HomeTravelBest Chinese food: 32 must-try dishes

Best Chinese food: 32 must-try dishes

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(CNN) — With one of many world’s most various meals scenes, China makes it practically not possible to place collectively one single record that actually encompasses the “finest” Chinese language dishes.

However with such an enormous number of flavors on supply, it is immensely useful to enter the nation with an introductory record of important eats that provides you with a well-rounded culinary expertise.

Sadly, the nation stays closed to worldwide vacationers, according to its strict zero-Covid policies. Within the meantime, you may dream about these scrumptious dishes that supply a sampling of China’s many alternative areas.

Cannot wait until then? A few of them can absolutely be present in your nearest Chinatown group.

We have now included each English and Chinese language (Mandarin or Cantonese, relying how they’re extra generally identified) names on this story.

Peking duck

Peking duck is one of China's greatest culinary exports.

Peking duck is certainly one of China’s biggest culinary exports.

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One chunk into this small mountain of crispy duck pores and skin, juicy meat, radish, cucumber, scallion and candy bean sauce wrapped neatly in a skinny pancake, and you may perceive why Peking duck has been charming stomachs — together with these of historic Chinese language emperors — for hundreds of years.

It is mentioned that roasted duck first began tantalizing style buds greater than 1,500 years in the past in Nanjing, when town was the seat of historic Chinese language imperial regimes.

The capital relocated to Beijing within the 1400s, and the imperial households introduced these tasty roast duck recipes — and the cooks — with them.

It was there that the present method we benefit from the duck, wrapped in that delicate skinny pancake, was invented after which popularized world wide.

Vermicelli with duck blood

Serious duck fans won't want to miss this vermicelli soup dish.

Critical duck followers will not wish to miss this vermicelli soup dish.

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Many Nanjing residents will certainly let you know it is their metropolis — not Beijing — that is the true duck capital of China.

The town’s obsession with the fowl is clear in its big range of duck choices, together with salted duck, pancakes made with duck grease and duck dumplings.

However nothing speaks to a duck lover’s coronary heart fairly like an affordable bowl of vermicelli soup with duck blood.

Made with duck-bone broth, duck blood curds and bits of duck offal, reminiscent of liver and gizzards, this avenue meals dish absolutely makes use of each a part of the fowl to ship extremely intense flavors.

Steamed fish

It could look easy, however steaming fish is a troublesome artwork to grasp.

Timing is essential. The variety of minutes — or seconds — you must steam a fish is dictated by the sort and measurement of a fish, in addition to the power of your individual range.

Undercook it by a minute, the flesh will not detach from the bone; overcook it, the flesh will tighten an excessive amount of and the fish will lose a few of its moisture, tenderness and flakiness.

Cantonese steamed fish is often served in some sweetened soy sauce and scallions.

Dan dan noodles

It is practically not possible to dislike China’s soul-comforting dan dan mian, or dan dan noodles. The query is: Which model to attempt?

Dan dan noodles are named after the best way they have been initially offered greater than 100 years in the past — on a dan dan, a carrying pole, by avenue hawkers.

There are numerous methods to serve this well-known Sichuan specialty. Some suppose dan dan noodles ought to comprise a dry mixture of noodles, made with minced meat, chopped scallions, spices, crushed peanuts and numerous sauces. Others disagree, preferring dan dan noodles in a sizzling, spicy, salty and nutty broth albeit with comparable substances.

However most individuals would agree that dan dan noodles style higher when topped with a handful of rou saozi — finely chopped pork that is been pan-fried in lard till golden brown and crispy.

Steamed fish head with chopped salted chili

Pro tip: Order a side of dumplings or noodles to dip into the juice after the fish heads have been gobbled up.

Professional tip: Order a aspect of dumplings or noodles to dip into the juice after the fish heads have been wolfed up.

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Delicacies within the mountainous, landlocked southern province of Hunan (often known as Xiang delicacies) is commonly cooked with a beneficiant portion of oil, salt and chili.

The province even has its personal chili-themed people music, with lyrics proclaiming that “it does not depend as a dish if there is no such thing as a chili. A contact of chili triumphs over an beautiful meal.”

No different dish represents Hunan delicacies in addition to steamed fish heads served with chopped salted chili (duo jiao yu tou).

Duo jiao, a staple relish in Hunanese houses, is made with chili peppers which are dried, diced then preserved in a jar of salt, ginger, garlic and baijiu (Chinese language liquor) for at the least per week.

The thick blanket of duo jiao offers the steamed fish head a salty and spicy kick. The leftover juice is a scrumptious dip for noodles or dumplings after you have devoured the fish.

