The Four Major Cuisines of China

(Last Updated on February 2, 2024 by Amiee)

Chinese culinary traditions have a rich and illustrious history spanning over 2,000 years. When discussing Chinese cuisine, it is essential to delve into the realm of the four major culinary traditions, which emerged during the late Qing Dynasty. These distinct culinary styles, deeply rooted in regional diversity, local ingredients, and cultural customs, have come to epitomize the essence of Chinese gastronomy. The four esteemed culinary traditions are the Lu Cuisine, representing the northern region with its refined flavors; the Chuan Cuisine, embodying the bold and spicy flavors of the western region; the Yue Cuisine, hailing from the southern region and renowned for its delicate and exquisite taste; and lastly, the Huaiyang Cuisine, originating from the eastern region and celebrated for its elegant and sophisticated presentation.

Lu Cuisine(Shandong cuisine)-official dish, it is the first of the four major cuisines. It originated in Shandong and has the oldest history, the most abundant technique, the highest difficulty, and showed skills. The Chinese political center has been in the northern region for a long period of time. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, a large number of Shandong chefs and dishes entered the court, making Lu cuisine more luxurious, liberal, and Health preserving. Shandong is the hometown of Confucius and Mencius and was influenced by Confucian culture. The etiquette and ritual of Lu cuisine are valued. The requirements for the shape, meaning, taste, color, and fragrance of the dishes are very high. Therefore it is more suitable for the occasion of the court and worth of “official dish”. Representative dish: sweet and sour carp(糖醋鲤鱼), Braised Pork Balls in Gravy(四喜丸子).

Braised-pork-ball-in-brown-sauce

Yue cuisine (Cantonese cuisine )-commercial dish: the cuisine is also called a commercial dish. It means dishes for businessmen. Even when China was the most closed-door country, the thirteen-hong of Canton was the only place for foreign trade. Merchants from all over the country gathered here. The merchants were rich then chopping food is always welcome. Yue cuisine was able to show its strengths and be the first step towards the world. Yue cuisine and French cuisine are equally famous around the world. Since the number of overseas Chinese in Guangdong accounts for 60%, most of the Chinese restaurants in the world mainly focused on Yue cuisine. The merchant’s culture is integrated with Yue cuisine, and the fine use of Cantonese cuisine has occupied a place for high-end dining and is loved by business people. Cantonese cuisine is characterized by the first taste, and the ingredients are fresh and seasonal. Representative dish: Sweet and Sour pork with pineapple(菠萝咕噜肉), barbecued meat with honey(蜜汁叉烧)

Huaiyang cuisine(Jiangsu cuisine)–literati cuisine,  means dishes for literati. Huaiyang cuisine originated in Jiangsu and is rooted in the Ancient Jiangnan area with a profound cultural heritage. The area has always been a collection of humanities and beautiful articles. Therefore, the cooking of Huaiyang cuisine is exquisite, it got an elegant taste and exquisite appearance. In the ancient Jiangnan area, there are many scholars and literati. At that time, Four men have been named “four great talents”. The literati loved the beautiful scenery and the local food culture has naturally been affected. The greatest feature of Huaiyang cuisine is exquisite, whether in ingredients or cooking.   Represents dish: hot dried silk, squirrel squid. 

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Chinese dish

Chuan cuisine(Sichuan cuisine) -folk dish, it means dish for folk. There are many migrant workers in Sichuan and Chongqing areas during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, The local climate is too humid, which determines the heavy taste and heavy oil of Chuan cuisine, which is relatively spicy. Chuan cuisine is Suitable for the people at the bottom. Normal ingredients and heavy seasonings are used in Chuan cuisine. It is mainly home-based, and it is still the favorite cuisine with the largest population. Representative dish: Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork(鱼香肉丝), sauteed tofu in hot and spicy sauce(麻婆豆腐), spicy diced chicken with peanuts(宫保鸡丁)

fish-flavored shredded pork in a plate
Nice color and delicious Chinese Kung Pao Chicken

Later, Huaiyang cuisine was renamed  Su cuisine. During the period of the Republic of China, four major cuisines evolved into eight cuisines. Min cuisine, Zhe cuisine, Xiang cuisine, and Hui cuisine were added and named with the Province abbreviation.

Zhe cuisine(Zhejiang cuisine)-  originating from the coastal province of Zhejiang in China, is revered for its elegant and refined culinary offerings. Characterized by small, delicate dishes that are light and refreshing, Zhe Cuisine captivates palates with its emphasis on subtle flavors and meticulous preparation. One of its iconic dishes, the Longjing Shrimp, exemplifies the region’s culinary artistry, featuring tender shrimp infused with the aromatic notes of Longjing green tea.

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Hui Cuisine(Anhui cuisine)-Huizhou cuisine is characterized by its expertise in braising, stewing, generous use of oil, emphasis on vibrant colors, and mastery of high-heat cooking techniques. One of the representative dishes is the Mandarin Fish.

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 Xiang cuisine(Hunan cuisine)- Hunan cuisine is known for its characteristic of being spicy and bold in flavor. It often incorporates a wide variety of chili peppers and spices, creating a strong aroma and a fiery taste in the dishes. Hunan cuisine emphasizes stir-frying and cooking techniques that aim to preserve the natural flavors of the ingredients while achieving a rich and layered texture. In addition to chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and scallions are commonly used in Hunan cuisine to enhance the aroma and add complexity to the taste of the dishes. One of the iconic dishes representing Xiang Cuisine is the Pepper Fish Head.

steamed fish head with red hot chilli from hunan cuisine

Min cuisine(Fujian cuisine)- is celebrated for its emphasis on seafood and its intricate culinary techniques. Hailing from the coastal province of Fujian in China, this esteemed culinary tradition showcases the region’s abundant coastal resources and its mastery of flavor combinations. One of the most renowned dishes representing Min Cuisine is the Buddha Jumping Walls.

 

 

 

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