You may already know that Orange Chicken and General Tso's aren't really authentic Chinese, but did you know that "Chinese food" doesn't actually exist and that it's actually split up into 8 different regional cuisines? Learn about what the 8 are and more in this beginner's guide to authentic Chinese Food!


Chinese food is almost always served “family-style,” meaning that the entire group orders a bunch of dishes together, and then everyone eats a bit of everything, often with rice or noodles. Sometimes if the group is large enough, the food will be served on a turntable in the middle of the table. You probably know this already, but food is usually eaten with chopsticks instead of forks or knives. If there's soup, there will be a soup spoon provided in most restaurants; however, in a more casual setting, often you'll be expected to drink straight from the bowl!


- The more respected you are, the further away from the door you sit (this is usually goes in order of seniority).

- You should not start eating until everyone has sat down.

- Don’t put your chopsticks in your food vertically; instead, lay them across your bowl or plate. This is because incense is often vertical as well, and incense is a hallmark of Chinese funerals, so it’s considered a bad omen.

- If a dish comes with a spoon or chopsticks in it then use those utensils to put the food into your bowl/plate, not your own chopsticks!

- While in Western cultures it is more common to just split the bill, in China often everyone fights over who gets to pay the bill.


What Americans know as just Chinese food is actually not a real type of cuisine at all. In fact, “Chinese cuisine” is split into 8 different regional cuisines: Cantonese Cuisine, Sichuan Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine, Fujiang Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Anhui Cuisine, and Shandong Cuisine. I will discuss the four most popular cuisines below!

Cantonese Cuisine (Yue Cai)

This is the Chinese cuisine that’s most similar to the westernized Chinese dishes you might find at takeout places in America and other western countries. Cantonese cuisine is known for its focus on bringing out the original flavor of the food being cooked, and they use spices a lot more sparingly than other types of Chinese cuisine. It’s found in the Southern part of China, in the Guangzhou area and in Hong Kong and Macau.

Popular dishes from Cantonese Cuisine include:

- Dim Sum

- You Tiao (a long strip of fried dough)

- Steamed egg

- Shark fin soup

Jiangsu Cuisine (Su Cai)

This cuisine can be found in the Jiangsu region of China, but also consists of Yangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, and Zhenjiang dishes. Because of the high per capita income, Jiangsu dishes are often more gourmet style. This type of cuisine is known for its light and fresh taste, and ingredients often include many different kinds of seafood due to the region’s proximity to the coast.

Popular dishes from Jiangsu Cuisine include:

- Jinling salted dried duck

- Braised pork belly

- Yangzhou fried rice

- Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)

Sichuan Cuisine (Chuan Cai)

This is my personal favorite cuisine! Sichuan Cuisine is known for its spicy food, especially its use of a particular pepper called the Sichuan peppercorn that, when eaten, gives your mouth a numb feeling. Although not every dish in Sichuan Cuisine is spicy, most are quite so, so if your spice tolerance isn’t up to snuff you may want to work on that before eating Sichuan food. One particular dish, called Chongqing Spicy Chicken, often consists of more peppers than chicken! This cuisine is from the Sichuan region of China; however, you can find Sichuan cuisine served almost everywhere in China and in plenty of places in America as well.

Popular dishes from Sichuan Cuisine include:

- Mapo Tofu

- Chongqing Spicy Chicken

- Kung Pao Chicken

- Dandan Noodles

Zhejiang Cuisine (Zhe Cai)

Zhejiang Cuisine is also known for its seafood, but unlike Jiangsu cuisine, their seafood is often served raw. Therefore there is a greater emphasis on food that is fresh and in season. It is often compared to Japanese Cuisine because of this. It is also known for its sweet desserts. Centered around Hangzhou city, which was the capital of China in the Southern Song Dynasty, technically Zhejiang cuisine consists of three smaller styles of cooking, Hangzhou style, Shaoxing style, and Ningbo style. Ningbo style is especially known for salty food because they often brine their meat.

Popular dishes from Zhejiang Cuisine include:

- Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)

- Dongpo Pork