10 Foods You Must Eat In China

Chinese food is surprising delicious. I had no idea what to expect because the only thing I knew about Chinese food was American-Chinese takeaway.

To anyone who hasn’t been to China yet and is going soon, here’s an article for you. Or hopefully convince you enough to go to China because of this post.

Sweet & Sour Pork (Tang Cu Li Ji – 糖醋里脊)

It was my first favorite dish in China and still is one of my favorites. This might be the closest you can actually get to American-Chinese takeaway. The title says it all. It’s both sweet and sour. I love getting as much of the red sauce as possible and adding it to my rice.

Tang Cu Li Ji by Helga's Lobster Stew, on Flickr
Tang Cu Li Ji by Helga’s Lobster Stew, on Flickr

Steamed Filled Buns (Bao Zi)

For months, I ate this exclusively for breakfast. It wasn’t because there wasn’t anything else (far from it) but because it was so incredibly delicious. My favorite is usually lamb filled although you could get all sorts of other variations like vegetables or beef. The bigger the bun, the better in my opinion. The fun part is the small bowl you get with this meal to mix your own sauce. I always mix together vinegar and spicy sauce. Your choice how much you want. I found the best way to eat it is to dip the bun in the sauce, eat it half way, then dip it again on the inside of the bun. You’ll thank me later.

Bao Zi

Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers (Yu Xiang Rou Si – 魚香肉絲)

This dish has no fish and to me doesn’t even smell like fish. Definitely one of my favorite dishes in China and can be ordered probably in most restaurants.

Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers

Hot pot (huǒ guō – 火鍋)

As you may have heard, Chengdu has some of the best hot-pots but you don’t need to be in Chengdu to have a great hot pot. There’s so many foods you could put into the hot-pot that it’d take a whole separate article to recommend what to put inside. If you’re not into spiciness but the rest of the group is, don’t worry — ask for a split pot of spicy and non-spicy. Load up in vegetables, breads, meats, and beers. It’s a group activity and fun to eat.

Hot pot

Tomato & Eggs (Fānqié jīdàn – 番茄鸡蛋)

A simple, popular, and delicious dish. Hard to go wrong with this meal.

Egg and tomato

Home-style Tofu (jia chang dou fu – 家常豆腐)

What I love about this dish is that every restaurant cooks it differently. You never really know what style of tofu you’re going to get since it’s a specialty that every restaurant has different.

Home-style tofu (家常豆腐) at Zen China, County Hall, London SE1
Home-style tofu (家常豆腐) at Zen China on Flickr

Dry Fried String Beans (Gān biān lǜ dòu – 干煸绿豆)

It’s especially delicious when served with rice (but I’m also a rice fanatic). It’s a bit spicy and I found some restaurants add more spice than others so you never really know how spicy it’ll be. I say, the spicier the better. Beware of those peppers though, your mouth will go numb if you eat them.

Dry Fried String Beans

Pickled Cucumber Salad (Liang Ban Huang Gua – 涼拌黃瓜)

High up there as one of my favorite dishes in the world. Sometimes we’d only order this dish to go along with a few beers or when we’d have a ton of BBQ (listed below) to add a bit of green to go with the meat. The vinegar and garlic go so well with the cucumbers.

Pickled Cucumber Salad

BBQ (Kao Rou – 烤肉)

Cooked mostly by Muslims and found throughout China and most commonly in western China. In the city of Xi’an, it’s found nearly everywhere at night. There’s a few tables laying outside on the sidewalk and it’s like having a picnic. It’s a great way to socialize with your friends and have a few drinks before or even after a night of partying. My favorite is the lamb and naan bread. The spices added to the meat is what especially makes it tastes great. There’s more on this in my article Foods of Xi’an Muslim Quarter.

China - Xi'an Night Market (西安夜市)
China – Xi’an Night Market (西安夜市) by eviltomthai, on Flickr

Cold Noodles (Liang Pi – 凉皮)

It’s a popular Shaanxi dish and if you’re in Xi’an, I highly recommend it. There’s different types and the process is pretty cool. This was also posted in the same article of Foods of Xi’an Muslim Quarter.

Cold Noodle

Chinese food has a huge selection. I could make an endless list of foods you should try in China but I’ll leave you with ten so you can explore the rest.

What are your favorite dishes in China?

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