Roasted goose

Warning: As soon as you have tried a Cantonese-style, woodfire oven-roasted goose, there isn’t any going again. No different goose dish will please your palate in fairly the identical method.

Upon hitting your mouth, the goose magically falls aside, providing an explosion of mixed flavors from the crispy pores and skin, melted fats and tender meat.

Some eating places will use particular kinds of wooden, reminiscent of camphor wooden or lychee wooden, to offer the fowl a particular smoky style.

Chaozhou chilly fish/crab

Seaside Chaozhou is understood for no-frills seafood dishes that serve one goal — to maximise the recent substances’ unique umami flavors.

Among the many finest dishes showcasing this type is Chaozhou-style chilly fish or chilly crab.

To protect the freshness of the seafood, fish and crabs are flippantly seasoned in salt earlier than they’re steamed. They’re then cooled and served at room temperature.

The fish is commonly dipped in a particular soy bean paste from Poling, whereas the crabs are served with a garlic and vinegar sauce.

Cross-the-bridge rice noodles

Legend has it that cross-the-bridge rice noodles have been invented a few years in the past by a loving spouse. Her husband studied on an island, so the spouse would journey throughout a bridge to ship him his every day lunches.

Because the meals could be chilly after the journey, the disheartened spouse determined to convey a pot of scalding sizzling rooster broth, together with the rice noodles and uncooked substances.

It was an ingenious plan, actually. The rooster oil on the floor of the soup would hold the liquid heat. When the husband was able to eat, she’d cook dinner all of the substances by pouring them into the new soup.

Right now, many noodle outlets supply their very own type of cross-the-bridge rice noodles, providing a alternative of various substances and soup bases.

Kungpao rooster

A flavorful partnership of chicken and peanuts.

A flavorful partnership of rooster and peanuts.

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One of the internationally well-known Chinese language dishes, Kungpao rooster is made by stir-frying diced rooster items with scallions, ginger, peppercorns, chili and deep-fried peanuts.

There are totally different origin tales, however many imagine the dish was impressed by a former Sichuan governor within the 1800s referred to as Ding Baozeng, whose nickname was Ding Gongbao — alternatively romanized as Kungpao.

It is mentioned that Ding beloved a bitter and salty fried rooster dish from China’s Shandong province. After he was relocated to Sichuan, he requested his chef so as to add some native chili and peanuts to the dish — and the remaining is historical past.

Candy and bitter pork / Lychee pork

Deep-fried pork can really feel a bit heavy, particularly in unforgiving summer time climate. Fortunately, we now have candy and bitter pork.

The pineapple within the dish and a sauce made with sugar, vinegar and soy sauce add some freshness to the crispy pork.

Should you’re a fan of candy and bitter pork, you must also attempt the Fujian model of the dish — lychee pork. By incising the surfaces of the pork items, they resemble lychees’ uneven skins after being deep-fried.

There is no such thing as a lychee within the dish historically — the sweetness comes from sugar, however some eating places add lychee or use lychee sauce to match its identify.

Bonus: The rugged surfaces on the pork maintain extra sauce and have a extra tender texture.


Who wants French fries when you will have dumplings?

Whether or not you’re keen on them steamed, boiled or pan-fried, jiaozi pack a full punch of carbs, proteins and greens in a single mouthful.

Vinegar and chili oil are a few of the best condiments to go along with Chinese language dumplings.

Rouyan pork dumplings

One of the fascinating types of dumplings is Fujian’s rouyan model — scrumptious sufficient to earn their very own spot on this record.

The mini pork dumplings have an additional chewiness to them as their wrappers are fabricated from pork and a few flour.

Wenchang rooster rice

Whereas Hainanese rooster rice is not truly from China’s Hainan province (it was first served in Malaysia), the dish was impressed by the tropical island province and its well-known Wenchang rooster.

Made with a particular breed of poultry from the island’s eponymous metropolis, Wenchang rooster is prized for its skinny pores and skin, tender meat and candy taste.

The commonest method to cook dinner a Wenchang rooster is by blanching and air drying it. Just like Hainanese rooster rice, the Wenchang model is commonly served with yellow rooster fats rice and rooster soup.

Hainan locals often choose garlic and ginger paste, chili sauce and the juice of small tangerines as condiments.

Mapo tofu

Mapo tofu is one of Sichuan's most popular dishes.

Mapo tofu is certainly one of Sichuan’s hottest dishes.

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A memorable mapo tofu packs a boatload of zing — salty, peppery and spicy flavors ought to all hit the style buds in a single spoonful due to the several types of spices, peppers and chili used within the dish.

