China

Eat your way around China

From Sichuan to Canton - explore China's famous food regions

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Eat your way around China

China is a huge country offering up diverse cuisine that differs greatly from region to region. 

From the northern regions where wheat-based noodles and dumplings abound, to the fertile, rice-eating south where seafood and meat are plentiful. China has it all.

We spoke to restaurateur, Frank Yeung, who runs London-based Mr Bao, about the different ingredients, dishes and food cultures within China, and the flavours we should be looking out for…

 

CANTONESE

Cantonese refers to the cuisine of China's Guangdong Province.

Frank’s father owned a Cantonese restaurant for over 30 years so he is pretty familiar with the food of the region.

Frank says, “Cantonese food is full of fresh flavours and fresh ingredients. Unlike some other areas in China, they rely on the main ingredients being super fresh, and letting the flavours come through instead of masking them with chillies, or over spicing them.

“Due to the proximity to the coast, seafood plays a large role. There’s plenty of steaming and stir-frying as it's quick and makes the most of fresh ingredients.”

The region is most famous for…

“Dim sum!" Frank said. "Little steamed, fried and baked parcels wrapped around fillings. Dim sum is typical for lunch or even breakfast in Canton."

Dish to try...

If there's one dish to order it's the steamed fish with ginger and spring onion. Frank explains, "My favourite fish to use in this dish is seabass as that's what I grew up on. A fresh wild sea bass, scaled and stuffed with a few ginger matchsticks in slits in its skin. Once the fish is steamed, sprinkle over a few chopped spring onions, more ginger and light soy sauce. Then pour over some hot oil to soften the fresh ginger and crispen the fish skin. Serve with rice."

 

Shanghai

When it comes to the cuisine of Shanghai, otherwise known as Hu Cuisine, 'colour, aroma and taste' are the most important factors, according to Frank.

He said: "Found just south of the river Yangtze and the mouth of the Huangpu River, fish and shellfish are extremely popular and they are usually delicately seasoned. The people of Shanghai are famous for having a sweet tooth and as a result, more sugar is used in their food compared to other regions of China."

The region is most famous for...

"Food from Shanghai is often red and shiny because a lot of dishes are pickled in wine. It’s also common to see ‘drunken’ on menu descriptions as this is where meat or fish are cooked with various spirits. Shanghai crabs are also very popular in the region. They are very small seasonal crabs, really famous and very tasty!"

Dish to try...

"Xiaolongbao (pictured below) is a really popular type of steamed bun, both in China and now in the UK. They are traditionally filled with soup or broth which can make for messy eating! Beggar’s Chicken is also very typical of the region. A whole chicken is stuffed and marinated before being wrapped in layers of lotus leaves. This would then be coated in mud in the Qing Dynasty, but nowadays we wrap it tightly in parchment or wax paper then mud, before baking for hours until the meat is literally falling off the bones."

Hunan

Hunan is one of China's 8 Great Regional Cuisines, as Frank tells us it's 'well known for its heat'! He said: "Hot and spicy flavours are prominent with lots of dry and spicy dishes."

 

The region is most famous for...

"Chillies, which are an entire class of flavouring in Hunan cuisine! They also use a lot of smoking and curing which is definitely very important for the flavour profile of the cuisine."

Dish to try...

According to Frank, Hunan orange chicken is really popular. He said: "It’s slightly similar to a western sweet and sour chicken but a lot hotter. It also uses orange juice as sweetener rather than lots of sugar, so it’s more tangy and citrusy."

 

Shandong

The Shandong Province is a northern coastal province in China. The ingredients from the region are less readily available and recognisable in the UK, however it’s arguably one of the most influential parts of Chinese cuisine. The province is divided into two separate sub-regions: Jinan and Jiaodong, however both are known for their broths – one light and one milky.

 

The region is most famous for...

"Shandong cuisine is best known for its rich tastes and fresh flavours. Seafood is particularly important with many scallop, prawn and squid dishes. Maize is also extremely popular in Shandong, served steamed or boiled. In these northern parts of China people mostly eat bread and noodles rather than rice as it’s too cold to grow the rice crops."

Dish to try...

"Simply cooked seafood and broth is probably the most common dish eaten in Shandong. When eating meat, they also use the whole animal so there are a lot of tasty offal dishes."

Sichuan

Sichuan cuisine is best known for its strong punchy flavours. Frank says, "The food is spicy and hot and generally features a lot of garlic and chilli!"

The region is most famous for...

"Sichuan peppercorns are probably the most famous ingredient. The unique spice has a mouth-numbing quality. It’s really unlike anything else! It’s not spicy like a chilli or hot like a black peppercorn, it’s somewhere in the middle."

Dish to try...

According to Frank, hotpot recipes are popular in Sichuan. He explains, "A pot of simmering broth is placed on the table for people to cook slivers of meat and vegetables in. Kung pao chicken is also a Sichuan speciality. Again slightly like our western sweet and sour chicken, it’s a lot punchier and includes those mouth-numbing peppercorns."

 

Frank Yeung (pictured with his dad, Joe) is the owner of Mr Bao, Peckham and Daddy Bao, which is coming soon to Tooting.

Make sure you check out everything you need to have an amazing Chinese New Year at Asda or pop into your local store