Poo poo platter, General Tso’s chicken, and Mongolian beef are some of our favorite Chinese dishes. While this fare has its own unique culinary intrigue, they are all distinctly different from the Chinese food of the Middle Kingdom. For some, this article may be a perspective changer, and for others, it could bring about nostalgia. For all, it will cause mouth watering!
Additionally, learn how simple it is to order these dishes at a Chinese restaurant with the help of our short guide at the end!
10. Garlic Spicy Cucumber
Meant to be eaten on a hot summer day, 酸辣黄瓜 (suān là huángguā) is a mainstay for most Chinese dining tables. Depending of the region and personal tastes, garlic spicy cucumber comes in a wide range.
For instance, the garlic-loving people of Xi’an prefer larger raw pieces while Southern Chinese versions will have a lighter taste. A bite of China wouldn’t be complete without a try of this versatile dish!
9. Chinese Dumplings
Of all the dishes on this list, 饺子 (jiǎozi) is the most classic Chinese food. Although eaten year round, Chinese dumplings are a traditional food for the Chinese New Years. During this time, families will make the dumplings by hand. Flavors vary from all vegetable to pork and cabbage. Virtually anything can be placed inside.
The dish is most commonly served with a sauce for dipping. While everyone’s sauce is different, it usually consists of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and Shaoxing rice wine.
8. Beijing Sesame Seed Cake
Who says Chinese don’t eat bread? These little cakes may look like something ordinary. However, they are actually very special. Cross between an American biscuit and a British Scone, the 烧饼 (shāo bing) is easy to find on the streets of Beijing.
Unlike sesame buns, these dense cakes have a strong sesame taste, infused with unique Chinese seasonings. These tasty cakes are well deserved on this top ten list of Chinese food!
7. Dandan Noodles
Finally, we reach our first noodle dish! Not only did the Chinese invent noodles, they have perfected them through the preparation of hundreds of different noodle dishes! 担担面 (dàndàn miàn) consists of thin wheat noodles, spicy red oil soup base, ground pork, green onions, dehydrated soybeans (for crunch-factor), bok choy, and vinegar.
As true for many of these dishes, dandan noodles may be prepared in a number of ways; however, the traditional Sichuan recipe must have spicy peppers and ground pork!
6. Biang Biang Noodles
面 (biángbiáng miàn) is a testament to China’s humor, creativity, and love for food, all in one! The character for “” (biang) is the Chinese language’s most complex word, with 43 strokes to write it! Although there is a humorous story behind this word, the focus here is the Chinese food!
Biangbiang noodles are extremely wide and long and come in a variety of flavors. If you want to try the best, you need to travel to Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors. Domestically, they are one of China’s biggest tourist attractions.
5. Little Dragon Buns
A pinnacle of Shanghai Chinese food, 小笼包 (xiǎolóng bāo) are similar to Chinese dumplings except one defining difference. Little dragon buns are filled with soup! Be careful not to burn yourself or make a mess on your clothes when eating these! Although some of the best made buns are in Shanghai, these delicious “little dragons” are easy to find across the nation.
4. Dim Sum
A main feature of southern, Cantonese Chinese food, 点心 (diǎnxin) is a favorite of both Chinese and internationals! The idea of Dim Sum is to share small portions of many steamed dishes. Sharing is caring! Popular items include barbecue buns, chicken feet, bean-flavored spare ribs, cakes, and shrimp dumplings.
The activity of talking with family/friends and sharing dim sum is called “drinking tea.” This is usually done on a Saturday or Sunday, late morning to late afternoon.
3. Peking Duck
Succulent, crispy, and packed full of flavor, Beijing roast duck (北京烤鸭 běijīng kǎoyā) is one of the most recognizable Chinese food. Roast duck is a national dish, so every city will have it’s own take on preparing duck. However, the Beijing style is most famous because its extensive preparation method, resulting in a crispy, sweet outside and juicy inside.
Compared to chicken, duck is more fatty and, if cooked well, can have a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The dish was originally made for the Imperial Court of the Yuan Dynasty. It’s a dish for emperors; you MUST try this when in Beijing!
2. Red Braised Pork
One of the most laborious to prepare, 红烧肉 (hóngshāo ròu) is arguably the most common favorite of the Chinese people! How laborious? The most skilled chefs will spend almost a week to craft the best dishes of red braised pork.
Marination and cooking requires many Chinese traditional ingredients. These include star anise, cinnamon stick, brown rock sugar, dark soy sauce, whole red peppers, cooking wine, and the chef’s secret ingredients!
The cut of pork used is essentially what American’s call “bacon,” or the pork belly. Chinese call this cut “five flower meat” because of the roughly five layers of skin-fat-meat-fat-meat, creating the illusion of a flower.
1. Hot Pot
For Chinese living outside of China, the dish they miss most is certainly 火锅 (huǒ guō)! Hot Pot is China’s number 1 food because of it’s cultural expression and high-level of comfort. Not to mention that it is an extremely satisfying experience!
This is how it works! As depicted above, the server brings the pot with soup base to the table to be heated. As the pot begins to boil, the server brings all the ingredients, raw. You use your chopsticks to place the raw vegetables, noodles, and meat into the boiling pot. Once the food is cooked, use your chopsticks to dip the food into a sauce of your choice!
Some restaurants specialize in sauces, so be sure to ask for what kinds they offer. In the image above, Beijing Hot Pot, with a mild taste. Other areas, such as in Chongqing, the Hot Pot tends to be spicy. Mild is almost always available, though!
Ordering Chinese Food
Now that your mouth is watering, let’s learn how to order these delicious dishes! The key is to learn “I want…” and then add the Chinese food that you like from above:
我要… wo yao… I want…
So, if I want Peking duck, I say: Wo yao beijing kao ya. 我要北京烤鸭。
For pronunciation, copy and paste the Chinese characters into Google Translate and click the listen button: .
Be brave and give it a try. The server will be very impressed with you for speaking Chinese, so don’t worry. Now, go see how much of this Chinese food you can eat!