Chinese food is one of the go-to options for anyone ordering takeout, but you know that they’re not the most accurate.
Most of these dishes have been adjusted for a Western audience. So, we’re here to tell you about some of our favorite Chinese dishes and what we recommend you try.
There are sixteen different Chinese dishes and some easy-to-cook recipes so that you can try them at home.
You’ll undoubtedly find some of your favorite takeout options on this list, but rest assured that nothing can beat a good home-cooked Chinese meal.
1. Sweet And Sour Pork
Otherwise referred to as Goo Lou Yok, sweet and sour pork is a Cantonese dish you can find in any Chinese takeout anywhere in the world.
Well-loved by many, you can substitute the meat for anything you like, with chicken a popular choice in Western countries. However, some argue whether sweet and sour pork is an authentic Chinese dish.
Sometimes, you’ll find that sweet and sour sauce is paired with seafood dips.
The most important part of this dish is the sweet and sour sauce, which combines ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato puree, salt, and cornstarch.
However, you might be interested to know there are different methods of making this sauce.
The main essential ingredients are white vinegar and ketchup; once you have these, you can modify it to your liking.
2. Chow Mein
Chow mein is a fried noodle dish that is popular around the world. Made from boiled noodles, diced meat, and different vegetables, you bring everything together in the wok.
It doesn’t matter what meat you use, with chicken, beef, pork, and duck added regardless of flavor.
Chow mein is popular because noodles are a popular dish in Chinese cooking.
It’s versatile, and you can use whatever noodles you want. Chow mein is designed for families who wouldn’t usually have the time to cook.
There’s no correct way to make chow mein as it has steadily evolved over the years.
Originating from Guangdong province, the recipe has changed depending on the region. It became famous after being introduced outside of China by immigrants.
3. Spring Rolls
Spring Rolls are a popular dish, especially during the Lunar New Year.
They were named after the Spring Festival, where they’re traditionally eaten. Spring rolls are a delicious dim sum you can share with your friends.
Originating from the Eastern regions of China, every area has a different way of cooking them.
As they were initially made in Spring, you could find them filled with vegetables exclusively harvested during springtime.
Feel free to stuff the dough with any vegetables or meat, and then fry them however you like.
Once you have them fried, they’ll have a delicious crispy texture that’s just too satisfying. However, you may find that they’re not exclusively fried, with non-fried ones being filled with pre-cooked ingredients.
4. Peking Duck
Duck is a personal favorite of mine, and you definitely can’t go wrong with Peking duck.
The best way to eat Peking duck is to slice it into pieces and roll them into a thin wrapper with some hoisin sauce (see also ‘10 Hoisin Sauce Substitutes‘).
You can dip them and add salad to give your duck extra texture.
Initially, it came from Beijing and has been around since the Imperial era.
You could often find Peking duck served to the Emperor of China, and it was popular among the upper classes until it became popular among all classes.
During the 20th century, the Peking duck was famous among U.S. politicians like Henry Kissinger.
While it might be challenging to have the same taste as in a restaurant, this copycat recipe may be one of the closest I’ve found.
Just grab your duck, and marinate and baste it with a sauce composed of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil (see also ‘18 Substitutes For Sesame Oil‘), and a cup of water. It might take some time with a three-hour wait, but it will be worth it!
5. Kung Pao Chicken
A popular dish as takeout and an authentic meal, Kung Pao Chicken is a traditional stir-fry.
It’s popular in Sichuan Province, where it originated. It’s a great spicy dish you can easily recreate in your home. Let’s look at all you need to make it.
In the recipe we’ve found, you can combine chicken, peanuts, and vegetables with a great Kung Pao sauce.
However, it’s a challenge to experience an authentic version of Kung Pao chicken in America unless you have some Sichuan peppercorn available. But even without the peppercorn, you can add some red chilies for that kick.
Outside of Sichuan, you’ll find Kung Pao chicken has a milder flavor, with the Guizhou variant based on Ciba fermented chili paste instead.
6. Char Siu Pork
You can char siu any type of meat, but pork is the most popular version of the dish because it’s essentially a way of cooking it.
