Beijing: Kaoya (Peking roast duck)
The cuisine: Generations of emperors and blue-blooded residents have set the standard for high-end Chinese cuisine. The city is famous for imperial cuisine, or guan cai (官菜), which uses only premium quality ingredients and is cooked with complex techniques.
The dish: A perfect kaoya is roasted to a reddish color; its skin remains crispy and the meat oozes a fruity flavor.
A whole roasted duck is typically served in two ways: the juicy meat and crispy skin are wrapped in mandarin pancakes with scallion, cucumber and hoisin sauce; and the bones are slow-cooked into a tasty soup.
Chongqing: La zi ji (chili-fried chicken cubes)
The cuisine: Even compared with food from Sichuan, China’s mecca of spicy dishes, Chongqing cuisine scores high in spiciness and numb-inducing ingredients.
The dish: La zi ji combines crispy chicken breast cubes with a fireplace of peppercorn, toasted sesame and dried bird’s-eye chilis to create a plate of hot, red deliciousness.
Fujian province: Fo tiao qiang (Buddha jumps over the wall)
The cuisine: Located along the southeastern coast of China, Fujian is famous for fresh seafood, but its flavorful shrimp oil and shrimp paste make the region’s cuisine stand proud.
The dish: Legend has it that this dish is so irresistible that Buddha jumped over the wall for a taste.
Fo tiao qiang is made of 18 pricey ingredients, including shark fin, abalone, sea cucumber, ginseng and scallops, all simmered together for hours with premium Shaoxing rice wine.
Gansu province: Lanzhou lamian (Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles)
The cuisine: This Islamic province makes hands-down the best noodles with beef or lamb in the country.
The dish: The perfect Lanzhou lamian is made with five ingredients: a clear soup, white radish, green coriander, red chilis, yellow noodles.
The best way to experience this regional mainstay is seated in a humble lamian joint, slurping down noodles amid hungry eaters.
Guizhou province: Suan tang yu (fish in sour soup)
The cuisine: Like foodies in Sichuan and Hunan, Miao tribespeople in hilly Guizhou loves their food sour and spicy.
The dish: The soup is made with fermented rice or tomatoes, pickled chilis and various herbs, and then cooked with freshly caught river fish for a super sour blend.
The thick, delicious broth has a persistent aroma. You can throw in tofu and other vegetables and eat it hot-pot style.
Hebei province: Lvrou huoshao (donkey meat sandwich)
The cuisine: Much as it is in neighboring Beijing, Hebei cuisine is savory and sauce heavy, with an emphasis on the cut and color of the dishes.
The dish: Brace yourself. Locals reckon donkey is as delicious as dragon meat, even though no one can provide much in the way of documentary evidence of having eaten the latter.
Donkey meat is high in protein, low in cholesterol and has a finer fiber than beef. It's leaner than pork and lacks the funky odor of mutton. Sliced donkey meat is stewed and served between two pieces of ciabatta-like bread to make a Hebei-style sandwich.
Heilongjiang province: Harbin hongchang (Harbin red sausage)
The cuisine: Heilongjiang is among the coldest provinces in China, and its people eat lots of meat and Russian bread. The cuisine is typified by heavy sauce and deep-frying.
The dish: In the early 20th century, Russian traders brought this smoked pork sausage across the border into Harbin. Since then it's become a specialty of the city.
Flavored with garlic and black pepper, hongchang is the perfect companion to dalieba bread and tastes even better with a pint of Harbin beer.
Hubei province: Sanxian doupi (three delicacies wrapped in tofu skin)
The cuisine: Three words sum up Hubei cuisine: steamed, fishy and soupy.
The province is also famous for its delicious breakfast snacks, such as hot dry noodles and sanxian doupi.
The dish: Sanxian doupi is Hubei's answer to lasagna.The traditional breakfast from Wuhan is made with a delicious stuffing, a mixture of soft glutinous rice, egg, mushroom and pork, tucked into two pieces of tofu skin and then pan-fried until golden brown.
Hunan province: Duojiao yutou (steamed fish head with pickled chilis)
The cuisine: Also known as Xiang cuisine (湘菜), Hunan food is known to be just as hot as Sichuan, minus the numbing quality. Locals are partial to smoked and cured meats in their dishes.
The dish: In addition to an irresistible combination of pickled chilis and the tender meat of a fish head, duojiao yutou is packed with nutrients, such as vitamin A and vitamin C, providing an instant metabolism boost.
Instead of just red chilis, chefs use both green and red chilis to create a colorful mixture. Add the complimentary plate of egg noodles to the soupy fish dish to make a full meal.
Inner Mongolia autonomous region: Kao yang tui (barbequed lamb leg)
The cuisine: From beef and mutton, to venison and ostrich, hearty Inner Mongolians never say no to barbecue.
The dish: This isn't the average meat-on-a-stick. It's an entire grilled sheep leg loaded with spices.
Jiangsu province: Songshu guiyu (squirrel-like mandarin fish）
The cuisine: Jiangsu food is famous for its cut and shape.
