Best Chinese Dishes To Order – 10 Dishes You MUST Try In China
General Tso’s Chicken. Kung Pao Chicken. Fortune Cookies.
There’s only one on that list of foods that you’ll actually find in China (guess which one!)
But have no fear!
China has 8 official cuisines (八大菜系 bādàcàixì) that you can choose from and even more unofficial ones from regions with significant minority populations.
The more you travel around China, the more you’ll be astounded by how much food you have to choose from.
Even small towns even have their own speciality dishes.
Now, that you’re in China you’ll have the opportunity to try them all.
#2 – Lamb Kebabs – 羊肉串儿
#3 – Chinese BBQ – 烧烤
#5 – Guo Bao Rou – 锅包肉
#7 – Yak Meat – 牦牛肉
#9 – Rou Jia Mo – 肉夹馍
#10 – Fried Rice Cakes – 炒年糕
Luckily, our blog already has a starter-guide for jumping into Chinese cuisine.
This guide here, is 10 more dishes you can’t leave China without trying. The aim is to provide you with an even deeper look into one of the most diverse and delicious cuisines in the world (in our totally unbiased opinion).
Get your chopsticks ready! And dig into our best Chinese dishes to order…
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #1 – Kung Pao Chicken, or 宫保鸡丁 gōngbǎojīdīng
If you guessed this dish earlier, good work!
This dish comes from Sichuan Cuisine (川菜, chuāncài).
This dish, along with Sweet & Sour Pork (糖醋里脊, tángcùlǐjǐ), is usually a foreigner-favorite in China.
The crunchiness of the peanuts, mixed with the numbing of the Sichuan peppercorn (花椒, huājiāo) and the soft chicken bits (鸡丁, jīdīng) tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce will make anyone’s mouth water.
LOCATION TIP – If you happen to be in Chengdu, try 陈麻婆豆腐 (Chénmápódòufu)’s version of the dish.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #2 – Lamb Kebabs, or 羊肉串儿 yángròuchuànr
If the idea of fresh, fatty lamb seasoned with cumin and cooked over a grill on a skewer sounds good you then, then you should definitely try lamb kebabs.
This is a classic street food in Northwestern Chinese cuisine (西北菜).
If you happen to find yourself in Inner Mongolia, Xi’an, or Xinjiang, visit any street-side stand for lamb kebabs.
No need to look too far, you’ll find them by smell.
If you can’t make it out to Northwest China, you can also find some 串儿 in Shanghai.
Full of flavour and a great food to eat on the side of the street, with a beer and your friends. It becomes not only a great way to eat, but a great way to socialise!
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #3 – Chinese BBQ, or 烧烤 (shāokǎo)
Shaokao is most young Chinese people’s favorite midnight snack (夜宵, yèxiāo).
Originally from the Northeast region of China (东北, dōngběi), shaokao is now all over China.
The most delicious BBQ is from street side stands that set up tables outside and are generally open from 10 PM to 4 or 5 in the morning.
How to eat shaokao, you ask?
These stands or small hole-in-the-walls have raw vegetables and meat laid out for you that you choose and put into a basket.
You then give the 老板 (lǎobăn, restaurant owner) your choices, and he cooks up some delicious grilled food, spiciness level seasoned to your liking.
OUR FAVOURITE – If you haven’t already ordered the grilled eggplant (烤茄子，kǎoqiézi) slathered in garlic, go for it!
烧烤 is the perfect end to a night out drinking with friends.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #4 – Chaoshan Beef Hot-Pot, or 潮汕牛肉火锅 (cháoshànniúròuhuǒguō)
The less well-known version of hot pot, Chaoshan Beef Hot Pot, comes from the Northern part of Guangdong Province, and is part of the Cantonese food family (粤菜, yuècài).
The region of Chaoshan is famous for its beef, so any Chaoshan beef hot-pot will churn out a delicious beef broth.
As with regular hot pot, you choose different meat and vegetables to cook in the pot.
