China, a nation the size of the entirety of Europe, is a geographic diverse country that has given birth to a wide range of culinary traditions of which many people in the west may not be aware of.
Similar to the the United States and Europe, every region has its own unique culinary characteristic. The traditions and flavors of Chinese food vary dramatically by region. (To my surprise) There are eight primary types of cuisine across China:
- Shandong (Lu)
- Sichuan (Chuan)
- Guangdong (Yue)
- Jiangsu (Su)
- Anhui (Hui)
- Fujian (Min)
- Hunan (Xiang)
- Zhejiang (Zhe)
Of the eight, the 4 in bold are the major cooking styles primarily separated by region (north, south east and west). The names in parenthesis are the short names that they call them in Chinese. ie. Chuan Cai (川菜) for Sichuan food.
As with each regional cuisine in the United States, the resources, climate and culture really define the types of food that come out of the area. The regions are split by the Yangtze river. North of the Yangtze river, the climate is much dryer and well suited for growing wheat. South of the river, you’ll find a more tropical and wet climate, perfect for growing rice. The ingredients match the resources available in each of those regions. For instance, in the northern cuisine (Lu) styles, you’ll see use more use of wheat than you would in the southern styles. In southern styles (Yue), you’ll see more use of rice.