Most of us have tried only a limited number of Chinese foods so far. Even the western Chinese restaurants serve only a few of them.
The little take-out box with fortune cookies and some weeknight meals is just the tip of the iceberg! Most of them are not even traditional.
But the enriched food culture of China is far vast than that. So, I will talk about those cuisines that are popular all over mainland China.
List of Popular Chinese Foods
Check the list of delicious dishes of China you can try:
- Dim Sums
- Sichuan Pork
- Ma Po Tofu
- Szechwan Chili Chicken
- Shitake Fried Rice
- Honey Chilli Potato
- Peri Peri Chicken Satay
- Veg Hakka Noodles
- Chow Mein
- Shrimp with Vermicelli and Garlic
- Yangchow Fried Rice
- And many more delicious dishes!
Let’s have a broad picture of these popular foods.
It’s not a particular food but rather a collection of snacks and dumplings that people in China eat with friends and family during brunch time. Dim sum is usually accompanied by tea.
The specialty is not the food. It’s the chance of gathering family members and friends to spend a good time. That’s why dim sum has a special place in the Chinese food culture.
One of the most popular and famous Sichuan dishes. It’s actually poached spicy pork slices and the recipe is completely different than what you think.
They don’t deep-fry or stir-fry the pork to avoid overcooking. Instead, they boil the pork in hot water.
To preserve the tenderness and freshness of the meat, they coat the pork with starch and egg-white.
The beauty of eating this meaty broth is that you will find each piece of pork meat with abundant juices with an incredible aroma.
Kung Pao Chicken
Another Sichuan cuisine but very popular in the whole of China and to foreigners who visit there. Apart from the diced chicken, they use fried peanuts and chili as the main ingredients.
However, in western countries, the ingredients are a little different than the original version. In western restaurants, they cover the diced chicken with mashed garlic, cornstarch, sauces, and vegetables.
Rumor has it that they used to serve the Peking duck to the royals of the Yuan dynasty! So, it’s been there since the early imperial days of China.
It’s considered to be one of the national dishes of China. The roasted duck is a famous Beijing dish that has gained fame worldwide. You should definitely try this when you are in Beijing.
The secret of its immense popularity is the crispy and thin skin of the Peking duck. When served with pancake, mashed garlic, and sweet bean sauce, it will be an unforgettable experience for you.
Shrimp Dumpling Soup
I don’t need to remind you that soup has a special place in Chinese food culture. But shrimp dumpling soup filled with wontons has made its favorite place.
You can enjoy it as a completely separate bowl of joy or you can accompany it with your favorite noodles.
Ma Po Tofu
The milky tofu is mouthwatering simply because it’s enriched with brownish ground beef and green onion. You must try it whenever you get the opportunity.
However, the spicy and hot tasted has 100+ years of history of pride and glory. It’s incredibly popular in Chuan Cuisine.
The hot and spicy taste comes from the unique pepper powder commonly used in Chuan Cuisine.
Yangchow Fried Rice
The ingredients of this fried rice are quite unique. They use peeled shrimp, crumbled egg, diced ham, mushroom, corn, baby bamboo shoots, and so many other ingredients!
They keep stir-fry the rice and all the ingredients until the rice turns into golden yellow color.
You need to visit Yangzhou of China if you want to enjoy this classic fried rice.
Of course, you can find it outside Yangzhou but the taste of Yangchow fried rice is best and distinguished from the rest of the places.
There are more than a thousand different types of fried rice in China, but they do it better only in Yangzhou.
A highly popular Chinese breakfast is basically rice porridge and you should try it someday when the weather is chill. It’s a ritual to have the congee when people in China become sick.
It tastes great too when eaten with fish, meat, or salted duck eggs. Chinese people also have youtiao (fried breadsticks) along with the Congee.
It’s a customary food for the people of China since the Tang Dynasty (618–907)! Yes, it’s a popular Vietnamese dish and highly popular around the world, but the Chinese have taken it to the next level.
I am sure you have tried this before in deep-fried form but wontons come in different shapes and tastes. The most versatile shape is the right triangle that looks like the Italian tortellini.
It can be boiled and served with soup or simply be deep-fried. Minced pork or diced shrimps are often served as its filling.
How about a Chinese snack? The term ‘Tea Eggs’ may sound weird to you but this is a very popular street snack in China.
