HomeTravelBest Chinese food: 32 dishes every traveler should try

Best Chinese food: 32 dishes every traveler should try

(CNN) — With one of many world’s most various meals scenes, China makes it almost inconceivable to place collectively one single record that really encompasses the “best” Chinese dishes.

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

Unfortunately, the nation stays closed to worldwide vacationers, in step with its strict zero-Covid policies. In the meantime, you may dream about these scrumptious dishes that provide a sampling of China’s many various areas.

Can’t wait until then? Some of them can absolutely be present in your nearest Chinatown group.

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

Peking duck


Peking duck is certainly one of China’s best 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 will perceive why Peking duck has been charming stomachs — together with these of historic Chinese emperors — for hundreds of years.

It’s mentioned that roasted duck first began tantalizing style buds greater than 1,500 years in the past in Nanjing, when the town was the seat of historic Chinese 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 manner we benefit from the duck, wrapped in that delicate skinny pancake, was invented after which popularized world wide.

Vermicelli with duck blood

(*32*)Serious duck fans won't want to miss this vermicelli soup dish.

Serious duck followers will not need to miss this vermicelli soup dish.

Govan/Adobe Stock

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

The metropolis’s obsession with the chicken is clear in its big selection of duck choices, together with salted duck, pancakes made with duck grease and duck dumplings.

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

Made with duck-bone broth, duck blood curds and bits of duck offal, resembling liver and gizzards, this avenue meals dish totally makes use of every a part of the chicken 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 should steam a fish is dictated by the kind and dimension of a fish, in addition to the power of your personal 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 normally served in some sweetened soy sauce and scallions.

Dan dan noodles

It’s almost inconceivable to dislike China’s soul-comforting dan dan mian, or dan dan noodles. The query is: Which model to try?

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

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

But 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

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

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

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Cuisine 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 folks music, with lyrics proclaiming that “it doesn’t count as a dish if there is no chili. A touch of chili triumphs over an exquisite 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 liquor) for not less than 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: Once 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 manner.

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 forms of wooden, resembling camphor wooden or lychee wooden, to present the chicken a particular smoky style.

Chaozhou chilly fish/crab

Seaside Chaozhou is understood for no-frills seafood dishes that serve one objective — to maximise the contemporary substances’ authentic umami flavors.

Among the perfect dishes showcasing this fashion is Chaozhou-style chilly fish or chilly crab.

To protect the freshness of the seafood, fish and crabs are evenly 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 had 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 each day lunches.

As 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 recent soup.

Today, many noodle outlets provide their very own fashion of cross-the-bridge rice noodles, providing a selection of various substances and soup bases.

Kungpao rooster

(*32*)A flavorful partnership of chicken and peanuts.

A flavorful partnership of rooster and peanuts.

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

There are completely 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’s mentioned that Ding liked 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 remainder is historical past.

Sweet and bitter pork / Lychee pork

Deep-fried pork can really feel a bit heavy, particularly in unforgiving summer time climate. Thankfully, we’ve got 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.

If you are a fan of candy and bitter pork, you should additionally try 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 isn’t any 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 might have dumplings?

Whether you like 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 among the best condiments to go along with Chinese dumplings.

Rouyan pork dumplings

One of probably the most fascinating kinds 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 made from pork and a few flour.

Wenchang rooster rice

While 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 strategy to cook dinner a Wenchang rooster is by blanching and air drying it. Similar to Hainanese rooster rice, the Wenchang model is commonly served with yellow rooster fats rice and rooster soup.

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

Mapo tofu

(*32*)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 should all hit the style buds in a single spoonful due to the various kinds of spices, peppers and chili used within the dish.

Discerning native gourmets insist that the perfect mapo tofu should be made with Hanyuan peppercorns and broad bean chili paste from Sichuan’s Pidu district.

It’s mostly cooked with minced pork or beef — and tofu, after all. But because the Sichuan dish is so wildly common these days, eating places typically serve inventive variations of mapo tofu with various kinds of meats.

Pork stomach with dry, pickled Chinese 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 mustard that provides the hearty stew its bitter and salty style.

It’s mentioned that every Hakka household, a historically nomadic tribe in China, pickle their very own mei cai.

