 green bell pepper sliced. Make a well in center of wok, add 2Trice wine/dry sherry/cooking wine + 1t worcestershire sauce + 2t tabasco sauce + 2T sesame oil + 1T soy sauce + 2T brown sugar + 1/4t cayenne + 1/2t red chilli flakes + 1T ginger mince. Heat briefly & stir the sauce in with the vegetables. Add chicken, stir-fry 2 mts, sprinkle 3 green onions chopped. Serve with rice.
  • Kung Pao chicken: Marinate 1/2hr 1lb boneless chicken breast, cut to 1″cubes in 2T soy sauce + 1 1/2T h20 + 1 1/2T corn starch + 1/4t garlic salt, d.f 1/2min, remove. In 1T sesame oil, fry 4 dried red chillies until black, add 1t ginger chopped, chicken, stir, add 2T soy sauce + 1T white wine/sherry + 1T sugar + 1t cornstarch + 1/2t salt + 1t sesame oil, stir until just thickened, remove, sprinkle 1/2c peanuts.
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Entry Filed under: Cooking

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