When cracked open, these eggs get a marble design and taste great when eaten with spices and soaked in tea.
Among all the traditional Chinese foods, noodles have a special place among the people of China. Chow Mein is just better than the rest of the noodles out there.
The incredible mix of noodles, the meat of your choice (beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp), celery, and onions is the secret of this stir-fried delicious dish.
You have the recipe and chow mein preparation is incredibly easy. You first boil the noodles. Lastly, stir-fry the cool noodles with the rest of the ingredients!
These steamed buns are very soft, warm, and fluffy. They are usually filled with barbecue pork and veggies. To make the Baozi even tastier, they are also filled with custard, red bean paste, or lotus seed.
Did you know the history of dumplings is more than 1,800 years old in China? Pretty amazing, huh? It’s a ritual there to eat dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Dumplings are the traditional food in North China but equally popular across the whole country. They are made of minced meat and veggies wrapped in dough skin.
You can eat dumplings filled with chicken, diced shrimp, beef, and vegetables too. There are many ways to prepare dumplings like boiling, frying, and steaming.
Steamed Vermicelli Rolls
Another popular dim sum meal you should try. It’s highly popular among middle-class Chinese people. So, you will find them in morning tea restaurants, street food stalls, and tea houses.
For wrapping, use the white sheets of rice starch. Unlike hand roll and cut roll, they use pork/beef, oyster, shrimp, mushroom, lettuce, and other ingredients as fillings.
After steaming the rolls, they sprinkle cooked peanut oil & soy sauce.
The list of Chinese noodles seems never-ending and to many people in China, BiangBiang noodles are even better than chow mein!
Not just they look better than the chow mein, such noodles are thicker and fatter too. When served with mutton/beef, onion, and garlic – the aroma and taste just become unforgettable!
YĀOGUǑ XIĀRÉN (Fried Shrimp with Cashew Nuts)
Almost every foreigner who visits China loves this shrimp. The crispiness of the cashew nuts and tenderness from the peeled shrimp have made this incredibly delicious and healthy.
Being nutritional, I highly recommend this for your kids too!
It literally means the ‘Year Cake’. It also means ‘Higher Year’ too. People in China eat this sweet rice cake at the Chinese New Year’s Eve because they think it will bring good luck.
Other than sweet, there are other savory versions of nian gao too.
It is a barbecue pork dish but the pork itself varies from place to place across entire China. Other ingredients may vary but the most common pork cuts are pork belly, pork loin, and pork butt.
To give the char siu a bright red color and for necessary seasoning, they mix other ingredients like red fermented bean curd, hoisin & soy sauce, honey, spice powder, etc.
It’s another type of Cantonese dim sum. The cylindrical-shaped spring rolls are filled with either meat or vegetables. The taste can be either savory or sweet.
They use spring roll wrappers to wrap the fillings before frying. When finished frying, the rolls get the golden yellow color.
Well, it’s actually braised pork balls in gravy but if you love spaghetti and meatballs, you will love these Chinese meatballs too.
There is something addictive about those braised pork balls. It’s the flavor gravy and super-smooth feeling that will make you want more and more of it.
If you have a plant to have those meatballs in China, make sure to eat them in a decent restaurant. You will find the fine quality only there with the right fat and pork ratio.
CHÒUDÒUFU (Stinky Tofu)
So, it’s the fermented tofu that stinks. And the stronger it stinks, the better it tastes! Yes, tofu has a lot of varieties and it has a special place in the Chinese food culture.
It differs a little among various regions but people in China serve it stewed, deep-fried, cold or steamed. And they add soy sauce or chili to make it extra delicious.
To make stinky tofu, they make a mixture of vegetables, meat, fermented milk, and aroma and ferment that mix for several months. Just like the preparation of cheese!
ZHA JIANG MIAN (Fried Sauce Noodles)
The history of noodles and tofu is very rich and old in China. These Shandong province-based noodles are made with cumian (thick and chewy wheat noodles).
You can find this noodle in fancy restaurants and street vendors. When you eat the fried sauce noodles with Zhanjiang sauce, soybean paste, and ground pork, you will enjoy its true taste!
CONG YOU BING (Scallion Pancakes)
The scallion pancakes are everywhere in China. You can find it in restaurants and supermarkets in frozen form. They serve it as street food too.
Scallion and oil are mixed throughout the flatbread and being pan-fried, scallion pancakes are extremely crispy on the edges but very soft insides.