Char Siu is a type of fork-roasted dish that you cook over a fire, on a skewer, or in an oven. However, one of the best parts is the seasoning of the dish.
You can expect the seasoning to contain soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, and some red fermented bean curd, but if that’s not available, then red food coloring is also available.
So grab some pork, whether it’s loin, belly, or butt, and start cooking up this delicious BBQ dish.
As it originated as a Cantonese dish, you’ll find char siu dishes in many Southeast areas of Asia.
In ancient times, they used wild boar, but in modern times you can commonly find pork instead. You’ll often find it served with something else, such as a bun, some noodles, or even rice.
7. Xiao Long Bao Buns
Xiao Long Bao Buns are essentially steamed buns that are served with soup.
The authentic dish will have the soup inside the buns. Usually, you’ll be able to find pork stock packed inside, which goes solid thanks to the collagen.
All you need to do is bite the buns and slurp the broth before finishing them.
It’s not the easiest recipe to make, as it’s delicate and requires a lot of patience to make correctly.
If you find the recipe too challenging, I recommend hunting down a restaurant that serves them so you can enjoy this classic Shanghai dish.
Traditionally, they’re made in a bamboo steaming basket and shouldn’t be confused with Jiaozi or Wontons.
Typically, you can find them made at breakfast or as a portion of popular street food. They are often used as a dim sum, where they are also served with tea (see also our article on crystal boba), and can also be bought frozen.
8. Wonton Soup
Another classic dumpling dish, the wontons are made from a thin dough wrapper with whatever fillings you prefer.
While the recipe I selected is for pork and shrimp wontons, you can make it with beef, pork, mince meat, or cabbage.
The wontons are popped into a broth containing noodles, spring onions, and cabbage. The broth is made from chicken, pork, or ham stock, so you can also enjoy the flavorful aromas of this dish.
Most of you are probably more aware of Cantonese wontons, but the type does vary. While they may resemble Jiaozi, you shouldn’t confuse them with one another.
They’re both made differently and use different doughs. Therefore, you can’t say that wontons are the same as the average dumpling.
9. Zha Jiang Mian
Made from thick noodles, Zha Jiang Mian is a popular dish that many people enjoy as a snack or meal. Originating from Shandong province, you can find this dish worldwide.
Top your noodles with your sauce, and mix it with ground meat. But let me tell you some more about the sauce.
The Zha Jiang sauce is made from some yellow soybean paste, which has a strong aroma and is known for being quite thick.
Of course, if you want some thinner paste, just ask for some advice at your local Asian market. Just remember to include some Tian Mian Jiang, a fermented wheat paste.
Then add some vegetables, and you’ll be able to enjoy this for a lunchtime snack or meal.
The best thing about Zha Jiang Mian is that it can easily be modified, with many tales of how the vegetarian edition came to be.
10. Fried Rice
Rice is a go-to for many Chinese meals, with fried rice being a quick meal that can feed the whole family. There’s a lot of freedom with what you can include in this dish, including any proteins or vegetables.
Overall, if you want to have some great fried rice, you should use some leftovers, as that will give your rice the best flavor.
You can fry your rice with eggs, carrots, peas, chicken, whatever you like! Just throw everything you want to include in the wok and top it with some soy sauce.
It’s a great dish when you want to make up something quick for you and your family.
11. Ma Po Tofu
Not every Chinese dish includes meat, so any vegetarians or vegans will love Ma Po Tofu. Of course, if you’re not a fan of spice, you might not enjoy this dish as much.
The traditional version of the meal includes Sichuan peppercorns to give it an extra kick, but if you use too much, your mouth will go numb.
Of course, you don’t need to use peppercorns, and you can use a spicy bean paste instead. Modify the spices to your liking, and put your tofu in your spicy broth.
There have been different reports of when Ma Po Tofu was invented, but some say it’s been around since 1254.
While there are different types of Ma Po Tofu, you can find different editions made in other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea.
12. Baozi Buns
Baozi buns are essentially big bao buns. These are bread-like dumplings you can fill with whatever you prefer, protein or vegetables.
These buns are steamed, so they’re soft and squishable and can be dipped in different sauces.
