As part of my continuing 'Year of China 2010' theme for this year, this post shall introduce readers to the 8 major culinary traditions of China. The most commonly known 'type' of Chinese food served in the West is Cantonese cuisine. However, Chinese food is made up of many different regions given the vast size of China as well as different ethnic groups and within Han Chinese, different regional Han food.
Below is a summary of the 8 major divisions/provincial food of China which collectively make up the representative array of Chinese food (of cos, these 8 are broad categories and there are various other food such as Mongolian-Chinese, Korean-Chinese food, Henan food, Xinjiang food,etc which also form part of Chinese cuisine, but which are not included in the 8 major categories of Chinese culinary tradition):
Most ppl, including Chinese ppl, say Cantonese food is the most delicious and most refined, but however, I personally think its because of the number of Cantonese ppl residing in the West historically and the prominence of Hong Kong (a Cantonese food haven) on the world stage.
I personally prefer Hokkien food the most and then Teochew food (which is very similar to Hokkien food) as its the food I grew up with and comfort food for me (Hokkien food being the root of much of Malaysian Chinese and Taiwanese cooking and cuisine).
Chinese food is also broadly divided into two divisions as well being Northerner's food and Southerner's food. Northerners' (Chinese people refer to people whom live north of the Yangtze River as 'Northerner's and those whom reside south of the Yangtze River as 'Southerners'.) are stereotyped to traditionally eat a wheat-based noodle and dough/starch based diet whilst Southerner's are traditionally said to eat a rice based diet. Of cos, most Chinese people you come into contact with as well as Chinese immigrants whom immigrated overseas to SE Asia and the West are mostly Southerners, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Fujian, Guangzhou, Hunan, Guangxi,etc whilst Northerners would refer to people from Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Shenyang, Changchun,etc.
Nowadays, different regional dishes are usually served in combination in restaurants although some restaurants do specialise in serving only one kind of regional cuisine such as only Shanghai cuisine or only Hunan cuisine. There are also generic Chinese dishes which are eaten in all provinces and do not really originate from any one particular province such as 'fried rice', 'chicken and mushroom soup' or 'stir-fried vegetables with garlic'. Examples of dishes which form part of a regional cuisine include Mabo Tofu which is a Szechuan cuisine or Dongpo Pork Cuts which is a Shanghainese dish or Mui Choi Kau Yuk (Braised Pork Belly in Preserved Salty Vegetables) which is a typical Hakka dish.
So tell me dear readers, what kind of Chinese food do you like most??