Cuisines of Beijing, Shanghai and Canton


The cuisine of the capitol is based on imperial traditions. It used more noodles, cereals, root vegetables, pork, cabbage, chicken, duck, and spinach than the cuisines of Shanghai, and canton further south. Guinger, garlic, scallions and leeks give Beijing specialties their pungent flavour. Pepper and vinegar are used to flavour soups, and generally as spice.

Beijing duck is an ingenious invention of imperial cooks allowing diners to savour the bird “outside” in, starting with the crisp skin in crepes, and finishing with a soup made from the carcass.

Szechwan cuisine is the hottest of all and in fact Chinese believe that the tongue can distinguish beside sweet, salty, acid, and bitter, “hotness” .

Szechwan food is oily, highly spiced, and based on many dried ingredients. Here the duck is treated differently (first steamed, then deep fried and chopped).

Cantonese cuisine is based on the panoply of fresh ingredients this southern region produces.

Produce, nuts and fruits grow profusely. Seafood is plentiful as is pork.

Here the cuisine uses more fresh ingredients than anywhere else in China. Sweet and sour dishes of Cantonese are world-famous and appreciated by millions of Chinese and foreigners.

Here are three Cantonese wedding menus

Deep fried crab claws stuffed with minced shrimp
Braised vegetables with conpoy
Braised shark fin soup with crabmeat
Braised sliced abalone with black mushrooms
Steamed whole fresh garoupa
Deep fried crispy chicken
Fried rice “Yeung Chow” style with conpoy
Noodles in supreme soup with shredded ham
Sweetened red bean cream with rice dumplings
Chinese petit fours

Barbecued whole suckling pig

Stuffed sea whelk and scallops with vegetables
Deep fried crab claws stuffed with mashed shrimps
Braised whole conpoy with vegetable marrow
Braised supreme shark fin soup
Braised sliced abalone with sea cucumber and vegetables
Steamed whole spotted garoupa
Deep fried crispy chicken flavoured with preserved soybean sauce
Fried rice with assorted seafood
Pan fired dumplings served with supreme soup
Double boiled red dates with white figs
Chinese petit fours

Barbequed suckling pig
Scallop and sea whelk with vegetables
Deep-fried minced shrimp balls
Whole conpoy in vegetable marrow with garlic
Braised shark’s fin soup with crabmeat
Braised sliced abalone with sea cucumber and vegetables
Steamed giant spotted garoupa
Deep-fried crispy chicken flavoured with soya sauce
Fried rice with shredded chicken in cream and tomato sauce
Pan-fried dumplings with supreme sauce
Sweetened lotus seeds, lily bulbs and red date soup
Chinese petit fours

Note similarities of the two last menus. The last menu contains similarities with European sauces

Shanghai cuisine

Fish an all kinds of crustaceans are abundant in this huge port city.

Lively commerce is present and millions of people move in and out daily. The city is the modern banking centre of China and the heart of manufacturing of high quality goods.

The best soy sauce Chinese and Japanese use as a flavouring agent and salt comes from Shanghai.

Good quality pork tends to be more readily available than beef, but chicken, duck and fish have been used almost daily for centuries.

Shanghai cooks tend to use a lot of gravy and sweeten their food.

Spring rolls were invented here and have become world famous via Cantonese restaurateurs abroad.

Shanghai chefs are credited with the invention of bird’s nest soup, which may be served in two different styles, and always towards the end of banquet menus.

Peanuts and cashews are employed for texture contrast in many dishes.

Here is a Shanghai menu

Assorted cold cuts platter
Shark fin soup deep-fried phoenix tail prawns
Sweet and sour whole fish
Deep-fried lion head
Mushrooms with Chinese vegetables
Mandarin style chicken and duck palm with abalone
Fried rice
Shark fin soup
Green unfermented teas are served throughout the meal.
Lately beer and wine are also served.

Matching Chinese food and wine is still in its infancy, but gastronomes in Hong Kong have been busy to cerate a viable protocol. However, based on this author’s experience, Shanghai cuisine specialties would suit dry and off dry rieslings from Ontario, Oregon, Germany, as well as sauvignon blanc from new Zealand, California, Loire, and South Africa.

Pinot gris (aka pinot grigio) from northern Italy, and Oregon, pinot blanc from Burgundy and Alsace would go well with seafood specialties of this city, but not those in the style of sweet and sour.

When it comes to Beijing or Cantonese duck specialties, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon blends would do wonders.

Szechwan cuisine is best paired with lagers from Germany, craft-brewed Ontario lagers, Denmark and the Netherlands.

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