China is well known for its culture which revolves around food. Mealtimes are always an important part of the day for socialising as well as eating. There’s no wonder that the Chinese have many different foods available to eat, all with their own regional variations.
Here are my favourite Chinese foods you should not miss out on:
1. Dumplings (steamed or boiled)
Dumplings are a staple of Chinese foodstuffs. They eat them for breakfast, for lunch and at festival times too. You have two main varieties, baozi (steamed dumplings), which look like bread rolls with meat inside, and jiaozi, (boiled dumplings), which look a little like a Cornish pasty when you roll them up, and are filled with meat or vegetables and sometimes, at festival time, families will put a lucky coin inside one meaning if you find it, you will have luck for the new year.
2. Noodles, noodles everywhere
How can you have a Chinese meal without noodles, you might ask. Pretty simply but they don’t half do the best noodles around. You can get fried noodles (chao mian), noodles in soup and also cold spicy noodles, which are my favourite (liangpi).
3. Chinese Hotpot
Hotpot is one of those famous Chinese dishes where everyone shares all the food on the table making it a very sociable occasion. In front of you on a cooker will be a large bowl filled with some kind of broth, be it spicy or less spicy, and you will have an array of meat, vegetables and noodles to add to the stock to cook right in front of you. There’s so much choice and always so much food that post-eating hotpot, I guarantee that you will have a food baby.
The Chinese love their seafood; although it’s more readily available in the coastal regions of the south and south east, there will usually be some kind of fish on the menu in most restaurants. They will always present it beautifully and even street food seafood looks divine to eat.
5. BBQ Chinese-style
“Shao kao” is the Asian barbeque. You will often find Korean barbeque restaurants in China, which are delcicious, however it’s the grotty street food barbeque of China where the magic really happens. You choose your food from the kaleidoscope before you, then sit back on the pavements with a nice cold beer and wait for the food to be served to you. It’s always delicious!
6. Regional Cuisine
With over 22 different provinces in China, there are many variations of cuisine. In Sichuan, it’s all about the spice, in Inner Mongolia, the lamb and in Fujian, the seafood. One of my absolute favourites, however, is the rustic, hearty fare that gets served up in Xinjiang restaurants all over China. They come from the Muslim-dominated region in the north west of China and make one of my favourite meals to share with a friend “da pan jie” which literally translates as “big plate of chicken”; this is true because they take the chicken, chop it up, throw in a few veggies and boom, a wonderful feast!
7. Yang rou pao mo (lamb and bread soup)
I have to name this dish specifically as it’s absolutely fantastic. Although found in many restaurants, the true dish originates from Xi’an; you are handed an empty bowl and bread and are instructed to tear the bread up into small pieces. The lamb soup is then poured over the bread and it creates a deliciously thick soup. I am told that the owners of the restaurant can tell where a person comes from in China, by the way they tear their bread.
8. Beijing Duck
You cannot make a list of great Chinese food without mentioning the great Beijing duck. It’s an absolute feast and celebration of all that a duck can offer; plates are presented to you with the skin and meat from different parts of the duck, as well as the beautifully cut sticks of spring onion, hoisin sauce and the pancakes themselves. Truly a magical taste experience.
And now some not for the faint hearted:
9. Chicken Feet
Yes, that is me in the picture chewing on a chicken’s foot. They are actually not as bad as they sound, as long as you get the roasted ones, in my opinion. While actually quite tasty, they’re not really my food of choice most of the time due to the lack of meat on them. But definitely worth a try.
10. Bugs ‘n’ Things
The famous saying about Chinese cuisine is “if it moves, they’ll eat it.” I can pretty much concur that this is true, however watching scorpions writhe around on sticks before being fried is my personal limit to Chinese cuisine. How about you?
Author’s Bio: Bennett from The Further Adventures of Bennett planned to spend 6 months teaching English in China and left 2 years later. She can currently be found residing in New Zealand, having swapped teaching children English for babysitting dogs and cats and you can follow her on Twitter.
To read more about Bennett’s Chinese experience, head over to Amazon “Add Your Brick to the Great Wall” which is a collection of experience and advice for anyone wanting to live, work or travel throughout China.
Editor’s Note: All pics are provided by Bennett.