Welcome to our culinary odyssey through the diverse flavors of China, where we invite you to delve further into the distinct cooking styles and ingredients of various Chinese regions. Explore a rich tapestry of specialty regional flavors as you navigate through provinces, from the numbing and firey Southwest to the delicate and seafood-driven nuances of Southern and Eastern cuisine. Here you’ll find traditions, techniques, and tastes that define each unique part of China’s culinary map.

Regional Chinese Gastronomy

China can be geographically and culturally divided into six cardinal regions, which we use as a rough guideline for categorizing our recipes. You may also be familiar with the eight famous cuisines, each shaped by the geography, climate, and cultural influences of its surroundings:

  • Lu (Shandong): 魯菜, lǔcài; representative of the culinary North
  • Chuan (Sichuan): 川菜, chuāncài; representative of the culinary West
  • Yue (Guangdong): 粵菜, yuècài; representative of the culinary South
  • Su (Jiangsu): 蘇菜; sūcài; including Huaiyang cuisine, representative of the culinary East
  • Xiang (Hunan): 湘菜; xiāngcài
  • Hui (Anhui): 徽菜, huīcài
  • Min (Fujian): 閩菜; mǐncài
  • Zhe (Zhejiang): 浙菜; zhècài

Southwest China (Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan)

Sichuan cuisine dates back over 2,000 years and is known for its use of numbing Sichuan pepper, spicy chili peppers, fresh vegetables, and bold flavors. The mountain-locked, humid Sichuan basin is ideal for growing produce, earning it the nickname “Land of Abundance”. Chongqing, a separate municipality since 1997, is geographically part of the same region.

Yunnan cuisine developed in the Yunnan plateau, a diverse cultural and physical landscape known for its high mountains, subtropical forests, and extraordinary biodiversity. The variety of fresh, local ingredients matches its wide range of flavors, which reflect the many ethnic groups living in Yunnan (home to 25 of China’s official 55 ethnic minorities). Culinarily, the region is particularly famous for its abundance of wild mushrooms and being the birthplace of tea.

Image source: Jordan Porter

Recipes from Southwest China

Southern/South-Central China (Guangdong, Hunan)

Guangdong province, the origin of Cantonese cooking, is known for its fresh seafood and vegetables and its light, sweet flavor profile. This is the home of dimsum, a variety of small, steamed dishes that are typically served for breakfast or brunch. Today Guangdong food in some shape or form is the most prevalent form of Chinese food outside China, in large part due to the earliest waves of Chinese immigrants abroad coming from within Guangdong province.

Hunan cuisine is known for being even hotter than Sichuan cuisine. Hunan people love chilies even more than Sichuan people, but the distinction is that they don’t combine it with huajiao. To be even more specific, fresh or pickled chili is prolific in Hunan cuisine, whereas Sichuan cuisine often relies on doubanjiang (fermented chili broad bean paste) and dried chilies.

Steak Chow Fun
Steak Chow Fun by Taylor Holliday

Recipes from Southern China

Eastern China (Jiangnan, Shanghai, Zhejiang)

Eastern Chinese cuisine is a broad term that encompasses the cuisines of the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, and Jiangxi. These cuisines share some common characteristics, such as the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients, light flavors, and delicate cooking techniques.

Jiangnan cuisine encompasses cities south (南, nán) of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, like Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi, Hangzhou and Suzhou. It is one of the most popular and influential cuisines in Eastern China, known for its subtle sophistication and creative mastery of the region’s fresh seafood, vegetables, and herbs. The light and delicate flavors lend itself well to steaming and braising.

Recipes from Eastern China

Northern China (Shanxi, Beijing)

From the vast North China Plain comes Northern Chinese cuisine, a major wheat-producing and wheat-consuming region. As such, wheat is a staple ingredient here, found morning through night in some form of noodle, dumpling, and bun. Northern China is also home to a large number of livestock, like sheep, goats, and cattle. In the cold winters, vegetables are scarce save for hardier types like cabbage, so you’ll find many hearty and filling dishes based on these availabilities.

Three-Umami Dumplings by Michelle Zhao

Recipes from Northern China

Northwest China (Xinjiang, Sha’anxi/Xi’an)

Northwest China is heavily influenced by its nomadic origins, arid climate and border with Central Asia. As home to a large number of sheep, lamb is a staple ingredient here. Many Northwest Chinese dishes, such as lamb skewers and hand-ripped noodles, are similar to dishes that are found in Central Asia.

Dapanji by Sarah Ting-Ting Hou

Recipes from Northwest China

All Specialty Regions