You probably know that the Chinese food from your go-to takeout spot isn’t actually traditional Chinese food. It’s heavily Americanized (though tasty in its own way). Being the world’s most populous country, Chinese has an array of authentic cuisine that is incredibly varied and vastly different from one region to another. That means expanding your palate to the world of traditional Chinese food can be daunting if you don’t know where to start.
Chinese food culture has a long, long history and it’s the result of centuries of refinement and experimenting with varies methods of cooking, many of them unique to China. At the same time, Chinese cuisine is also regional and it is influenced by the natural geography, climatic conditions, resources, specialties, and eating habits of each Chinese region.
As you may know, there are “eight major cuisines” in China. Some people personify them as follows: Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisines are like the beautiful and elegant ladies of Jiangnan (regions south of the Yangtze River); Shandong and Anhui cuisines are like the simple and unsophisticated stout men of northern China; Guangdong and Fujian cuisines are like a refined and elegant prince; Sichuan and Hunan cuisines are like a talented celebrity, rich in content.
Among the numerous kinds of Chinese foods, what is good to order? The following are 10 of the most popular dishes you’ve got to try.
10 Most Popular Chinese Dishes in 2022:
1. Peking Roasted Duck
Peking duck (北京烤鸭 Běijīng kǎoyā) is a famous dish from Beijing, enjoying world fame, and considered as one of China national dishes. Peking duck is savored for its thin and crispy skin. Sliced Peking duck is often eaten with pancakes, sweet bean sauce, or soy sauce with mashed garlic. It is a must-taste dish in Beijing!
As “the first dish to taste in China”, Beijing Roast Duck used to be a royal dish in medieval China. It has been a “national dish of diplomacy” since the 1970s, when it was first used for the reception of foreign guests by Premier Zhou Enlai (the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China). It is highly praised by heads of state, government officials, and domestic and foreign tourists.
2. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁 gōngbào jīdīng) is a famous Sichuan-style specialty, popular with both Chinese and foreigners. The major ingredients are diced chicken, dried chili, cucumber, and fried peanuts (or cashews).
People (Chinese takeaways) in Western countries have created a Western-style kung pao chicken, for which the diced chicken is covered with cornstarch, and vegetables, sweet and sour sauce, and mashed garlic are added. See How to Cook Kung Pao Chicken for a classic recipe and its history.
3. Sweet and Sour Pork
Sweet and sour pork (糖醋里脊 tángcù lǐjǐ) has a bright orange-red color, and a delicious sweet and sour taste. At the very beginning there was only sweet and sour pork, but to meet demands, there have been some developments on this dish. Now, the pork can be substituted with other ingredients like chicken, beef, or pork ribs.
4. Hot Pot
Hot pot, or hotpot (火锅 huǒguō), is one of the most popular dishes in China, especially in Sichuan Province or Chongqing. People cook in and eat from a simmering pot of soup stock (broth) on a gas/induction hob in the middle of the dining table with foodstuffs and condiments around the pot. People can add and cook whatever they like in the broth. The secret of whether a hot pot is good or not lies in the broth, which all the meat slices and vegetables take their flavor from.
Chinese people are very fond of hot pot. In the past hot pot used to be favored only in winter, but nowadays hot pot has been appearing on tables all year round. It is a great way to socialize with friends and relatives. People gather around the pot to eat while chatting, eating, drinking, and having fun.
Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi) generally consist of different kinds of meat such as pork, beef, chicken, shrimp or even fish, and chopped vegetables wrapped into a piece of dough. The most common fillings include pork with Chinese cabbage, pork with celery, lamb with spring onion, leeks with eggs, but there are many more varities.
Chinese dumplings are usually boiled or steamed. Dumplings are traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year’s Eve and other festivals.
6. Yangzhou fried rice
Yangzhou fried rice (扬州炒饭) is a Chinese dish consisting of rice, eggs, and vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, peas, while the common additions also include shrimps, meat, scallions, and Chinese ham. Traditional versions often may incorporate sea cucumbers, crab meat, and bamboo shoots.
It is believed that the dish originates from General Yang Su of the Sui Dynasty. Because it was one of his favorite dishes, he introduced it to the Yangzhou culture when he patroled Jiangdu with Emperor Yangdi. Originally, it was a peasant food prepared with leftover rice combined with small bits of meat and vegetables.
7. Twice cooked pork
Twice cooked pork (回锅肉) is a Sichuan specialty prepared by cooking fatty pork leg or belly (with the skin intact) in two different ways. Pork is first simmered in a pot and cooled in the refrigerator in order for the meat and fat to firm up. After that, the meat is sliced and stir-fried with vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers, leeks, and mushrooms until it develops a brown color and the skin gets crispy on the edges.
Ingredients may vary from one cook to another, but most of them add a sauce consisting of chili beans, fermented black beans, and rice wine to the wok along with meat and vegetables. It is believed that the dish was invented during the Song Dynasty period by a poet who was preparing a pork dish for his friend.
8. 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.
9. Ma Po Tofu
Ma Po Tofu （麻婆豆腐）is a famous Chinese dish of the Sichuan cuisine and its hot and spicy taste best presents the feature of this category. It is said that this course was invented by a woman called Chen Mapo in 1862, and hence the name. To enrich the flavor, red and hot broth, ground beef and diced green onion will be drizzled over the tender tofu in the last step.
10. Fish with Sichuan Pickles
The term ‘suāncàiyú’ translates to hot and sour fish with pickled mustard greens”. It’s a classic dish, made with a whole grass-carp or catfish that is thinly sliced then poached in a rich broth made from chicken stock, fish stock, and ‘Sichuan pickles’, which is the main ingredients and fundamental to Sichuan cooking. The pickled vegetables were originally prepared when there were no vegetables available.
They were the main dish for poor families in the old days. Nowadays, they are normally used as appetizers or an ingredient. If you cannot eat chili peppers, you can tell the restaurant and they will omit them from the dish.