China is traditionally divided into four major regional cuisines, known as the "Four Great Traditions" or "Four Great Cuisines." Each of these cuisines represents a different region of China and has its unique characteristics, flavors, and cooking techniques. The Four Great Cuisines are:
Lu (Shandong) Cuisine (鲁菜):
- Originating from Shandong province, Lu Cuisine is known for its emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, especially seafood. The flavors are bold, and the cooking methods include deep-frying, stir-frying, and braising. Lu Cuisine features clear broths and rich flavors. It is often regarded as the "mother of Chinese cuisines."
- Example Dishes: Sweet and Sour Carp (Tangcu Liyu), Dezhou Braised Chicken (Dezhou Paji), Shandong Pancakes (Shandong Laobing).
Yue (Cantonese) Cuisine (粤菜):
- Hailing from Guangdong province, Cantonese Cuisine is widely recognized both in China and internationally. It emphasizes fresh ingredients and a focus on preserving the natural flavors of the food. Light and slightly sweet flavors are common, and cooking techniques include steaming and stir-frying.
- Example Dishes: Dim Sum (various steamed dumplings and buns), Cantonese Roast Duck (Cantonese Kam Ro), Cantonese Wonton Noodle Soup (Cantonese Wantun Mian).
Su (Jiangsu) Cuisine (苏菜):
- Originating from Jiangsu province, Su Cuisine is characterized by its delicate and artistic presentation. It uses both freshwater and seawater ingredients and is known for its carefully balanced flavors. Braising and stewing are common cooking methods.
- Example Dishes: Nanjing Salted Duck (Nanjing Yanhuang Jiyi), Stewed Duck with Mushrooms (Songshu Guiya), Lion's Head Meatballs (Shizitou).
Zhe (Zhejiang) Cuisine (浙菜):
- Hailing from Zhejiang province, Zhe Cuisine features a combination of flavors from both land and sea. It emphasizes fresh and seasonal ingredients. The cuisine is known for its light, slightly sweet taste and tender textures. Zhejiang cuisine includes both Hangzhou and Ningbo styles.
- Example Dishes: West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy (Xi Hu Cu Yu), Dongpo Pork (Dongpo Rou), Ningbo Braised Eel (Ningbo Lu Ya).
These Four Great Cuisines represent the culinary diversity of China, each with its own distinctive charm and flavors. Exploring the regional dishes and techniques of each cuisine offers a delightful gastronomic experience and a deeper understanding of Chinese culinary heritage.