Let’s try out in China (customer favorites): sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, fried noodles… See expert intros with pictures.
With a long history, unique features, numerous styles and exquisite cooking, Chinese cuisine is one important constituent part of Chinese culture. Chinese traditional dishes are famous for color, aroma, taste, meaning and appearance.
The following are the 15 most popular dishes among foreigners and Chinese. These dishes are available in most large restaurants in China. For convenience ordering, we also give their Chinese names.
Dumpling (饺子) has been an indispensable Chinese dish of the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, especially in the northern regions. It was invented by Zhang Zhongjing – the sage of Chinese medicine over 1,800 years ago to cure the frostbitten ears. Nowadays, people mix minced pork, chicken, mutton, or beef with chopped vegetables to make the filling, and then wrap it into a thin piece of dumpling skin and pinch the wrapper into the shape of an ear. On Chinese New Year, people also wrap brown sugar, coins, dates, or peanuts for a good omen.
2. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken（宫保鸡丁）, definitely one of the top 10 Chinese dishes, is a popular dish not only among Chinese people. Its special flavor of sweet and sour with a little bit spicy is also well-liked abroad and this course even becomes the byword for Chinese cuisine for most foreigners. The main ingredient of Kung Pao Chicken is the diced chicken. Stir-frying the chicken with peanuts and dried chili can make it tastes fresh and crispy, spicy but not burning.
Hotpot (火锅 huǒguō) is a “dish” to tell apart real Chinese food lovers. If you really appreciate hotpot rather than just ordering fired rice, chow mein, and dim sum all the time, you are truly a Chinese cuisine fan!
The secret of whether a hotpot is good or not lies in the broth, in which all the meat slices and vegetables are cooked. Normally you get to choose your own broth flavor, such as mushroom, tomato, original, or spicy. But still, the flavor can be different according to the sauce you choose to go with the meat. There are hundreds of kinds: a classic one is peanut butter with smashed garlic and chopped onion dressed with sesame oil.
4. Sichuan Pork
Sichuan Pork, actually, poached spicy slices of pork (水煮肉片 shuǐzhǔ ròupiàn) is a famous Sichuan cuisine dish.
Rather than cooking pork by stir-frying or deep-frying, which consumes lots of oil and can very easily overcook the pork, it is boiled in water with a coating made from egg-white and starch to preserve its freshness and tenderness.
5. Chow Mein
Chow Mein（炒面）is the Cantonese pronunciation of stir-fried noodles. It is one of the best Chinese dishes, usually made of noodles, onion, sliced meat, green pepper and green onion. Firstly, the noodles need to be boiled until 90% done. After cooling down, stir-fry the noodles with other ingredients until it is golden yellow. Without complicated preparation, Chow Mein is usually the first choice for late-night food to most Chinese people.
6. Shrimp with Vermicelli and Garlic
Shrimp with vermicelli and garlic (蒜蓉粉丝蒸虾 suànróng fěnsī zhēng xiā) is a dish not only favored by foreigners but also the Chinese younger generation in recent years as well.
This steamed dish brings out the aroma of everything it has. The heavy garlic with a seafood sauce flavor blends with the freshness of juicy shrimp. The vermicelli at the bottom absorbs every single drip of tasty juice running down. Some Chinese yellow wine to capture the aroma and highlight the flavor is the secret to this delicacy.
7. Yangzhou Fried Rice
Yangzhou Fried Rice（扬州炒饭） is surely one of the most famous Chinese dishes, very popular throughout the country. As its name indicates, Yangzhou Fried Rice has its roots in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, and its origin can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC). Rice and eggs are the two important ingredients. Served with ham, shrimps and peas, Yangzhou Fried Rice not only tastes fresh and fragrant, but is also brightly colored to whet diners’ appetite.
8. Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork
Although there is the word ‘fish’ in the name, neither fish nor fish sauce is used to cook this course. The flavor of fish comes from several seasonings including broad bean paste, salt, white sugar, cooking wine, soy sauce, and starch. People chop lean pork into slices and then add the concocted sauce to stir-fry the meat with lettuce, dried agarics, garlic and ginger. The refreshing taste of sweet and spicy makes the Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork（鱼香肉丝）one of the most popular Chinese dishes to go with rice.
9. Steamed Vermicelli Rolls
Steamed vermicelli rolls (肠粉 chángfěn) are definitely one of the must-orders of any dim sum meal! They are not only an expert choice in Guangzhou teahouses, morning tea restaurants, and street food night bazaars, but also a delicacy for many people’s breakfasts in the rest of China’s middle-class restaurants.
White sheets of rice starch are rolled with various fillings. Some popular choices are beef/pork, shrimp, even oyster, with mushroom, egg, lettuce, watercress etc. The rolls are steamed till all flavors blender together and then sprinkled with cooked peanut oil, raw soy sauce, chili sauce, or sesame paste depending on individual preferences.
10. Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes
The Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes（西红柿炒鸡蛋）is undoubtedly on the top list of Chinese dishes to most Chinese people. The recipe is quite simple that only consists of eggs, tomatoes, oil, and salt. People living in the southern regions often replace the salt with sugar. Once it is done, the bright-red tomatoes together with the yellow and fluffy eggs can always open the diner’s appetite. Besides, this dish is rich in juice. Mixing the broth with rice is another popular way of eating.