1. 东北菜 dōng běi cài
The winters in northeastern China last up to six months, with extreme cold temperatures that often drop to -35 degrees Fahrenheit (-38 Celsius) below zero.
With such extreme cold temperatures, it's no wonder that the food of the northeast is characterized by large portion sizes and hefty caloric counts. The most popular cooking method is 炖 (dùn) , which means to braise or stew.
Popular dishes include 猪肉炖粉条 (zhū ròu dùn fěn tiáo) – pork braised with vermicelli, and 小鸡炖蘑菇 (xiǎo jī dùn mógū) – chicken braised with mushrooms. Both were two of my favorite foods growing up, when a hearty bowl of stew was the perfect way to warm up after walking home from school.
2. 广东菜 guǎng dōng cài
An entirely different style of cuisine is the food of Guangdong, which is located in coastal southeast China, close to Hong Kong and Macau. The cuisine of Guangdong is characterized by its focus on using the freshest ingredients. Seasoning and sauces are used sparingly in order to let the natural flavors of the ingredients truly shine.
If you have ever had dim sum, you've had Guangdong cuisine. If you haven't had dim sum, you should try it immediately! Dim sum, or 点心 (diǎn xīn) , is a super unique and fun way to have brunch.
In a typical dim sum restaurant, bite-sized portions of delicate foods are placed in small bamboo baskets, and pushed around in a cart by the server to each table, so diners can grab what they want to eat without ever leaving the table or placing an order.
3. 兰州面食 lán zhōu miàn shí
In America, if you want the best bagels, you head to New York City, if you want the best fried chicken, you might take a trip to Kentucky. In China, if you want the best noodles, you go straight to Lanzhou.
Two of the most famous noodle dishes in Lanzhou are 拉面 (lā miàn) and 牛肉面 (niú ròu miàn) . The character 拉 (lā) , means to pull or stretch. The noodles in Lanzhou lamian are stretched hundreds of times by hand, giving it that springy, chewy texture it's known for.
4. 新疆菜 xīn jiāng cài
The northwestern territories of China consist of vast stretches of deserts and mountains, which serve as home to many ethnic minority groups. One such group are the Uyghurs, a Turkish ethnic group that resembles both Caucasians as well as East Asians.
The cuisine of the region is similarly impacted by the diversity in the region. Mutton and lamb is the predominant meat, due to the Islamic / Halal influences from the Uyghurs that don’t eat pork. Open-fire cooking is also popular – featuring techniques such as 焙烧 (bèi shāo) – roasting, 烧烤 (shāo kǎo) – barbecuing, and 烘烤 (hōng kǎo) – baking.
Popular dishes include 羊肉串 (yáng ròu chuàn) – lamb kebabs, 烤全羊 (kǎo quán yáng) – roasted whole lamb, and 馕 (náng) – a flatbread similar to Middle Eastern/Indian naan bread.