The Food of Northern China

The best known part of China, historically and archaeologically, is Northern China. This is the cradle of Chinese culture; after all, the earliest agricultural sites in China were discovered in this region. It is an area of little rain, almost all of it falling in the spring and fall months.  Northern China is known for cold, bitter, dry and dusty winters. 

Today, however, the agriculture of Northern China is dominated by non-native plants: wheat, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, and sesame seed. Wheat, this basic grain of the North, is made into a variety of products including noodles, steamed breads, pancakes, stuffed buns, and dumplings of various sizes and fillings.

The best-known regional cuisines of Northern China are those of Beijing, Tianjin, and Shandong. Beijing and Tianjin, both cities located in the northern province of Hebei, share culinary traditions with their northern neighbors because of proximity and similar ancient history. Shandong is a province with a long coast line bordering the Yellow Sea; it is rich in natural resources. These three cuisines, developed because of wealth and natural resources, are in contrast to the remainder of the North, which is poor.

Northern cuisine relies primarily on hearty dishes of meaty and starchy foods. Most of Northern cuisine ingredients are based on the region’s agricultural products, which are limited due to the cold and dry weather in the north.

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