Although many people think of Chinese cookery as referring to all Chinese food, there are actually eight different regional cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang. The standard food of Chinese cookery are often considered to be Cantonese, Sichuan and Shandong, but there are also minor cuisines such as Huaiyang, Beijing and Shanghai.
The unique aspects of the eight different cuisines of China are:
- Anhui – the use of wild game and herbs
- Cantonese – light and bland sauces and liberal use of dried herbs
- Fujian – seafood, stews and dumplings
- Hunan – hot, spicy flavor and deep color
- Jiangsu – emphasis on the selection of ingredients and meat cooked until it falls off the bone
- Shandong – wide use of chewy corn
- Sichuan – preparation of food through pickling, drying and salting
- Zhejiang – specializes in poultry and seafood cooked with bamboo sprouts
The main feature of Chinese cookery is in the presentation. Foods are prepared in bite- sized pieces, so that they can be easily picked up with chopsticks or with the fingers. Fish is cooked and served whole. When eating fish, you pull the pieces directly off the fish with the chopsticks. Chicken is another staple in Chinese cookery and none of the chicken is wasted because even the gizzard and head are used.
When serving food at a Chinese meal, each person receives an individual bowl of rice. The rest of the food comes on large platters so that all the people can take foods from these platters.
Although red meat is used in Chinese food, pork is the meat of choice. Vegetable dishes contain a large variety of vegetables, such as sprouts, corn, bok choy and mushrooms. Since ice-cold drinks are believed to be harmful to the body, at a traditional Chinese meal you would never be served any cold drinks. Soup is popular and hot tea would likely be the main drink to help the body to digest greasy food.