Discerning native gourmets insist that one of the best mapo tofu ought to be made with Hanyuan peppercorns and broad bean chili paste from Sichuan’s Pidu district.

It is mostly cooked with minced pork or beef — and tofu, in fact. However because the Sichuan dish is so wildly well-liked these days, eating places typically serve artistic variations of mapo tofu with several types of meats.

Pork stomach with dry, pickled Chinese language mustard

Tender, well-braised pork stomach is of course irresistible — however the star of this Hakka dish is definitely mei cai, a dry, pickled Chinese language mustard that offers the hearty stew its bitter and salty style.

It is mentioned that each Hakka household, a historically nomadic tribe in China, pickle their very own mei cai.

Once they make an excessive amount of of it, they’ll whip up a mei cai relish that is a fantastic topping for plain rice and noodles.

Fried rice

Whether or not it is an elevated model made with diced abalone and truffles, or a leftover medley of soon-to-spoil substances out of your fridge, each good model of basic fried rice shares two necessary substances — dry however succulent rice and wok hei (also known as the breath of the wok).

Jian bing guozi

One of the welcome sights on a chilly morning in Tianjin in northern coastal China is a jian bing stand, with its scorching sizzling pan.

Jian bing guozi consists of two components: Jian bing (crepes) and guozi (deep-fried crisps).

To make a jian bing guozi, first, a mung bean combination is fanned out with a ladle onto a flat-iron pan. Eggs and scallions are then unfold out on the crepe.

After the pancake is flipped over, a dollop of bean paste, sheets of guozi crisps (or, typically, deep-fried breadsticks and greens) are added earlier than the seller — often an aged man — folds the stuffed and toasted pancake and arms it to you in a paper bag.


Use a spoon to catch the spilled soup from a xiaolongbao.

Use a spoon to catch the spilled soup from a xiaolongbao.

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Questioning whether or not the xiaolongbao wrapper will break on the lengthy journey between the steaming basket and your mouth is likely one of the most suspenseful moments that may happen at a eating desk.

Amassing an enormous following in and out of doors China, xiaolongbao, additionally referred to as xiaolong tangbao (translated as “small basket soup bun”), is a mixture of soup and pork packed inside a skinny dumpling wrapper.

Along with pork, the soupy dumplings can be stuffed with crab meat and crab roe.

Chen cun rice noodles

Should you’re a type of individuals who thinks the actual star of beef chow enjoyable is the noodles and never the meat, you must attempt Chen cun fen (Chen village flat rice noodles).

Chewier, wider and thinner than the standard flat rice noodles, Chen cun fen is a specialty from Chen village, a city in Shunde district within the Pearl River Delta.

Along with being stir-fried in a noodle dish, the semi-translucent and clean Chen cun fen make a fantastic base layer for dishes reminiscent of steamed spareribs and seafood because the noodles soak up all of the flavors from the opposite substances.

Dongpo pork

Named after well-known poet, painter and statesman Su Dongpo (who lived about 1,000 years in the past), Dongpo rou is made up of braised pork stomach, rock sugar, soy sauce, yellow wine and different seasonings.

The result’s a richly flavored and intensely tender pork slab that may simply be pried aside with chopsticks.

It is a scrumptious dish that goes effectively with steamed white rice.

Scorching and bitter soup

Surprisingly, China’s famed sizzling and bitter soup is not simply nice at warming up your physique in winter.

Native Sichuanese imagine that the soup also can expel extreme humidity and hotness from one’s physique in summer time as effectively.

A bowl of sizzling and bitter soup ought to have a steadiness of sourness (from vinegar) and spiciness (from peppers) — however not hotness from chili.

Shreds of tofu, Chinese language mushrooms, wooden ears and bamboo shoots are a few of the frequent substances discovered within the thick soup.

Dim sum

Small baskets, big flavors.

Small baskets, massive flavors.

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Dim sum refers extra to a mode of serving meals — it is a sort of meal in Cantonese meals tradition — relatively than a selected dish.

It is a crafty method to embrace many alternative kinds of small plates — from pan-fried radish cake to prawn dumplings to siu mai — in a single meal.

On the identical time, eating on a mixture of those dishes throughout a dim sum session is way extra pleasing than consuming only one model by itself.

Beef/fish poached in chili oil broth

Do not be fooled by its bland-sounding Chinese language identify — shui zhu, which interprets actually to “water boil.”

Shui zhu is a cooking method that was first developed in Sichuan delicacies. The phrase water (shui) refers back to the sizzling, spicy chili oil broth that’s used to poach thinly sliced beef (shui zhu niu), pork (shui zhu roupian) or fish (shui zhu yu).

