Takeout Take Away

Chinese food is one of the most popular worldwide simply because it boasts such incredible breadth and depth. There are eight primary styles of cuisine that fall under this umbrella term, each with its own flavor affinities and specialties.

Even if you only eat “Chinese food” every day of the week, you would never run out of options. Certainly, you’d never get bored.

Cantonese is one of the most common styles found in America, blending a delicate interplay between sweet and sour, with more braises, heavy sauces, and mild seasonings. This is where you find the usual staples like Kung Pao and General Tso’s.

Sichuan and Hunan lean more heavily into fiery hot spices, with a touch of ma la (mouth-numbing) peppercorns adding a distinct sensory experience. Think of blazing hot mapo tofu and dandan noodles.

Shandong cuisine hails from northeastern China, which explains the strong oceanic influence with much more seafood and salty flavors. Sea cucumbers are a particular specialty (though they’re not related to the vegetable you’re thinking of, and certainly not vegan) along with shark fin soup, now banned in most countries.

Anhui and Fujian both come from more mountainous regions, incorporating more earthy notes, wild foraged foods, and simple, sweet tastes. These styles are rarely found in the United States, sadly. “Hairy” tofu, fermented and pungent, is an acquired taste but highly memorable.

Similarly, Zhejiang and Jiangsu foods are almost impossible to find overseas; a sad omission from mainstream restaurants, as these dishes are lighter, fresher, or even entirely raw. Seasonality is exceptionally important, emphasizing the beauty in simplicity. Ginger-braised or -steamed proteins are popular, often paired with delicate white tea.

When you start craving Chinese food, which is your favorite style?

4 thoughts on “Takeout Take Away

  1. We’ve been looking for that one Chinese restaurant that we love but haven’t found “the one” yet. We did find a small place that does super hot fried rice (for my husband) and a pretty good Singapore mai fun, which I love. I’m a fan of rice noodles dishes. When we can go to restaurants again, we’re on the hunt for excellent dim sum.


  2. Hi Hannah! I guess that is why we never get bored as we prepare lots of Chinese dishes every week. Living in the Canton region, we really love our dim sum and fresh steamed whole fish and fresh market finds. However, a good spicy Sichuan hot pot or mapo tofu really hit the spot on these cooler days. Looks like you have loads of options near you. Wishing you a super holiday season. Stay well and take care

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