Lee Kum Kee
Feast from the East: Exploring the Unique & Diverse Flavours of Regional Chinese Cuisine

Feast from the East: Exploring the Unique & Diverse Flavours of Regional Chinese Cuisine

26 February 2024

China's diverse culinary landscape is a testament to its rich cultural tapestry. Each region not only offers unique flavours but also tells a story of its history, geography, and people. Let's embark on a journey through some of China's provinces, exploring the roots and essence of regional Chinese cuisine.

Shanghai Cuisine

Shanghai, a bustling port city, has long been a place where East meets West. This convergence has created a unique culinary style that fuses traditional Jiangnan flavours with international influences. 

The cooking methods in Shanghai are diverse, including baking, stewing, braising, steaming, and deep-frying. Seafood, a prominent feature due to the city's location on the Yangtze River Delta, as well as chicken, is often prepared using spirited and brisk techniques, creating the famous "drunken" dishes. The cuisine also makes use of salted meats and preserved vegetables to add depth to its dishes.

A key aspect of Shanghai cuisine is its emphasis on the original flavours of ingredients, while condiments are used to enhance taste. This results in a mellower and slightly sweet profile, distinct from other Chinese cuisines. Sugar, when combined with soy sauce, plays a crucial role in creating the signature sweet and sour taste that Shanghai is renowned for.


Sweet and sour spare ribs are a perfect example of food from this Southern Chinese region. The dish features succulent spare ribs coated in a glossy, tangy, and sweet sauce.  

Zhejiang Cuisine

Zhejiang cuisine, also known as Zhe cuisine, is one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of Chinese cuisine. It is distinguished by its variety, with four different styles originating from Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, and Wenzhou. This cuisine is celebrated for fresh and soft flavour with a mellow fragrance, reflecting the natural abundance of the region.

Zhejiang's culinary style is characterised by its emphasis on the use of fresh ingredients, particularly seafood, and a preference for methods that preserve the natural taste of these ingredients. Hangzhou style, for example, is known for its rich variations and use of bamboo shoots, while Ningbo style specialises in seafood, emphasising freshness and salty dishes. Shaoxing style is renowned for its poultry and freshwater fish.

The cuisine of Zhejiang is a reflection of its serene landscapes, from its rolling hills to its clear waters. The cooking here aims to bring out the inherent flavours of the ingredients, creating dishes that are both delicate and flavourful. This approach to cooking is deeply rooted in the province's rich cultural history, where harmony and balance have always been a way of life.


A notable dish in Zhejiang cuisine, Dongpo Pork perfectly embodies the region's culinary philosophy. This dish, made from pork belly stewed in soy sauce and wine, is a testament to the subtlety and depth of Zhejiang flavours.

Sichuan Cuisine

Sichuan, a province of mist-shrouded mountains and fertile plains, is as famous for its fiery cuisine as it is for its pandas. The bold use of garlic, chilli peppers, and the unique Sichuan peppercorn has made this one of the most distinctive Chinese regional cuisines worldwide and one of the Four Great Traditions of Chinese Regional Cuisine. 

The Sichuan Basin, with its fertile lands, provides many ingredients, including a variety of herbs, mushrooms, and other fungi. Sichuan cuisine is also known for its use of rabbit meat and a variety of organ meats, adding to its distinctiveness. The cuisine's complexity is further enriched by the use of pickling, salting, and drying techniques, with preserved dishes often served as spicy dishes with a heavy application of chilli oil.

The cuisine reflects the province's history as a cultural melting pot, where boldness and diversity are celebrated in every dish. 

Plus, did you know? Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, has been recognised by UNESCO as a city of gastronomy since 2011!

Signature Dish: MA PO TOFU

Ma Po Tofu, a dish synonymous with Sichuan cuisine, perfectly captures the essence of the region's bold culinary style. This dish, featuring tofu in a spicy and numbing sauce, often with minced meat, is a celebration of the complex flavours that define Sichuan cooking.

Xinjiang Cuisine

Xinjiang, a region of vast deserts and towering mountains, has long been a cultural crossroads on the ancient Silk Road. This unique geographical position has brought a blend of Chinese and Central Asian culinary influences to the region. 

The food here is hearty and robust, reflecting the diverse ethnic tapestry of the area. Dishes are often rich in meats like lamb and beef, and spiced with flavours like cumin and chili, telling stories of the caravans that once traversed this ancient trade route.

The cuisine of Xinjiang has evolved over centuries, shaped by the region's diverse ethnic groups and their interactions. The region's fertile lands, particularly around Hotan, have contributed to a diverse array of ingredients, making flour-based dishes, mutton, and vegetables integral to the cuisine.


Big Plate Chicken, or Da Pan Ji, is a quintessential Xinjiang dish that embodies the essence of the region's cuisine. This dish - a spicy chicken stew served on a big plate, originates from a migrant from Sichuan who mixed hot chili peppers with chicken and potatoes. 

Guangdong (Cantonese) Cuisine

Cantonese cuisine, also known as Guangdong cuisine or Yue cuisine, is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine. Originating from Guangdong province, particularly the provincial capital Guangzhou, and the surrounding regions in the Pearl River Delta including Hong Kong and Macau, this cuisine is celebrated for its diversity and subtlety.

Cantonese cuisine is known for its emphasis on preserving the natural flavours of the ingredients. The cooking methods are varied, with steaming and stir-frying being the most favoured due to their convenience and ability to maintain the ingredients' inherent flavours. This cuisine also incorporates a wide range of ingredients, including a variety of meats and seafood, prepared with a light touch to ensure a well-balanced taste.

The use of spices and condiments in Cantonese cooking is modest, aimed at enhancing rather than overpowering the primary ingredients. Ingredients such as sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch, vinegar, scallion, and sesame oil are commonly used. The cuisine is also known for its use of dried and preserved ingredients, which add depth and intensity to the dishes.

Signature Dish: CHAR SIU PORK

Char Siu Pork is a classic Cantonese dish that perfectly captures the essence of the region's culinary style. This dish involves marinating pork in a mixture of sauces and spices, including honey and plum sauce, and then roasting it to achieve a sweet, savoury, and slightly charred flavour. 

Beijing – Jing Cuisine

Beijing cuisine, also known as Jing cuisine or Peking cuisine, is the traditional cuisine of Beijing, the capital of China. This cuisine has evolved over centuries, influenced by culinary traditions from all over China, particularly from the eastern coastal province of Shandong. The style that has the greatest influence on Beijing cuisine is the Chinese imperial cuisine, which originated from the Emperor's Kitchen in the Forbidden City, where cooks from different parts of China showcased their best culinary skills to please the imperial family and officials.

Beijing cuisine is characterised by a variety of cooking methods, including roasting, frying, stewing, braising, and steaming. There is an emphasis on dark soy paste, sesame paste, sesame oil, and scallions. Fermented tofu is also often served as a condiment. The cuisine is known for its snacks and street foods, typically sold by small shops or street vendors. Unlike many other regions in China, there is less emphasis on rice, as local rice production in Beijing is limited by the relatively dry climate.

Signature Dish: HOT & SOUR SOUP

Hot and Sour Soup is a staple in Beijing cuisine. The ingredients and preparation of Hot and Sour Soup reflect the city's historical blend of different culinary influences. The soup typically includes ingredients like mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, and sometimes meat. 


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