When they make an excessive amount of of it, they may whip up a mei cai relish that is an ideal topping for plain rice and noodles.

Fried rice

Whether it is an elevated model made with diced abalone and truffles, or a leftover medley of soon-to-spoil substances out of your fridge, every good model of traditional 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 probably the most 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 parts: 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, generally, deep-fried breadsticks and greens) are added earlier than the seller — normally an aged man — folds the stuffed and toasted pancake and fingers it to you in a paper bag.


(*32*)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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Wondering whether or not the xiaolongbao wrapper will break on the lengthy journey between the steaming basket and your mouth is without doubt one of the most suspenseful moments that may happen at a eating desk.

Amassing an enormous following in and outdoors 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.

In addition to pork, the soupy dumplings can be full of crab meat and crab roe.

Chen cun rice noodles

If you are a type of individuals who thinks the actual star of beef chow enjoyable is the noodles and never the meat, you should try Chen cun fen (Chen village flat rice noodles).

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

In addition to being stir-fried in a noodle dish, the semi-translucent and easy Chen cun fen make an ideal base layer for dishes resembling steamed spareribs and seafood because the noodles take in 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 very tender pork slab that may simply be pried aside with chopsticks.

It’s a scrumptious dish that goes nicely with steamed white rice.

Hot and bitter soup

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

Local Sichuanese imagine that the soup can even expel extreme humidity and hotness from one’s physique in summer time as nicely.

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

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

Dim sum

(*32*)Small baskets, big flavors.

Small baskets, huge flavors.

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Dim sum refers extra to a method of serving meals — it is a sort of meal in Cantonese meals tradition — moderately than a particular dish.

It’s a crafty strategy to embrace many various kinds of small plates — from pan-fried radish cake to prawn dumplings to siu mai — in a single meal.

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

Beef/fish poached in chili oil broth

Don’t be fooled by its bland-sounding Chinese 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).

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

Barbecue pork

The greatest barbecue pork should be barely charred on the surface and comprise simply the correct amount 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 if you’re 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 full of 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 easy exterior (mantou), or an outsized steamed volcano-shaped bao filled with a whole meal’s value of meals (da bao, or translated as “big bao”).

But among the best baos is undoubtedly sheng jian bao.

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

Rou jia mo

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

The ubiquitous 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 resembling cinnamon, star anise, cloves and peppercorns for hours.

Undercooked mo is a giant no-no. A typical saying in Shaanxi province goes “tie quan hu bei juhua xin,” which suggests “iron ring, tiger’s back and chrysanthemum’s heart ” — the right patterns you should search for on a nicely toasted mo.

Cantonese natural soup

Cantonese dad and mom are the actual consultants with regards to therapeutic natural soups, that are simmered for hours to infuse the liquid with therapeutic qualities and deliciousness.

Various seasonal substances provide completely 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

(*32*)Chinese preserved sausages are usually steamed before serving.

Chinese preserved sausages are normally steamed earlier than serving.

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

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

Unlike their European counterparts, Chinese preserved sausages should be steamed earlier than eaten.

You can discover them wrapped in buns, stir-fried with sticky rice or steamed in a clay pot.

Sweet taro paste

The secret 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 resembling dates, candied cherries and gingko.


When it involves nourishing your digestive system, in illness and in well being, it is all about congee (porridge, generally made with rice).

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

Lean pork floss and century egg congee is without doubt one of the classics served within the south of China. Congee made with millet as an alternative of rice and flavored with pumpkin is common within the north.

Those who’re further hungry can order a facet of soy sauce-fried noodles, deep-fried breadsticks (youtiao) or soy milk. These will be loved on the facet, 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 choosing up a family-sized bag of tremendous bouncy and flavorsome meat balls made from beef overwhelmed by hand to convey house with them.

Highly praised for his or her understanding of beef, Chaozhou persons are additionally well-known for different dishes resembling beef sizzling pot.

Sweet rice balls

One of probably the most liked desserts in China, candy rice balls, or tangyuan, will be discovered in lots of areas.

Ningbo is without doubt one of the greatest locations to pattern these spherical mochi-like desserts.

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

The lard offers the filling an additional perfume and sheen.



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