Many people underestimate just how big China really is! Only slightly smaller than the continent of Europe, China has many regional cuisines, similar to the range in cuisines across European countries. These can be broken up into Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern cuisines, all of which have unique flavours, ingredients and cooking styles.
Southern cuisine, also known as Cantonese cuisine, most similarly resembles the Chinese food most people are familiar with in western countries. Guangzhou and Hong Kong are both great cities to try Cantonese style cooking. Southern Chinese food doesn’t focus heavily on flavouring food but instead focuses on the freshness of ingredient to provide great flavours. Rice is a primary staple in Cantonese cuisine, due to the areas more humid climate and heavier rainfall than the rest of the country. Dim sum is one of the most popular styles of southern Chinese cuisine, where variations of dumplings are cooked in bamboo steamers.
Northern cuisine is the oldest cuisine in China, incorporating Beijing, Shandong, Shanxi and Manchurian cooking styles. Traditionally, rice was not a staple in Northern cuisine and instead, wheat-based foods like noodles and breads are much more common. However, due to the ubiquitous availability of rice nowadays, it is becoming more and more of a staple. Aside from noodles and breads, roasted meats are very prevalent in northern cuisine, and is usually heavily seasoned with herbs and spices. Most famous, of course, is Peking duck – Beijing’s signature dish.
Eastern cuisine is generally sweeter and more oily than other Chinese styles of cooking. Both rice and wheat can be grown in eastern China, meaning rice, noodles and bread are all staples. Due to the proximity to the East China Sea and abundance of waterways running throughout eastern provinces, fish seafood are widely used in eastern cooking. Steaming, grilling, pan-frying and stir-frying are all common methods of cooking dishes with fish. Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou are all great cities to treat your taste buds to eastern cuisine delicacies!
Western cuisine is best characterised as hot and spicy! Red chillis, aniseed and peppercorns are all common ingredients used to make fiery, spicy dishes. Sichuan cooking is the most famous style of western cuisine, and usually features ‘flower peppers’ – around, peppercorn-like herb which numbs your mouth! If you’re planning on visiting Chengdu or Chongqing during your school trip, a hot pot dinner is an absolute must-try. To cater to all your students’ tastes, be sure to try the ying-yang style hotpot, which has both mild and spicy options.
If this is your students’ first time travelling to China or even Asia, it might be a good idea to practise using chopsticks before your school trip. Most restaurants in China do have cutlery – typically forks and spoons – available on request, but learning to use chopsticks is a great way for kids to really appreciate Chinese culture. Take a look at this handy step-by-step guide to using chopsticks and find out more about chopstick etiquette here.
Interested in booking a school trip to China? From complete culture tours to subject-focused trips to specific curriculum-based itineraries, we’ve got you covered. Find out more about what The Learning Adventure can do for you by downloading our latest brochure below, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or speak to a specialist through the chat box!