Introduction






Chinese food is very popular in the United States. In New York, you can find Chinese restaurants, small or big, eat-in or take-out, almost everywhere.

The vastness of China's geography and history echoes through the polyphony of Chinese food. To begin, it is better to divide Chinese food into four major regions:

The northern plains, including Beijing;

The south, famous for the Cantonese cooking;

Szechwan and Hunan Provinces.

Beijing:

Beijing cuisine is also called "mandarin cuisine". Many of the foods in this region are wheat-based (as a opposed to rice-based), so Beijing cuisine consists of a variety of dumplings, baked and steamed breads, various buns and noodles. Mandarin-style meals usually include vegetable dishes, soups, tofu (soybean curd), and fish. The food is mild in taste, is often slightly oily, and vinegar and garlic are common ingredients; food is frequently fried, stewed, or braised. Some favorite snack foods, such as buns and dumplings, can double as meals. Round flat buns are stuffed with meat and pan-fried or baked with sesame seeds sprinkled on top, while dumplings are filled with a meat or vegetable mixture and steamed, boiled, or fried.<<Back to top

Cantonese:

From Canton or "Guangdong" Province in the south-eastern part of China (the same area as Hong Kong), Cantonese food is the mildest and most common kind of Chinese food in the United States. Cantonese food tends to be more colorful, less spicy and is usually stir fried, which preserves both the texture and flavor. Dim Sum or "tea lunch" (usually tasty little dumplings and pastries stuffed with meats and vegetables) are served at many Cantonese restaurants during lunch hours. This is usually an excellent way to introduce someone to Cantonese food--most of the time the food is brought around on tiny carts, allowing the diner to pick-and-choose entrees from tiny bamboo (or more often, aluminum) steamers and trays.

Szechwan and Hunan:

Food from the Szechwan (or "Four Rivers") basin is characteristic south-western Chinese food. Food throughout the western regions of China are liberal in their use of garlic, scallions, and chilly. Consequently, it's the spiciest region of Chinese food available and certainly very tasty. When prepared in a traditional manner, many of the dishes are very hot, although banquet dishes tend to be milder. Sichuan food is distinguished by its hot peppery taste, while food from neighboring Hunan province is richer and a bit more oily, and may be either spicy and hot or sweet and sour. Chicken, pork, river fish, and shellfish are all popular items. <<Back to top


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