It is no secret that one of the most exciting parts of moving/traveling to China is the chance to try authentic Chinese food. No matter which part of China you go to, you’ll be surrounded by new and delicious dishes at every corner, and some of the best advice you can get before you leave for China is to try as much of it as possible. While some dishes might seem familiar, others will be more foreign.
Here is a list of some Chinese dishes to be on the look out for, since you won’t want to miss them!
Hot Pot (火锅 )
Hot pot has (thankfully) made it’s way to a lot of Western countries in recent years, so it isn’t as foreign as it used to be to a lot of travellers in China. Even if you’ve had it in other countries, it’s still a must try, since having it in China is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Hot pot is famous as a spicy dish from the South, but if you aren’t up to the challenge, there is plenty of variety, including non spicy variations. Whichever kind of hot pot you like, it’s a dish at its best when its shared, so don’t forget to invite your friends!
Dan Dan Noodles ( 担担面)
This is one of the most well known dishes from Sichuan Province. It’s only just started to make its way over to the West, but the recreations of it overseas rarely compare to the original.
It’s a fairly simple dish, noodles served in a spicy sauce with minced pork, vegetables and sometimes mushroom. For people interested in trying Sichuanese food but are still intimidated by the heat, this dish is a great starting point.
Cold Noodles (冷面)
This is a dish that a lot of people who are first coming to China don’t know as well as some others. The name speaks for itself, noodles cooked and served cold, in a sauce that can vary depending on which part of the country you’re in.
If you’re in China during the summer, when temperatures can get blistering, it is definitely a must try. An iconic dish you can find at nearly any hole-in-the-wall restaurant, it’s one of those Chinese dishes you can’t seem to find anywhere outside of China, making it a must try.
As famous as they are, baozi can sometimes be a little underrated. It is one of the most simple foods in China, a steamed bun that can be filled with nearly anything under the sun (most popular filling is always pork), they never fail to fill you up after a long day of work or studying. You can find them on almost every corner in China. Recommended for a quick breakfast or lunch.
Dumplings are a pretty obvious recommendation when going to China. It seems like it would be nearly impossible to go to China and not eat dumplings at any point on your trip. But this doesn’t mean they should be overlooked as an essential Chinese dish. They’re delicious — of course — but also culturally a huge part of being in China.
If you ever get the opportunity to make them, during the Lunar New Year or any other time, don’t pass it up. Memories made around dumplings are always great and one of the best ways to experience life in China.
Soup Dumplings (小笼包)
There’s no doubt most people know the mythic status that soup dumplings have, especially in Shanghai. It’s a hype that is definitely deserved, because they are without a doubt one of the most popular and well-loved dishes in all of China. While they can be a challenge to eat sometimes (careful not to burn yourself!), soup dumplings are almost a point of pride in Shanghai, where they originated, and so this recommendation is even stronger for those going to Shanghai.
Hot & Sour Soup (酸辣汤)
Hot and sour soup is one of the most common soups in China, you can find variations of it in almost every region, each one with it’s own spin on the original. It’s one of my favourites because there really is no comparable Western dish — we don’t seem to have anything like it. Personally, a favourite variations is Hulatang (胡辣汤 ), a soup from Henan commonly served for breakfast.
Zongzi is one of those foods that is famous in China but seemingly unknown out of Asia. It’s rice steamed in a bamboo leaf, stuffed with either a sweet or savory filling, Zongzi is easiest to find during the Dragon Boat Festival, when the festival where its traditionally made and served. Everyone has an opinion on whether the sweet or savory version is best, but its without question you should try both if you get the chance.
Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
This is another famous Sichuan dish that you can find pretty much anywhere in China. Tofu served in a spicy, oily sauce. It’s simple, like a lot of the best Chinese dishes, and quickly will become a go-to order when you’re out eating with friends.