Kung pao chicken: stir fried chicken strips with vegetable and chili and Twice Cooked Pork.
Photo by: snowpea&bokchoi, Creative Commons
The very beginning of Chinese cuisine is traced back to the time when the cultivation of rice and the production of noodles began. Having developed for thousands of years with a rich history behind with it, it is no wonder that Chinese cuisine is now one of the most popular and sought after all over the world.
Chinese cuisine is marked by variety – both in flavor and in the cooking method – perhaps as a result of the differences in topography, climate, and availability of resources among the different regions that this large country is comprised of. Indeed the cuisines of China are divided regionally with four areas more prominent than others. These four regions that have developed their own distinct cuisine are Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Sichuan.
Shandong, which is found in the North is best known not only in China, but all over the world for its specialty dish called Beijing Roast Duck or Peking duck as it is known elsewhere. This dish comprises of roasted duck with crispy skin, which is cut into thin slices and best eaten wrapped in fresh flour tortilla and with several other garnishing. Shandong style is considered as one of the most influential in China because most of the other styles have been derived from it.
Known for its use of bold and pungent flavors is the province of Sichuan, where the Sichuan style of cooking developed. Garlic and chili are the dominant ingredients in their dishes which are usually prepared by stir frying, steaming, or braising. Popular Sichuan dishes are Kung Pao chicken which is stir fried chicken strips with vegetable and chili and Twice Cooked Pork.
In contrast to the strong flavors of Sichuan cooking, Guangdong or Cantonese cuisines are best known for their limited use of spices and seasonings in dishes. The natural flavors of food are emphasized simply by cooking with soy sauce and sugar.
With all the diverse flavors and cooking styles one might think that Chinese cuisine is greatly divided, but that is not the case. Three elements prevail in all the regional styles—aesthetics, scent, and flavor.