The combined cuisines of China have often been compared to French cuisine as having made the greatest contribution to the world of food. Chinese cooking styles have been divided into five main regions: Southeastern (Canton), East Coast (Fukien), Northeastern (Peking-Shantung), Central (Honan) and Western (Szechuan-Hunan). Cantonese cuisine is famous for its meat roasting and grilling, fried rice, and bird's nest and shark's fin soup. The province of Fukien is noted for its multitudinous selection of soups and for its seafood dishes. The light, elegant Peking-Shantung style originated the famous peking duck, and is highly acclaimed for its subtle and artful use of seasonings. China's Honan province is the home of sweet-and-sour cooking, and the Szechuan-Hunan school is known for its hot, spicy dishes. Mandarin cooking and Shanghai cooking are not regional designations, but terms used to describe cooking styles. The word mandarin means "Chinese official," and mandarin cooking suggests an aristocratic cuisine that gleans the very finest elements from all the regions. Shanghai cooking refers to a cosmopolitan combination of many Chinese cooking styles.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.