RÒU JIĀ MÓ (Chinese Hamburger)
Chinese hamburger has originated from the Shaanxi of northwest China and it’s been popular since the Qin dynasty.
Along with braised pork, this pita-shaped hamburger has more than 20+ spices and seasonings. That’s what makes this hamburger incredibly delicious!
Yunnan Rice Noodles
It’s another popular Chinese dish among tourists but a very traditional one for the people in Yunnan. Most of them eat the noodles as lunch!
It can be either beef or chicken with eggs, lettuce, and some other ingredients to give the noodle a great flavor. If you have recently made a visit to Thailand and enjoyed the popular Thai noodles, you know what I am talking about.
MÁPÓ DÒUFU (Mapo Tofu)
Here comes another delicious Chinese tofu! Yes, you may have tried this before but the original version from China is enriched with Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil.
Whatever version of the Mapo tofu found in the western world is much less spicy than the original version.
Yángròu Pào Mó (Mutton Soup)
With soft mutton, bread chunks in hot broth, and vermicelli noodles, this dish is not only tasty but also very filling.
It’s everywhere in China but the most authentic and popular version of that soup is available in Xi’an. The beauty is you can have its beef version as well.
In eastern China, people love the beef version of the soup but in western China, they like the mutton soup.
It’s a popular Chinese noodle dish topped with beef and veggies mix. In the Uyghur province of China, it’s known as Lagman, but in Hui, they call it Banmian.
It may sound very simple but it takes a skilled person to pull the noodles and master the secret ingredients of the sauces.
YUÈ BǏNG (Moon Cake)
The Chinese people celebrate their Mid-Autumn Festival with the moon cake which can be either sweet or salty. It’s been there since the late Shang Dynasty.
So, why they call it the Moon Cake?
Well, it’s not just a family reunion festival, they offer to the Moon God! But you can still enjoy this amazing cake.
They use egg yolk, ham, five nuts, lotus seed paste, red bean paste, and several other ingredients as the fillings.
Yóutiáo (Fried Breadsticks)
Youtiao is a Chinese breakfast that you can try while you are in there. They roll out the premade dough into the breadsticks and fry them in hot oil.
Yes, it’s very oily but utmost delicious too. Dip it with Chinese soy milk before eating to enjoy it truly.
It’s a Chinese traditional food and a must-have item to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. Zongzi is the part and parcel of their culture since 770 – 476 BC!
Zongzi can be either sweet or salty based on the fillings they use.
They first wrap the glutinous rice into reed leaves and then steam it. During the various dynasty, they change the fillings.
But in recent times, they use the red bean, rose, red date, bean paste, date paste as fillings for the sweet Zongzi. For the salty Zongzi, they use shrimp, pork, ham, sauces, etc. as fillings,
Peri Peri Chicken Satay
The Chinese use boneless chicken to prepare the mouth-watering chicken satay. And they add the fiery peri peri sauce to the chicken satay to make it tasty and delicious.
Chong Qing Fried Fish
You may have tried many Chinese fried fish dishes but you must try the Chong Qing Fried Fish (if not already). It’s originated from Chong Qing; hence the name.
An incredibly tasty broth is used along with some other ingredients of your choice to make this fried fish. You can also order vegetables and other items to enjoy this delicious dish.
You can’t be a true Chinese cuisine fan unless you try the Chinese hotpot. The broth is the secret ingredient here.
They cook all the meat slices and veggies in the broth and the broth determines how good the hotpot will become.
Considering the huge impact of the broth, you can pick your own broth item like the mushroom, tomato, etc.
You can also choose from peanut butter with smashed garlic or chopped onion with sesame oil.
Garlic Soya Chicken
It’s chicken alright but it’s a perfectly delicious mix of herbs and spices too. As it’s a garlic soya chicken, so there will be plenty of healthy garlic but tasty flavor.
Mango pudding is everywhere and it’s particularly popular in Hong Kong. But it’s equally popular in China too.
With light mango flavor and strawberries or other tasty fruits, you will love this creamy dessert.
Be honest. How many of the above Chinese foods you have eaten so far? I bet not more than 4 or 5. You are not alone.
So, when you are in China, you should familiarize yourself with their food culture. Go crazy but slowly. Try as many dishes as you can.
You will find most of these items in Chinatown too. Go there and check their menus!