from what i’ve learned about hunan cuisine, i think i’d appreciate the spicy/sour flavor palate that comes from the use of pickled ingredients and vinegar, though i do admit i’m not a big fan of spicy just for spiciness’ sake. in general i try to identify dishes which are supposed to exemplify the characteristics.of that regional cuisine, but i’m not sure i’ve actually experienced truly authentic hunan cuisine.
as for my take on the other of the eight great regional cuisines:
i’ve already mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for ennui, er, anhui cuisine. which seem to be mainly hot pots.if it went beyond it, i never really saw examples of that.
cantonese/HK, if i had to say so in 20 words or less: rice staple crop, lots of seafood, emphasis on fresh ingredients, so rarely heavily seasoned. nothing beyond black bean/ shrimp paste.
sichuan - i suspect that most people think nothing but over the top spicy. mapo/kung pao some folks might associate dandan noodles.
though not one of the eight great, i’d be curious to see how people categorize taiwanese cuisine. empirically, i’d say smaller servings of more intensely flavored dishes. not above claiming other’s regional dishes as their own, like XLB.
speaking of XLB i’m not sure many people go beyond XLB when they think of shanghaiese which is a subset of jiangsu. i think that the international settlement being in shanghai had a big impact on their cuisine resulting a higher level of refinement than you see in most chinese cuisine.
if someone is asked about hunan food, they might know it’s supposed to be spicy like sichuan, but i doubt they’d know about the vinegar and pickling of ingredients. .
shandong? to save my life, i could only suggest the shandong chicken at earthen. and the two branches of shandong dumplings. the beef roll might have shandong in its roots, but so many places serve them now.
and fujian is non-existent out here, fuzhou cusine not withstanding.
i’d say we’re more aware of uighur/shaanxi/shanxi because of the noodles which have a western analog. dongbei more for what it shares with korean cooking maybe?
nanjing? only for the duck.