You can also order some delicious side dishes.
WE RECOMMEND – 干炒牛河 (chǎohéfěn, flat rice noodles stir-fried with beef).
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #5 – Guōbāoròu, 锅包肉
Another representative from Dongbei, Guobaorou is deep-fried pork in a sweet sauce.
In general, Dongbei food is categorized by its heavy-flavor (重口味, zhǒngkǒuwèi), meaning lots of meats and potatoes.
Perfect for those cold Dongbei winters.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #6 – Pan-fried Pork Bun, 生煎包 (shēngjiānbāo)
We absolutely love these!
Pan-fried with a juicy meat and soup inside, this dumpling can be a little intimidating because if you’re not careful the juice will squirt at you as you eat.
If you make it past this small defect, you’ll be reward with deliciousness. Shēngjiānbāo can most commonly be found in Shanghai.
PRO EATING TIP – Use a spoon below the dumpling so that way, if you lose some of the soup inside the middle (very easy to do for a newbie, you still catch it and get to enjoy that wonderful soup inside the dumpling).
You can find out more about Shanghai Dumplings right here.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #7 – Yak meat, 牦牛肉, máoniúròu
Something different here…
If you have the opportunity to visit anywhere on the Tibetan plateau, which can be found in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, or Tibet proper, you’ll not only be awed by the beautiful scenery but also you’re eyes will water from the smell of cooking yak.
Yak comes in many forms, stir-fried, dried, and even steamed in momos – Tibetan dumplings.
You can also try products made from yak milk, like butter or ice cream.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #8 -Chuànchuànxiāng, 串串香
Chongqing or Sichuan hot pot usually takes the spotlight, but chuanchuanxiang is also worth trying.
The word 串, literally means skewer.
It is similar to hot pot, in that the diner prepares his or her own food from a selection of vegetables and meats. Food is cooked on skewers in a spicy broth.
When everything is done cooking, you pull the skewers out and dig-in!
10 Must Try Shanghainese Foods 🍜 Your Complete Guide
Chinese food is so diverse that it’s really difficult to say what’s best, so we’ve diluted it down. Here are the top 10 best Shanghainese food dishes.
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #9 – “The Chinese Hamburger”, 肉夹馍 ròujiāmó
Sometimes known as a “Chinese hamburger,” ròujiāmó is a popular snack food in Xī’ān (西安) in Shǎnxī Province.
It’s a bun filled with chopped and juicy pork or beef.
Very simple but very delicious!
Best Chinese Dishes To Order #10 – Fried Rice Cakes, 炒年糕 chǎoniángāo
Before visiting China, you’ve probably heard of Chinese fried rice or noodles, but probably not rice cakes.
These are all prepared similarly and a pretty popular street food, but because 年糕 are made of rice flour, they tend to provide a more chewy flavour.
Cooked right, they produce the perfect Q弹 (tán, chewy texture) flavour.
Food, Glorious Food!
So there you have it!
10 dishes you absolutely must order or try when coming to China.
You’ll have noticed we have a tonne of content on food in China whether it be blog posts or videos. That’s because the cuisine is just so vast, hardly surprising given the size of the country!
Did your favourite dish feature? Tell us below!
Now you can get out of the groove of eating fried rice and beef-noodle soup, and take your taste buds on an adventure!
And finally, one last little lesson!
Best Chinese Dishes – FAQ’s
Are rice and noodles genuinely really popular in China?
Yes, and that is an understatement. Rice and Noodles are staples in Chinese cuisine, but don’t worry, there are so many different forms of them which all taste amazing!
Can you be a vegetarian in China?
Yes you can, there is a growing veggie scene in China.
Check out our guide to Veggie Street food in Shanghai for an example.
What are China’s main cuisines called?
Chinese cuisines have typically been divided into ‘Eight Great Cuisines’.
In Chinese this is 八大菜系 ba da caixi as a means of simplifying this vast and complex tradition and pinpoint regional characteristics.
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