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The Types Of Chinese Cuisine You Need To Try

Chopsticks ©pixabay
Chopsticks ©pixabay
China’s extensive and varying cuisine is often represented through the famous eight, named after the geographical regions that comprise the Chinese food landscape. The country’s extensive culinary diversity offers incredible styles that originate from the regions outside of the bigger cities, and represent a time when China’s vast geographical distances were once much more profound. These little known cuisines from all corners of China will change the way you think about the term, ‘Chinese Food’.

Xinjiang

Often called ‘Uyghur’ cuisine after the largest minority population of the region, this food is typically halal because of the large Muslim population. Situated in the north-west, Xinjiang province borders eight countries and the cuisine is similar to that of their Indian neighbours – flat breads like naan and lamb or mutton kebabs are famous in the area, as is ‘Uyghur pilaf’, a mixture of rice, vegetables, and spices with lamb.

Uyghur Polu Pilaf © Mizu Basyo/WikiCommons

Tibetan

Caught between India, Nepal, and Sichuan province, Tibetan cuisine manages to combine the flavors of these three distinctive cuisines and produce something unique and delicious. Heavily influenced by the cool climate and agricultural lifestyle, meat like yak, goat, or mutton features heavily alongside barley and dairy produce. Noodles are popular whilst rice is rare. The must-try Tibetan dish is momo, similar to the Shanghai xiao long bao – juicy yak meat is seasoned with garlic, ginger, and onion.

Tibetan Momo ©SaadFaruque/flickr

Shaanxi

Shaanxi food is notoriously sweet and sour, blending the flavors of Sichuan and Shanxi province. Their hand-pulled, wide ‘biang biang’ noodles are famous, and delicious with a simple chili oil garnish. The area is also famous for the ancient city of Xi’an and the legendary terracotta army, and is where the traditional dish pao mo is a must – mutton, beef or pork noodles in a savory broth, served with chili and pickled garlic to season.

Xi'an Pao Mo ©JB/flickr

Mongolian

Most people think of the popular Mongolian barbecue when discussing this cuisine, but being a 1950s Taiwanese invention, and influenced by Japanese tepanyaki, it is neither Mongolian nor barbecue. What Mongolian cuisine should be known for is deliciously cooked meat like Horhog, a salt and pepper baked sheep dish, or Buuz, a meat-stuffed dumpling seasoned with onions. The harsh winters of inner Mongolia are reflected in the traditional protein-heavy diet of dairy, fats, and meat.

Buuz © Mizu_Basyo/WikiCommons

Yunnan

The most demographically diverse province, Yunnan is home to the largest variety of ethnic groups in China, which makes the region’s cuisine diverse. The Dai people, famous for their annual water splashing festival, offer Thai-inspired hot-and-sour dishes, whilst cheese features in many dishes from the Bai people – try Rubing or Rushan. The cuisine is most famous for its use of mushrooms – over 800 different funghi are found in the region. ‘Across the Bridge’ Guogiao rice noodles is the famous regional dish – make sure you give it a go when you visit.

Yunnan Mixian Noodles © Alpha/Flickr

Chaozhou

A popular cuisine, particularly in the neighbouring Guangdong region, their proximity to the sea means a bountiful selection of fresh seafood dominates the dishes. Lots of vegetables, fresh produce, and little oil means that this cuisine is often considered healthy – cooking methods such as steaming or braising are favored over frying, giving the Chaozhou food a much lighter and more delicate taste.

Chaozhou fresh fish market ©YuenYan/flickr

Manchu

The Manchu people are most famous for the legendary Manchu-Han Imperial Feast, a three-day dinner of over 300 dishes that bridge the culinary delights of north and south. Since the fall of the Qing dynasty, this northwestern region is most famous for the Harbin Ice Festival, but the Manchu minority are often overlooked for its contributions to the most popular Chinese dishes, including the Manchurian hot pot and pot stickers. With traditional delicacies like pickled cabbage and blood sausage, it is a must-try for any Chinese foodies.

Manchu Pot Stickers ©publicdomainimage.com

Hainan

Coming from the island of Hainan, this cuisine is famous it’s use of fresh seafood and plentiful supply of fruit and vegetables. The ‘famous four’ Hainan dishes can be found in most cities around China, having become popular Chinese staples. These are the Jiaji duck, Hele crab, Dongshan mutton, and the famous Wenchang chicken, a boiled, yellow-skin chicken sliced and dipped in fresh ginger, chili and garlic sauce.

Hainanese Chicken ©Alpha/flickr