Rice is a staple Chinese food originating from Southern China and is most commonly eaten steamed. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. Noodles are also a staple food and come dry or fresh in a variety of sizes, shapes and textures and are often served in soups or fried as toppings.
Tofu is made of soybeans and is another popular product that supplies protein. In Northern China, people largely rely on wheat-flour for noodles, breads and dumplings. Some common vegetables used include Pak Choy (Chinese cabbage) and Chinese Spinach (dao-mieu).
China is home to soy sauce, which is made from fermented soya beans and wheat. Oyster sauce, transparent rice vinegar, Chinkiang black rice vinegar, fish sauce and fermented tofu (furu) are also widely used. A number of sauces are based on fermented soybeans, including Hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce and yellow bean sauce. Spices and seasonings such as fresh root ginger, garlic, spring onion, white pepper, and sesame oil are widely used in many regional cuisines. Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves are also used.
Chinese dishes can generally be divided into one of the ‘Eight Culinary Traditions of China’, also called the "Eight Regional Cuisines"
Yue (Cantonese): Guangdong – probably the most popular and widely known
Xiang: Hunan Su & Jiangsu, broadly known as Peking or Beijing style
Chuan: Sichuan – generally hot & spicy
Perhaps the best known and most influential are Guangdong (Cantonese), Jiangsu Sichuan and Shandong cuisine. Each of these styles is different due to factors such as available resources, climate, geography, history, cooking techniques and lifestyle. Whilst one style such as Guangdong may favour lots of garlic and shallots another such as Sichuan will have lots of chili and spices, whilst Fujian may favour preparing seafood over meat and poultry.
Guangdong (Cantonese) food can be steamed or stewed; Jiangsu (Beijing) food is normally braised or stewed, whilst Sichuan is generally baked. Beijing Roast Duck (otherwise known as 'Peking Duck') is one of the most popular dishes as is Cantonese Dim Sum and Sweet & Sour dishes.