There are several regional cooking styles in China, including the four major traditions:|
Northern cookery, also known as Beijing or Mandarin cooking, is the most famous food of China and symbolizes the imperial cuisine. It is composed by a solid diet of wheat and millet buns, noodles, pancakes and dumplings accompanied by the salty flavors of dark soy sauce and bean paste, white cabbage, onions and garlic.
The northern China has a cold climate with severe winters inappropriate to cultivate rice, consequently wheat is the principal grain produced. In the north people eat more breads than people in the south, where rice prevails.
Neighbors and invaders have influenced the Beijing cooking. Mongols introduced hotpots, grilled and roast meats; and Muslims brought new forms to cook mutton and chicken. Ambassadors visiting the court and merchants imported foreign products and then combined it with exotic products.
Imperial cuisine converted these ingredients and cooking methods into elaborated dishes like the famous Beijing duck (an oven roasted duck with a crispy brown skin. Thin slices of the skin are cut off and put onto a plate where it is wrapped with a fresh flour tortilla with plum sauce, cucumber, and green onion) or the bird's nest soup. But these are expensive meals that are only consumed in especial occasions by Chinese people. They usually consume soups with winter pickles and fried summer greens.
Eastern cookery includes the sophisticated gastronomy of Shanghai and the cuisines of central coast provinces.
It is characterized principally by seasonal fresh seafood and river fish with delicate forms and salted flavors. Because winters are cold and summers very hot; dried and salted ingredients are popular even when there are some sweet dishes. A traditional Shanghai meal is "pearls", small meatballs steamed in a rice coating.
Western cookery is represented by the cooking of Sichuan with its spicy taste food, which is significantly different from eastern style.
The majority of Sichuan dishes are prepared using pungent and chili pepper oil, giving a special flavor to the food.
Vegetables are mixed with "fish-flavored" sauce, and even the usually bland tofu is spicy within Sichuan cooking. Other meals of western style include orange peel, aniseed, ginger and spring onions, and curious cooking methods, like dry frying and smoking.
The most famed Sichuan dish is the Gongbao chicken, fried with chili pepper and peanuts.
Southern cookery, also known as Guangdong or Cantonese cooking, is normally steamed, boiled or stir-fried.
Located in a fertile and subtropical region, Cantonese gastronomy counts with a land of year-round plenty; and meal is healthy due to it uses minimum of oil. The principal ingredients of this Chinese style are shellfish, pork, chicken, vegetables and fruits, but could also include almost anything such as fish maw, snake liver, dog and guinea pig.
Cantonese cooking uses fresh ingredients, quickly cooked and only lightly seasoned. Rice normally accompanies the meal, except in special occasions. "Little eats" (dim sum) is very popular here. It generally consists on small dishes of tiny flavored buns, dumplings and pancakes with abundant tea.
Hong Kong cookery takes the best of the cuisines of China, but Cantonese style predominates. It is common to have Dim Sum for breakfast and Beijing Duck for dinner.
In Macau there are a unique merge of Portuguese and Asian food, called Macanese cookery.