Right now, the photogenic crowd-pleaser is commonly served with sliced celtuce (a kind of lettuce) and flat mung bean noodles within the broth, too.

Barbecue pork

One of the best barbecue pork ought to be barely charred on the surface and comprise simply the correct quantity of sweetness and saltiness from the maltose, wine and soy sauce.

A Cantonese roast store will allow you to select the extent of fattiness you need in your char siu, Cantonese for barbecue pork.

Half lean, half fatty char siu is the go-to choice in case you are a beginner.

Barbecue pork is a extremely versatile ingredient served in lots of scrumptious dishes — from char siu macaroni soup for breakfast to char siu bao — steamed buns – at dim sum.


Bao — a steamed bread roll stuffed with a wide range of substances together with meat or greens — are available in many sizes and styles.

It could possibly be a plain bao with a shiny and clean exterior (mantou), or an outsized steamed volcano-shaped bao full of a whole meal’s value of meals (da bao, or translated as “massive bao”).

However probably the greatest baos is undoubtedly sheng jian bao.

The pan-fried bao is stuffed with pork and broth, whereas scallions and white sesame seeds are sprinkled on prime.

Rou jia mo

The Mausoleum of Terracotta Warriors is often the explanation vacationers go to Xi’an, however this western Chinese language metropolis’s scrumptious and equally historic rou jia mo is one other nice purpose to move there.

The ever present avenue eat consists of a grilled mo (flat bread) and an overflowing quantity of shredded pulled pork stomach that has been braised in soy sauce, rock sugar and spices reminiscent of cinnamon, star anise, cloves and peppercorns for hours.

Undercooked mo is a giant no-no. A standard saying in Shaanxi province goes “tie quan hu bei juhua xin,” which implies “iron ring, tiger’s again and chrysanthemum’s coronary heart ” — the right patterns you must search for on a effectively toasted mo.

Cantonese natural soup

Cantonese mother and father are the actual specialists in terms of therapeutic natural soups, that are simmered for hours to infuse the liquid with therapeutic qualities and deliciousness.

Numerous seasonal substances supply totally different cooling or warming qualities to revive steadiness within the physique.

For instance, apple, snow fungus and lily petal soup will hydrate your physique, whereas winter melon and barley soup will cool you down in sizzling climate.

Preserved sausages

Chinese preserved sausages are usually steamed before serving.

Chinese language preserved sausages are often steamed earlier than serving.

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The Chinese language model of salami is commonly categorized into two major varieties: Laap cheung and yun cheung (in Cantonese).

Laap cheung is preserved meat sausage that has a barely candy style. Yun cheung, then again, is generally made with offal from poultry, giving it a stronger and gamier taste.

Not like their European counterparts, Chinese language preserved sausages ought to be steamed earlier than eaten.

You’ll find them wrapped in buns, stir-fried with sticky rice or steamed in a clay pot.

Candy taro paste

The key to a scrumptious Fujian-style taro paste is binlang yu, a particular breed of yam from Fujian’s Fuding county. The white and purple flesh of a binlang yu has vibrant fragrances and an earthy, nutty and candy style.

To make the dessert, the taro is cooked and mashed earlier than it is combined with sugar and lard.

The thick, silky taro mash will then be garnished with candy toppings reminiscent of dates, candied cherries and gingko.


On the subject of nourishing your digestive system, in illness and in well being, it is all about congee (porridge, generally made with rice).

A well-liked breakfast merchandise in lots of components of China, the versatile low cost eat might be served plain with a drizzle of soy sauce and scallions, or stewed with savory substances reminiscent of rooster or fish.

Lean pork floss and century egg congee is likely one of the classics served within the south of China. Congee made with millet as a substitute of rice and flavored with pumpkin is well-liked within the north.

Those that are further hungry can order a aspect of soy sauce-fried noodles, deep-fried breadsticks (youtiao) or soy milk. These might be loved on the aspect, or you may tear up the breadsticks or add some noodles to the congee.

Chaozhou beef balls

Most individuals who go to Chaozhou cannot resist selecting up a family-sized bag of tremendous bouncy and flavorsome meat balls fabricated from beef crushed by hand to convey dwelling with them.

Extremely praised for his or her understanding of beef, Chaozhou individuals are additionally well-known for different dishes reminiscent of beef sizzling pot.

Candy rice balls

One of the beloved desserts in China, candy rice balls, or tangyuan, might be discovered in lots of areas.

Ningbo is likely one of the finest locations to pattern these spherical mochi-like desserts.

The gentle, pillowy exterior is made with sticky rice whereas the filling is fabricated from black sesame, sugar and lard.

The lard offers the filling an additional perfume and sheen.

Supply: www.cnn.com

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