If you hear someone say that he or she loves Chinese food, he or she is taking too much for granted. In fact, there is no such simple thing as the so-called ‘Chinese food’. A more accurate statement in this instance should be such that expresses one’s preference for a particular Chinese cuisine or a particular regional way of cooking. With a territory as large and a history as long and complex as China’s, it is inevitable that distinct regional differences in cuisine have involved over the course of centuries. Numerous factors are involved in this diction, geography, climate, transportation, migration, and influence from overseas cultures, etc.
Although there is no agreement on the precise number of Chinese regional cuisines, those concerned with such matters agree that the four principal culinary regions are Shandong, Sichuan, Canton, and Yangzhou.
It should be pointed out that these designations are not hard and fast geographical boundaries. Beijing food, for example, falls within the realm of Shandong cooking, but includes some Sichuan dishes and Mongolian-influenced specialties, while the cuisine of the entire densely populated Yangtze River Delta area, including Wuxi, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Hangzhou dishes, falls under the category of Yangzhou cuisine.
All over China, local delicacies and foods unique to various ethnic groups are numerous. According to some others, the characteristic flavors of China’s eight cuisines can be summed up as the light southern cuisines, and the salty northern cuisines, the sweet easterns, and the spicy westerns.