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Chinese Food: 18 Traditional, Authentic Dishes of China

Chinese Food: 18 Traditional, Authentic Dishes of China

Chinese food is incredibly unique, wholesome and wonderfully satisfying. Due to the vast landscape of China and its long and storied history of various small kingdoms and ethnic groups, regional food in China is very diverse.

It’s an assortment of tastes and flavors unlike any other in Asia. That being said, the absolute staple ingredients in almost all Chinese dishes are rice, wheat and noodles.

Modern Chinese cuisine consists of Cantonese, Shandong, Jiangsu and Sichuan. These styles all vary from each other due climate, geographical history, availability of resources and lifestyle.

So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of China along with our favorite recipes for you to try yourself.

Chaofan

Chaofan rice
Photo credit: Jetalone

As discussed above, Rice is a staple food for the Chinese. Chinese fried rice or chaofan as it is called is a complete meal for the entire family.

The delicious combination of ingredients can be anything from chicken, pork, shrimp to carrots and mixed vegetables. It is quite robust in this sense and is fairly easy to cook.

Baozi

Baozi
Photo credit: J. Samuel Burner

These fantastic warm, steamed, soft and fluffy baozi are basically steamed buns. They are often filled with veggies and meat such as barbecued pork. It is a diverse dish though, as they can have a  filling of sweets such as red bean paste, lotus seed or even custard.

Peking Duck

Pekin Duck
Photo credit: Nromea Guan Wiee La

Peking Duck can be traced all the way back to the imperial days of China. It was deemed a royal dish, served to the emperor during the Yuan dynasty.

This dish is basically very thinly sliced duck with a crisp and crunchy exterior. It is a dish typically served alongside onions, cucumbers, bean sauce and pancakes.

Cong You Bing

Cong You Bing
Photo credit: J. Samuel Burner

This is China’s take on the ever-popular pancakes. While not traditionally sweet, these scallion pancakes are just simply mouth-wateringly delicious.

Cong you Bing are a quintessential street food made of dough and oil. Traditionally only filled with scallion, varieties include the addition of sesame seeds or fennel as well.

Biang Biang Noodles

Biang Biang Noodles
Photo credit: Gary Soup

Biang Biang Noodles are a thicker and fatter variety of noodles and are very similar to chow fun in appearance.

Often served alongside garlic, onions and beef or mutton as per the choice of the consumers. Definitely worth trying them instead of plain old Chow Mein.

Birds Nest Soup

Birds nest soup

Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in China consisting of, you guessed it, the nest of a swiftlet bird!

It is known to have many health benefits and has been eaten in China since the Ming dynasty. However, since getting the ingredients are quite hard to source, bird’s nest soup is particularly expensive at around $3,000-$4,000 per kg.

Congee

Congee
Photo credit: Mr.choppers

This is a yummy rice porridge dish that is often eaten for breakfast. It is usually consumed along with salted duck eggs, century eggs, meat, fish and fried breadsticks called youtiao. Congee is the perfect dish for when the weather is chilly or when you need a pick me up if feeling sick.

Char Siu

Char Siu
Photo credit: Banej

Instantly recognisable by its deep dark red appearance, Char Siu is a yummy barbecue pork dish. It has many variations from different regions of China but the most common cuts used in the dish are pork loin, belly or butt.

Ingredients such as five-spice powder, honey, bean curd, soy and hoisin sauce are used for seasoning and giving it that distinct red colour. It can also be used as a filling for Baozi, eaten alongside noodles or even on its own.

Xiaolong Bao

Xiaolong Bao
Photo credit: Eason Lai

Soup dumplings are a traditional Chinese food that is very popular in mainland China. These dumplings are often filled with pork and broth.

When prodded and poked, delicious, flavorful warm broth comes oozing out. Eating them alone is fun enough but the fabulous sight of seeing that broth ooze out is a heavenly experience on its own!

Ma Po Tofu

Ma Po Tofu

This is a dish virtually centuries old. A spicy dish of tofu in a savoury sauce with browned ground beef and topped with green onions. Paired perfectly with a hot mound of rice, it is a must-try.

Many people might look past it but in our opinion, it is the perfect dish that unites textures and is just the right amount of spicy.

Yu Xiang Rou Si

Yu Xiang Rou Si
Photo credit: avlxyz

This dish is spicy Sichuan shredded chicken stir fry. It is very niche and not found outside of China very often. It is made up of shredded chicken that is cooked very quickly over extremely high heat with bamboo shoots, carrots and green peppers are thrown into the mix.

The sauce is sweet and sour with a generous dollop of garlic thrown in to give it even more taste and a pleasant smell.

Snake Soup

Chinese snake soup recipe
Photo credit: shankaronline

Chinese snake soup is a 2,000 year old delicacy made using one or more snakes including python and water snake. Diners typically pick their own snake before it is cooked up and served.

Snake soup is said to have many health benefits and is eaten for its medicinal qualities.

Youtiao

Youtiao
Photo credit: Connie Ma

Very similar to donuts that we all love, the only difference is that these are not sweet. You will find them as a very popular street food in the morning served with soup or congee. The Chinese usually dip them into a soup for a complete breakfast.

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles
Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut

This is a spicy dish from the province of Sichuan and is a perfect comfort food. The noodles are dressed in a spicy sauce composed of chilli oil, vegetables, minced pork and scallions. It is perfect for those winter months as it will fill you with warmth and spices!

Nian Gao

Nian Gao
Photo credit: ProjectManhattan

Also known as moon cake, this sweet rice cake is usually eaten at Chinese New Year. It is symbolic and thought of as bringing good luck for the year to come. Though mostly sweet, there are certain savory versions of this scrumptious cake.

Chicken Feet

Spicy chicken feet

Chicken feet is one of the more unusual dishes of Chinese cuisine, but it is actually a dish enjoyed in many countries throughout the world, each with their own unique variation. In China, the chicken feet are fried, steamed and cooked in a spicy sauce.

They can be eaten as a quick and simple bar snack or as the basis for a main course.

Cháo Quẩy

Cháo Quẩy

Cháo quẩy, also known as Youtiao, is a long golden-brown deep-fried stripes of dough much like a straight donut. Generally consumed during breakfast time, cháo quẩy is slightly salted and usually served with rice congee, soy milk, or regular milk mixed with sugar in China.

Sea Cucumber

Braised Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers belong to the same group as starfish and sea urchins, which is echinoderm. They consist of a long, tube-like body (like a cucumber) and are usually found living along the ocean floor.

Sea cucumbers can be consumed raw, pickled, or fried. They have a soft, slippery texture and are bland in taste. Hence, other ingredients such as meats, other seafood, or spices are added to balance the flavor of the dish. They’re frequently combined with foodstuffs like Chinese cabbage, winter melon, and shiitake mushrooms.

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