China's 8 Distinct Regional Cuisine

Written by Sally Guo Updated May. 7, 2022

Chinese cuisine has more than ten thousand different kinds of dishes. Many dishes boast regional cooking styles and are made of regional ingredients, which conform to regional characteristic tastes. There is no better way to understand this cuisine than to examine it geographically.

There are eight outstanding Chinese culinary styles linked to particular regions. Alphabetically, they are Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang;

1. Sichuan Cuisine

Sichuan food

Sichuan cuisine originates in West China's Sichuan Province ( in the Chengdu and Chongqing areas). It is the most famous cooking style in China which is also well-known in the west. 

The most distinctive feature of Sichuan cuisine is its strong, numbing, and spicy flavor.  A variety of unique seasonings with intense flavor are used for the distinctive taste of Sichuan food, such as Sichuan pepper,  garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise, and Sichuan bean chili paste. 

Sichuan cuisine

Sichuan is located in West China. In the region, there are big mountains, rivers, valleys, and plains. The complex geographic features have shaped its food customs with diverse ingredients. Prok, beef, fish, mushroom, and lots of vegetables and herbs are used in Sichuan food. Seasonings with intense flavors such as Sichuan pepper, garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise, and broad bean chili paste are essential for the rich taste of Sichuan cuisine. 

Read more details on Sichuan cuisine and its top dishes

2. Cantonese Cuisine

Cantonese cuisine or Yue Cuisine is the most famous Chinese cooking style abroad. Cantonese cuisine originates in South China's Guangdong Province close to Hong Kong. 

Cantonese food

Cantonese cuisine is light and sweet.  Rice, vegetables, and fresh fish are steamed, blanched, or poached and frequently served with the simple addition of vinegar, ginger, scallions, and Chinese parsley. Soy, hoisin, and oyster sauces are among the traditional ones used for Guangdong food. There are also many forms of barbecue or lacquer-roasted poultry and meat.

Read more on Cantonese Cuisine

3. Hunan Cuisine

Hunan food

Hunan Cuisine or Xiang Cuisine originates in central China's Hunan Province (the Changsha and Zhangjiajie areas). It is the spiciest cuisine in China.

Similar to Sichuan food, Hunan food is also very spicy, which is the spiciest food in China. However, compared with the spicy, hot numbing flavor of Sichuan cuisine, Hunan cuisine is spicy and sour.

One unique feature of Hunan cuisine is that it uses a lot of vinegar-pickled and smoked ingredients. Pickled vegetables, garlic, ginger, etc. are used for the special sour and fragrant taste of a dish. Smoked meat is widely consumed in the region. 

Find out more details of Hunan food

4. Fujian Cuisine/Min Cusine

Fujian cuisine

Fujianese dishes benefit from the abundance of wild foods and herbs found in the mountains regions, fertile flatlands, and extensive coastlines. Rice, wheat, and sweet potatoes are culinary staples, and fish and meat are often mixed together to great effect. Fujian dishes are characterized by their tantalizing combinations of sweet and pungent flavors.

One of the region’s most famous specialties is Buddha Jumping the Wall, which combines ingredients from the land and sea, including shark’s fin, abalone, scallops, ham, chicken, mushrooms, yams, medlar, scallions, and garlic, to name a few. More information on Fujian Cusine

5. Jiangsu Cuisine/ Su Cusine

salt duck - Jiangsu cuisine

Jiangsu province is a wealthy area and is not the land of rice and fish but, because of its location on the Grand Canal, has been influenced by northern, southern, and off-shore cultures. Both snacks and main dishes are well known. Steamed Mandarin fish and crab-roe dumplings are two examples. 

Freshness is a key concept in the food of Jiangsu cuisine, but it is more than freshness.  For example, for a dish of steamed fish to be xian, the fish must have been swimming in the tank one hour ago; it must exude its own natural flavor and must be tender yet slightly chewy.

Some dishes are steamed or stewed and thus require less heat and a longer cooking time than most fried dishes;  examples include Chicken with Chestnuts, Pork Steamed in Lotus Leaves, Duck with an Eight-Ingredient Stuffing, and “Lion head” Meatballs.

6. Shandong Cuisine

Shandong cuisine

Shandong is included in what Westerners generally refer to as the “Mandarin” cuisine in the north. These regions were greatly influenced by Manchurian and Moslem cuisines and are famous for their aromatic lamb dishes. Some feast delicacies such as shark’s fin soup and bird’s nest soup originated elsewhere, but have long been elaborated on and served there.

7. Zhejiang Cuisine/Zhe Cuisine

Zhejiang cuisine

Zhejiang Cuisine originates in east China's Zhejiang Province where West Lake (Hangzhou) is located.  The region is wealthy as so-called a land of fish and rice. There are lakes, rivers in the region, and the region meets the sea in the East.

Zhejiang cuisine is famous for its fish and seafood. There are various seafood dishes. People in Zhejiang eat almost everything from the sea which you may have never seen such as sea cucumbers and varieties of sea vegetables.

The area was very rich in ancient times, so except for the taste, people also expect some extra refined touch to their food.

8. Anhui Cuisine/Hui Cusine

An Hui cusine

Anhui Cuisine is mainly limited to the Anhui province (where the Yellow Mountains are located) west of China. Anhui is a poor inland mountainous region so its food custom is basically mountainous food.  

Anhui food uses a variety of wild animals and plants from mountains for its cooking ingredients such as wild-caught frogs, local small shrimp, turtles, and mushrooms. 

The food tastes light and fresh. 

Except for these 8 regional cooking styles, China has many other regional cuisines, but they are may not as so distinctive as these 8 ones, hence lesser well-known. 

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