How do you come up with a list of just 10 popular Chinese dishes in a country with the diverse tastes and cultures of China?
With over 30 different provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions, and multiple ethnic groups, it’s not easy. We do have an advantage though, ChinaTours.com provides popular tours throughout China and our outstanding local guides have helped put this list together sharing a few of their favorites among China’s myriad of delicious specialties.
List of most popular Chinese dishes
Want to eat like an emperor on your China tour? Sample at least one or two popular Chinese dishes from this carefully curated list of the top 10 and you’ll wonder why China’s fabulous food has been kept a secret so long.
1. Dongpo Rou (Bouilli)
The poet Su Dongpo was made namesake of the dish Dongpo Rou, nearly a thousand years ago! And while Dongpo Rou maintains these fairly illustrious origins, over the centuries, this dish’s name has changed from province to province. In spite of the different interpretations, the elements of Dongpo Rou, or Bouilli, remain the same.
A premium pork belly, prepared in traditional red cooking style, Dongpo Rou’s flavor comes from the tantalizing aroma of the brown sugar, soy, and wine special sauce. Slowly stewed in this sauce, these flavors delightfully balance the meat’s lean and fat elements, creating a truly mouth-watering experience.
Now that’s a mouthful!
Who doesn’t love a wonton? Those lovely soft, yet firm delicate bundles of flavor. Steamed, fried, or floating in broth, wontons are heartwarming and a staple in Chinese cuisine. Good enough to include in our list of 10 most popular Chinese dishes.
Surprisingly, the humble wonton goes by many names, with each variation offering a unique flavor sensation reflecting the diversity of China’s many regions. Simple in form and filling, a wonton wrapper is made of premium flour through a process of fermentation and kneading. Made special with plentiful fillings, such as pork and other ground meats, shrimp, and fresh vegetables, there is a wonton for every taste.
Looking for a special kind of wonton? Try the chāo shǒu or ‘folded arms’ wonton from the Sichuan province, so named for the impression it gives of crossed arms, with its corners folded toward its center before cooking.
No matter where your journey takes you throughout China, you’ll always ample opportunities to savor this popular Chinese morsel.
A close cousin to the wonton, Chinese dumplings enjoy a history spanning nearly 2000 years. Apart from being made famous by dumpling lover, Kung Fu Panda, dumplings truly are one of the most popular Chinese dishes and rightly deserve a spot among the top ten.
Consumed during festivals, particularly the Spring Festival and Winter Solstice, all of China shares in this symbolic delicacy. With links to good fortune and good health, we can understand why. Variety is key with Chinese dumplings. Find them stuffed with sugar, peanut, date or walnut. You may find yourself changing flavor on your China tour. Why? Well those who eat one with sugar, expect a happier life in the future. Eat date or walnut dumplings and you could be lining up for a beautiful healthy baby. More of a peanut dumpling lover. Expect good health and long life.
4. Mapo Tofu
Typically Sichuan (code for hot and spicy), like many other popular Chinese dishes, Mapo Tofu has a story to it.
Legend has it, that Chen Mapo, owner of a Sichuan province restaurant in Chengdu, earned the name for her dish because of the distinctive freckles or Mazi on her face. Mapo Tofu’s long history – Chen Mapo lived at the time of the early Qing Dynasty (mid-1600) – continues today with locals and people all over China now enjoying this dish.
No China tour is complete without a taste of spicy Sichuan food, so why not start with Mapo Tofu. It’s hard to go past the fresh and tender tofu drizzled with a spicy chili sauce made of ground meat, wild peppers, and a broad bean paste. Each bite of tender tofu and savory minced meat combine to fascinate and enthrall the pallet. The Sichuan Sauce? It’s Delicious!
5. Century Eggs
Century Eggs make it to #5 on our top 10 list. An exceptional and fragrant dish, famous among the locals of Shanghai, read on to learn why.
The Century Egg is a Chinese preserved delicacy prepared by curing quail, chicken or duck eggs in a blend of cement and rice hulls for up to 12 months. Changing the color and the texture of the egg yolk, to be nearly translucent, the flavor of the eggs is sweet and comparable to a hard-boiled egg, only softer, with a strong aroma.
Visually, Century Eggs look more like exotic jellies than Chinese delicacies. Ideal for the culinary adventurer!
6. Sautéed Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin
Western travelers in China could be forgiven for thinking they’ll finally have the opportunity to try ‘real’ Sautéed Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin (or sweet and sour pork). And you very well could on your China tour.
Considered to be the most popular Chinese dish in the world, Sautéed Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin, or Tangcu Liji, finds itself on menus all across the country, highlighting the versatility and regional flare from each province.
Built around the core ingredients of delicious pork tenderloin, along with sugar and vinegar, this dish has a very distinctive flavor. Combining sweet with sour, the irresistible taste of that crispy coating and tender meat will give your palate a rollercoaster ride of flavors. Popular in China and beyond, the sweet and sour flavor has made its way into many alternative dishes, such as Sweet and Sour Whole Fish (Tangcu Quanyu) and Sweet and Sour Ribs (Tangcu Paigu).
An absolute must-give-it-a-go dish!
7. Sautéed Diced Chicken with Peanuts and Chili
Sautéed diced chicken with peanuts and chili, or Kung Pao Chicken, is certainly a famous Chinese dish at home and abroad. Countless restaurants in America, the U.K. and Australia are selling Kung Pao Chicken. However, few can replicate the stir-fried succulent chicken with peanuts, cucumber and hot pepper that China has brought together to conceive this outstanding dish.
On a China tour? Add this to your most popular Chinese dishes list.
8. Chow Mein
Stir-fried noodles? Chow Mein? Count you in, right?
A dish common among the locals of Northern China, and now the rest of the world, this dish of thin noodles made from a fine bean and corn flour dough, is often accompanied by a delicious yet affordable medley of egg, sliced meats, and an abundance of Chinese vegetables.
Be sure to ask your local guide for their best Chow Mein tip. Found in most restaurants across Northern China, you’ll want more than Chow Mein. You’ll be ready to chow down!
9. Peking Duck
Experience the authentic Beijing cuisine that is Peking duck, renowned worldwide as an exquisite dish, fit for an Empress and not surprising one of the most popular Chinese dishes.
Invented during the Ming Dynasty, Peking duck was a royal delicacy. In keeping with tradition, only the very best duck is chosen and roasted by fire. The tender, moist meat is covered by crispy, chewy skin. While being rich in fats, Peking Duck tends not to be overly greasy.
Along with sliced shallots, delicate pancakes made of millet flour, and a fermented flour sweet sauce, Peking Duck is a sensational culinary experience to try while visiting China.
10. Spring Rolls
Traditionally a Chinese food common to China’s Southern provinces, spring rolls consist of sheets of dough and assorted fillings, including pork paste, peanuts, sugar, jujube paste, and sweetened bean paste to list but a few. Shallow fried until gold and crispy. The spring roll is a staple, containing a rich variety of nutritional fats, proteins, and carbohydrates with both locals and tourists adoring this dish. Worthy of its place in 10 most popular Chinese dishes? You bet.
What’s on the menu for your China Tour? The flexibility and freedom provided by ChinaTours.com mean that every traveler can experience a real taste of China. Talk to your local guide and take advantage of the free choice of lunch and dinner options to sample any or all of these top 10 most popular Chinese dishes.