Southern Chinese cuisine is a melting pot of flavors, influenced by a diverse range of ingredients and cooking techniques. From spicy and numbing dishes to light and refreshing flavors, this culinary journey will take you through the distinct regional cuisines of Guangdong, Fujian, Hunan, and Sichuan provinces.
Let’s start our journey in Guangdong, the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine. Known for its focus on freshness and simplicity, Cantonese dishes are usually light, aromatic, and visually appealing. Dim sum, a popular Cantonese specialty, is a must-try. These bite-sized dumplings and snacks are served in bamboo steamers and include favorites like har gow (shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), and char siu bao (barbecue pork buns). Wash it all down with a cup of fragrant jasmine tea, a perfect complement to the delicate flavors of Cantonese cuisine.
Moving west to Fujian province, we encounter a cuisine known for its seafood and umami-rich flavors. Fujian cuisine utilizes a wide variety of seafood, including fish, prawns, and shellfish. One of the standout dishes is Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a complex and luxurious soup made with ingredients such as shark fin, abalone, scallops, and sea cucumber. This labor-intensive dish highlights the meticulousness and artistry found in Fujian cuisine. The province is also famous for its tea culture, so be sure to sample some of their aromatic and smooth oolong teas.
Next on our journey is Hunan cuisine, which is known for its bold and spicy flavors. Hunan cuisine features a generous use of chili peppers, garlic, and shallots, resulting in dishes that are bursting with heat and fragrant aromas. Famous dishes include spicy stir-fried chicken, Chairman Mao’s favorite dish, and Dong’an chicken, a succulent chicken dish cooked with chili and garlic. Don’t forget to order a bowl of steamed rice to help temper the fiery flavors.
Finally, we arrive in Sichuan, a region renowned for its fiery and numbing flavors. Sichuan cuisine is famous for its use of Sichuan peppercorns, which create a unique numbing sensation on the palate. Dishes such as Mapo tofu, Kung Pao chicken, and Fish Fragrant Eggplant showcase the bold flavors and vibrant colors of Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan cuisine is not for the faint of heart, but for those who enjoy a little heat and a lot of flavor, it is an experience not to be missed.