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13 Best Chinese Dishes You Should Try 

China is an Eden when it comes to cuisine. Every individual’s preference is catered for due to the wide variety of dishes. Whether it’s noodles in broth, Chow Mein, vegetable stir fry, something a little meatier, or seafood curries, Chinese cuisine can be a real delight to anyone’s taste buds.

chinese food at a table

With one of the most popular culinary heritage, due to its rich cultural history, Chinese food has never been disappointing – at least not for me.

After all, if the traditional Chinese way to greet someone is to ask them whether or not they have had something to eat, the food is bound to be more than extraordinary.

 Popular Chinese Food

Whether you want to take away or cook a meal at home, we have compiled a list of some of the best Chinese food dishes you can have. This way, it will be a lot easier for you to conclude what you want to eat (or serve if you have guests coming over).

Chow Mein

Chow Mein is a Cantonese name that translates to fried noodles.

It consists of boiled noodles, diced meat such as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, with various vegetable options.

Spring onions, red onions, carrots, celery, and green peppers are some of the most common ones.

All of these are stir-fried together in a wok.

You can have the dish as a standalone or even enjoy it with a delicious and aromatic Chinese curry on the side. I love to have Chow Mein with some Kung Pao Chicken.

Learn the difference between two similar dishes – Chow Mein and Chop Suey.


Hot Pot

The Hot Pot is a flavorsome broth and one of the most popular dishes in China, mainly in the Szechuan and Chongqing provinces.

The dish comprises a simmering pot of vegetable, or meat-based broth served on top of a gas hob.

There are many condiments and other food options offered with it, and you get to add each of them into the boiling liquid as per your choice. 

The broth is the most important part of the dish because all the meat and vegetables added to it take their flavor from it.

If you want to share and socialize over a Chinese dish with friends and experience a unique way of having food, I suggest opting for this interactive meal. 


Dumplings

Indeed, Dumplings are not a dish solely belonging to Chinese cuisine.

You will find them in more East Asian cuisines, like Japanese and Korean, and Central Asian cuisine like Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Regardless of that, the Chinese rendition is a must-try. 

They are made of small dough wrappers stuffed with soft mutton stew, black peppers, spring onions, and other herbs.

It is a great dish to warm your body in the winter months. I love to have them soaked in a bowl of warm, brothy soup, which is a good substitute for wonton soup.


Kung Pao Chicken

My personal favorite, the Kung Pao Chicken, is a classic Chinese dish to have along with either Chow Mein or egg fried rice.

It is a go-to for many people when ordering takeaway – and for a good reason!

It is a simple dish consisting of diced chicken with ginger, garlic, capsicum peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and peanuts.

The Kung Pao sauce that binds all the ingredients together has two layers of flavor. One comes from all the dried red peppers and scallions added, giving the dish a little bit of a kick with every bite.

The other layer comprises perfectly balanced vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar.

Of course, if you want, you can always substitute the chicken with beef or pork.


Ma Po Tofu

If you do not want to go for anything with meat in it, either due to health restraints or because you prefer a vegan or vegetarian diet, then the Ma Po Tofu is one of the best Chinese food dishes for you to choose.

The dish consists of firm Tofu sauteed in a hot and spicy chili sauce.

The flavors are aromatic and fill you with warmth with every bite you take. You can adjust the spices to your preference, but trust me when I say the spicier it is, the tastier.

If you prefer to have some meat component, ask to have minced chicken, beef, or pork added to it.


Peking Duck

Although all kinds of Chinese cuisine give me comfort like no other, the Peking Roast Duck is in a class of its own.

There is a reason it is famous internationally, especially in high-end, fine-dine restaurants.

The dish consists of duck meat roasted with the help of wood charcoal.

It is roasted till the meat turns almost reddish, tender from the insides but with crispy skin on the outside. 

It is served with duck sauce made of plums and sweet beans and thin Scallion Pancakes or hollow Sesame Biscuits.


Wonton Soup

Wontons are another form of Chinese Dumplings. They differ in many ways, though.

The filling is much less in quantity, and the dough wrappers are thinner.

The main aspect that allows them to stand apart from the traditional dumplings is their shape—often like silver ingots.

Wontons are always filled with minced meat, be that chicken, beef, pork, diced shrimp, and cabbage.

