In this vast country full of gourmets, there are several cuisines – Cantonese, Shanghainese, Szechwan, and Beijing. There are many other minor regional cuisines like Hakka, and Mongolian-inspired cuisines, just to name two.
Food to Chinese is very important, and the style of cooking encourages family eating.
Food is so important that even communist leaders starting with Mao Zhedong did not dare to change Chinese eating habits and popular recipes.
In Chinese restaurants, groups are served set menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses, encouraging sharing.
Cantonese cuisine is noted for wok cooking, steaming, and stir-frying, which seals in flavours and leaves vegetables crunchy. It has tropical elements of sweet fruits in meat dishes.
In western countries, the most widely available Chinese recipes originate from Canton (Guangdon), as millions emigrated shortly after World War I and II to Western Europe and North America, either as labourers, or to study, then decided to settle.
Beijing cuisine traces its roots to the imperial courts of China. It uses coriander, garlic, and pepper. Noodles and dumplings replace rice, which is more popular in canton and the south in general
Beijing duck, and ingenious way of cooking this bird utilizing all its parts, is a must for anyone who has a chance. First it must be ordered a few days in advance. After loosening the skin from the body, it is air-dried for two days. Then roasted. The crunchy skin is served in thin pancakes with scallions, then comes the sliced meat, followed by a soup made from the bones.
Shanghainese cuisine is typically seasons with sugar, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine and relays heavily on seafood.
Szechwan cuisine is the hottest of all, dominated with chili pepper. Common cooking methods include smoking and simmering. In many restaurants, western guests request toned down versions of local specialties.
Dim sum is the snack of Chinese cuisines, and is available throughout the day in specialized restaurants. These “mouthful of flavours” (dumplings) can be stuffed with shrimp, shredded pork, bbq pork, or any other ingredient and are served steaming hot from a trolley.
Specialties taste best in their respective regions, but if you happen to be in cosmopolitan Hong Kong, a city with seven million inhabitants, you can get the best of any cuisine, Chinese or otherwise i.e. French, American, Spanish, Italian or even South American.
If you are into buying exotic foods Hong Kong is the city for you. Here, anything, imaginable is on sale, from dried seafood, shark fins, bird’s nests, snakes, tonic foods, abalone, and a range of exotic teas.