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 the 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 the 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 have 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 lovers, 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!