They are served in a bowl of hot, flavorful broth. Some restaurants may also deep-fry. Make sure to confirm this before ordering to avoid any unwanted surprises.


Scallion Pancakes

If you are expecting a sweetly stacked plate of pancakes with maple syrup to pour on top, think again.

Scallion Pancakes are common street food in China, a bite of which will make you forget all about your classic American pancakes.

Although they are called pancakes, they are more like flatbread that is chewy from the inside but nice and crispy from the outside.

Savory in nature, the dough has scallions, i.e., spring onions and sesame oil mixed in it.

The oil allows for the perfect texture of the dough as it is pan-fried to perfection.


Char Siu

Char Sia directly translates to ‘Fork Roasted’ in Cantonese.

More than a dish itself, this is a way to cook and flavor meat for barbecuing. You cook the meat on skewers, either in an oven or over a fire.

The Chinese love their pork, so you’ll traditionally find the Char Siu in either pork loin, butt, or belly, but you can go for whichever meat you prefer if you’re making this dish at home.

The marination is made of honey, hoisin sauce, red fermented bean curd, soy sauce, and the five-spice powder commonly used in China.

In my opinion, the dish tastes amazing when used as a filling in your classic Baozi (i.e., a steamed bun).


Fried Rice

Whether you order takeaway or make the food yourself at home, it is hard to miss out on fried rice.

It consists of garlic, ginger, scallions, scrambled eggs, and minced meat fried in a wok which is then mixed with boiled rice to complete the dish.

Many chefs add soy sauce or oyster sauce, while some may also add butter as a secret ingredient. 

There is no hard and fast rule of what you can add and cannot. If you want to add shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, or anything strange you can think of, you may do so.

You can even make fried rice with any leftover rice or vegetables in the fridge.


Spring Rolls

The option of Spring Rolls is more of a category than a dish. After all, they come in a wide array of options for fillings.

The outer layer is a thin, crispy fried pancake-like dough made of flour and water. The filling, on the other hand, is a different story altogether.

It must be soft and tender and can be sweet, made of some type of bean paste, or savory, made with either cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, shredded chicken and mushrooms, or even some noodles.

In case you were wondering, they are referred to as ‘Spring’ Rolls because it was a custom to make them mark the beginning of Spring in the Chinese New Year.


Sweet and Sour Pork

Particularly popular within the Shanghai region, the sweet and sour sauce is made from garlic, ginger, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, and ketchup.

Some people even add cooking wine to add more aroma to the dish.

You can substitute the pork with any other meat like beef, chicken, or seafood. Nevertheless, there is no denying that it goes best with pork.

The way the sauce complements the tender texture of the pork, allowing it to stand out with its bright appearance, can be rivaled by no other protein.


Zha Jiang Mian

Zha Jian Mian is another type of noodle dish in Chinese cuisine and is quite popular amongst the Shandong not only as a small meal but also as a snack to munch on while working.

It comprises thick, wheat-based noodles fried with scallions as the only vegetable.

The main highlight of the dish is its Zha Jiang sauce. The sauce is made of a yellow soybean paste along with ground beef.

Though very rare, some chefs even add chopped shiitake mushrooms to their Zha Jiang Mian. 

Just talking about these noodles is making my mouth water. These noodles have a very aromatic and salty flavor. That is why they are known as the soul food in Beijing.


 Popular Chinese Food

  1. Chow Mein
  2. Hot Pot
  3. Dumplings
  4. Kung Pao Chicken
  5. Ma Po Tofu
  6. Peking duck
  7. Wonton Soup
  8. Scallion Pancakes
  9. Char Siu
  10. Fried Rice
  11. Spring Rolls
  12. Sweet and Sour Pork
  13. Zha Jiang Mian

Final Thoughts

If I could have Chinese cuisine every day for the rest of my life, I would gladly do it. Something about the appearance, the aroma, and of course, the taste is just so gratifying to eat. 

The colorful dishes with a wide variety of vegetables, base sauces, spices, and seasonings display a complex image of flavor and feel. There’s quite nothing like it.

Now that you know the best Chinese food dishes, including my personal favorites, go ahead and prepare them to understand what I mean when I say the food gives me comfort like no other!

Grab these dishes at some of the best Chinese restaurant chains in the US!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.