We've all been there: you walk into a foreign restaurant and become puzzled by the menu. You randomly choose something—eenie, meenie, miny, moe—and the food turns out to be awful.
Many teens enjoy Chinese food, but few are knowledgeable about the authentic cuisine. When local teens are asked to name as many Chinese foods as they can in under two minutes, common American-Chinese foods like fried rice, lo mein and chicken teriyaki are mentioned. Most authentic Chinese food is very different from American-Chinese food. It is not over sauced and does not contain a lot of grease. Authentic Chinese food is split by the many regions of the country and each region's style varies from others.
Cantonese cuisine originated in the Guangdong province and it is the most eaten Chinese cuisine in the world. An authentic Cantonese chef will preserve the food's natural flavor, so little spices are added and there are not a lot of calories. The flavors of Cantonese cuisine are usually mild, fresh and slightly sweet. Some of the most popular Cantonese dishes you should try are Chinese steamed eggs, white cut chicken or char siu (barbecue pork). I have tasted all three dishes and they are wonderful. Think of a smooth ride on a water slide, that’s how smooth the steamed egg goes down your throat. An authentic Chinese steamed egg dish has the consistency of jelly and it is usually coated in light soy sauce. The Chinese white cut chicken is both juicy and tender, and it preserve the natural taste of chicken. The chicken is chopped into pieces and coated with light soy sauce to give it a golden look. Char siu has a reddish brown coating and tastes slightly sweet. Skewed over the fire and constantly coated with spices, char siu is moist on the inside and slightly chewy on the outside.
Since many Americans are accustomed to deeply flavored food, authentic Cantonese food might taste very bland to them. To get the best authentic Cantonese food experience, I recommend slowly working your way from American-Chinese restaurants to authentic Cantonese restaurants, and dialing down the over flavored taste. A recommended Cantonese restaurant to try is Jade Garden, located in Chinatown on 20 Tyler Street.
Sichuan cuisine, from the Sichuan region, is favored among the youth because of its spice. Sichuan cuisine is most famous for it's hot and spicy flavors, especially the must-have seasoning, Sichuan pepper. After eating Sichuan cuisine, it's usual for people's mouth to feel numb. Some famous Sichuan dishes you should try are the pockmarked granny bean curd, sesame oil chicken and Sichuan hot pot. Personally, anything that contains Sichuan pepper is saliva-inducing and appetizing.
Hunan cuisine, from the Hunan region, is also hot and spicy like Sichuan cuisine. The difference is that instead of numbing your tongue to the point where foods start to taste the same, Hunan cuisine stimulates your taste buds so you can taste the flavors. Hunan food is even hotter than Sichuan food and a bit sour. Some famous Hunan dishes that you should try are boiled yellow catfish, Mao's braised pork and dry-wok chicken.
Fujian cuisine originated from the southeastern province of Fujian and has a long history dating thousands of years. Fujian cuisines uses natural ingredients from mountains and the sea like wild herbs, mushrooms and bamboos in their cooking. The flavors of Fujian cuisines are usually light, with a slight sweetness and sourness. Some famous Fujian dishes are crispy skin fish rolls, clams in chicken soup and drunken ribs.
The last region on this list is Shandong which includes different kinds of seafood in their dishes because Shandong province is near a coast. An authentic Shandongese chef aims to preserve the natural color, taste and cut of the food. The flavor of Shandong cuisine is slightly salty and sometimes crispy. Some famous Shandong dishes you should try are sweet potato with caramelized sugar, red braised king prawns and dezhou stewed chicken.
If you ever complain that your local American-Chinese restaurants cooks bad food, you haven't eaten real Chinese food yet. The next time you enter a Chinese restaurant, order white cut chicken instead of chicken teriyaki, char siu instead of dumplings, crispy skin fish rolls instead of crab rangoons and oranges instead of fortune cookies.