The provincial capital of Nanjing produces the best salted duck in the country, while Suzhou in the south is renowned for its desserts and rice cakes.
The dish: Carved into the shape of a squirrel (sort of), the mandarin fish is deep-fried until golden brown, then smothered with a sweet-and-sour glaze, which, when poured sizzling over the fish, results in a squeak that sound like an actual squirrel (thus the name of the dish).
Liaoning province: Xiaoji dun mogu (chicken and mushroom stew)
The cuisine: The Liaoning people are known for being extremely straightforward and generous, and their cuisine reflects these traits.
Not as delicate as the culinary culture of the south, Liaoning dishes are known for strong, rich flavors and hearty portions.
The dish: In the cold of northeast China, families huddle together on a heated bed to share a dish of stewed chicken, hazel mushroom and potato noodles to help pass the harsh winters.
Ningxia Hui autonomous region: Yangza sui tang (sheep entrails soup)
The cuisine: Favoring simple cooking methods, the nomads and Muslim Hui of this autonomous region can’t live without their boiled beef and mutton.
The dish: A steaming bowl of sheep entrails soup is garnished with spicy red chili oil and fragrant coriander -- the best treat for a Ningxia shepherd after a day of herding.
Qinghai province: Shouzhua yangrou (hand-grabbed lamb)
The cuisine: Qinghai’s vast expanse of grassland produces some of the country’s finest mutton and beef. While cooking, locals combine spice with twists of sweetness.
The region's cuisine is heavily influenced by Hui Muslim and Tibetan cooking traditions.
The dish: As a province with a large Islamic population, Qinghai contains a great variety of halal food.
The local style of cooking lamb is to boil it in plain water, which brings out the maximum tenderness of the meat. The meat is then eaten by hand, with diners grabbing and pulling pieces of the meat off the bone.
Shanxi province: Qishan saozi mian (qishan noodles)
The cuisine: The northwestern province makes use of simple ingredients, such as pork, lamb and noodles.
Shanxi cuisine is often sour and spicy, with strong garlic and coriander flavors.
The dish: These soup noodles feature hand-rolled dough cooked in a red oil-based broth.
The broth is topped with saozi, a stir-fried mixture of diced pork belly, dried tofu, wooden ear mushrooms, day lilies and seaweed.
Shanghai: Hongshaorou (red braised pork belly)
The cuisine: Largely influenced by its neighbor Suzhou, Shanghainese love their food sweet.
From hairy crab to hongshaorou, you'll find sweetness on most local plates.
The dish: Undeniably the symbol of Shanghainese cuisine, hongshaorou is rich in flavor and heavy in sauce. It's a dream for pork lovers.
After hours of braising, the lean meat of the pork belly becomes extremely juicy, thanks to layers of fat.
Sichuan province: Mapo doufu (mapo Tofu)
The cuisine: Sichuan is one of the most influential regional cuisines in today’s China.
It’s known for the strong flavor and bright color and is heavily seasoned with chili pepper, Sichuan pepper, black pepper and fresh ginger.
The dish: Mapo doufu is named after its creator, a freckle-face woman ("mapo" in Chinese) from Chengdu who lived during the Qing Dynasty. No Sichuan meal is complete without it.
The tofu is tender, the minced beef crispy, the scallions fresh. The sauce hits its “ma” (numb) and “la” (spicy) notes with aplomb.
18. 天津： 贴饽饽熬小鱼
Tianjin: Tie bobo ao xiaoyu (baked corn bread combined with fish)
The cuisine: Tianjin is one of the largest harbor cities in China and the local cuisine mixes all sorts of cooking styles with produce from the sea.
The dish: Tie bobo ao xiaoyu is a Tianjin staple. Combining fish and vegetables in a stew along with baked corn bread, this dish is perfect to share with a group.
Having absorbed the umami flavor from the broth, the corn bread becomes the highlight of the meal.
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region: Da pan ji (big plate chicken)
The cuisine: Uygur people like to show their hospitality by treating guests to heavy sauces on top of hearty meat dishes served on gigantic plates.
The dish: Da pan ji features big chunks of chicken and potatoes cooked in a beer-based sauce and garnished with colorful bell peppers.
Generous portions are vital.
Yunnan province: Guoqiao mixian (over-the-bridge rice noodles)
The cuisine: Yunnan cuisine is heavily influenced by Sichuan, meaning locals have a yen for spicy food.
The province is also home to the largest number of ethnic minorities in China, who enjoy adding flowers and wild mushrooms to their cooking.
The dish: Allegedly invented by a virtuous wife who wanted to keep her soup noodles fresh and hot for her hard-studying husband, this Yunnan specialty is nutritious and often beautifully presented.
The dish normally comes with a bowl of rice noodles, a bowl of stock and more than a dozen of small plates piled with toppings, such as beef, crab meat, salted goose, oyster mushrooms, wooden-ear mushrooms, assorted vegetables and fragrant herbs.
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