While the cuisine originating from China is instantly branded as Chinese, what I learned from my food-loving peers is that in reality Chinese cuisine is extremely varied. In fact, the consumption of food varies in each part of China and each province has its own unique style.

For instance, wheat is the staple food in the north of China whereas people prefer rice and spicy food in the south. It is said that, Chinese cuisine is one of the three most popular cuisines in the world and the “eight flavours” of China have their roots in Szechuan, Cantonese, Zhejiang, Fujian, Anhui, Hunan, Shandong and Jiangsu. Here’s more on four of the most popular traditional Chinese dishes.

Shui zhu rou pian

Shui zhu rou pian (short form – shui zhu) meaning “water cooked meat slices” is a spicy dish from the Sichuan province. The preparation includes poaching of meat (dipped in cooking wine and corn starch) in boiling water so that the meat cooked is tender and soft. The poached meat is then sautéed with vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, scallions, broth, broad bean paste, soy sauce, red dry chilies and Sichuan peppercorns (punch flavour) on low heat. The dish is  then made complete by first placing boiled vegetables at the bottom of a bowl, then adding the stir fried meat and finally pouring some heated vegetable oil on top.

Kung Pao

Kung Pao meaning “Palace Guardian” is a stir fried spicy dish from the Sichuan province. This dish was named after Ding Baozhen, a late governor of Sichuan province. It is traditionally made with chicken, vegetables, peanuts and Sichuan peppercorns. In the Western variation, ingredients such as cashew nuts, dry red chilies, scallions, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, orange juice, chicken broth and salt are added. The preparation includes flash frying of dry chilies and Sichuan peppercorns in a wok to which chicken is added and stir fried along with vegetables and deeply fried peanuts or cashew nuts. Shaoxing wine is also added to enhance the flavour of the dish.

Yuxiang rousi

Yuxiang meaning “fish fragrance” is a sauce from the Sichuan province. The sauce is not made with fish and is not used to cook fish or seafood but it has a fish smell. The sauce is prepared by first stir frying the mixture of scallions, ginger, garlic, minced pao la jiao and chili peppers and then adding starch, sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, dou ban jiang and water. This sauce is used to cook pork, eggplant, beef, chicken and tofu. Pork strips stir fried with the sauce is named Yuxiang rousi.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck is a popular duck dish from Beijing. The two famous restaurants that serve this dish in Beijing are Quanjude and Bianyifang. To prepare this dish, ducks are specially bred and slaughtered after 65 days. The whole ducks are then marinated and roasted in oven. Once done, the meat slices with thin crisp skin is served along with scallion, sweet bean sauce, cucumber and pancakes.

Dona B. Paranayil, Correspondent(Food)