You’ll find that baozi buns are a popular lunchtime snack, especially when made in advance. However, they can also be made for any meal, including breakfast.
They’re also a popular dish in restaurants, especially as a side. When it comes to baozi, you’ll find there are different types available: Xiao Long Bao was already mentioned earlier in this list.
13. Jiaozi Dumplings
China is known for its variety of dumplings, and Jiaozi dumplings are how they’re often referred to. In northern areas of China, you can eat them all year round.
However, some potstickers are pan-fried and found at street vendors. Meanwhile, steamed dumplings are served as a side or at breakfast.
Dumplings can be filled with various proteins or vegetables and can be served at dumpling parties.
These aren’t the easiest to make and may take a lot of practice, but if you want to experience authentic dumplings, head to a Chinese restaurant (see also ‘Top 13 Chinese Food Restaurant Chains‘).
Jiaozi has been around for centuries, and some say they originated during the Eastern Han era by Zhang Zhongjing.
Some say they were used to treat frostbitten ears due to the cold and insufficient food.
14. Lo Mai Gai
Lo Mai Gai is a bowl of Chinese sticky rice that is popular among dim sum dishes. The key ingredient here is the glutinous rice, which has to stick together like glue when cooked.
You’ll often find it topped with some sausage, chicken, and mushrooms (see also ‘Does Chicken Of The Wood Taste Good?‘), covered with a dark soy sauce. You can even see it occasionally wrapped in a lotus leaf.
Often, you can find it served during brunch, where it is more prevalent in Southern China. It’s not to be confused with Zongzi, which is sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.
If you get Lo Mai Gai in America, you’ll find it wrapped in banana or grape leaves.
15. Rou Jia Mo
Some say that Rou Jia Mo is the original hamburger, as it’s been around since the Qin Dynasty.
Rou Jia Mo is an incredibly popular street food that isn’t quite like the hamburger you’re used to. Unlike Western sandwiches, it’s made from pita bread and filled with meat that is left stewing in soup for several hours.
While you might not have time for that at home, it’s a dish that’s easy to make. However, you can always start cooking the meat the day before.
You can modify this dish to make it spicy if you want, and it’s a surprisingly customizable dish, with the meat used being pork, beef, or even lamb.
Finishing off our list, we’ve got Congee, a type of rice porridge you can enjoy, especially at breakfast. It can be made thick or watery, savory or sweet, depending on the region.
You can either make it with rice or with another type of grain. Just top it off with any topping that you prefer.
The recipe I’ve found for you is best made with chicken, making it a comforting meal when you’re feeling sick.
If you eat congee plain, it can be served with side dishes, but if it’s on its own, you’ll find it’s a meal all by itself.
While porridge is sweeter in Western countries, congee is typically served as a savory dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Four Main Chinese Dishes?
When referring to the four main Chinese dishes, you’ll be thinking of the Four Major Cuisines:
- Lu cuisine from Shandong province
- Chuan cuisine from the Sichuan province
- Yue cuisine from Guangdong province
- Su cuisine from Jiangsu province.
There are also other cuisines to try, but these four are the most popular and are the ones that you would be thinking of when you’re looking for Chinese dishes.
Why Is Chinese Food So Popular?
Chinese food is popular because anyone can have it. Different Chinese food makes it accessible to everyone because of its affordable prices.
It’s one of the oldest cuisines in the world, and over the years, the flavors have only grown and improved.
What Do The Chinese Eat Daily?
You can expect four different food groups when preparing a Chinese meal:
Many Chinese people are lactose intolerant, so you’ll find that they don’t have that much dairy in their meals. They usually use substitutes such as tofu and soymilk instead.
What Chinese Food Isn’t Chinese?
I previously mentioned how sweet and sour pork wasn’t the most authentic Chinese dish, but there are other foods that you wouldn’t recognize in an authentic Chinese restaurant (see also ‘Why Go To P.F. Changs? – 16 Of Their Best Menu Items‘).
These dishes include:
- Moo Shu Pork
- Egg Rolls
- Lo Mein
- Egg Foo Yung
- Chop Suey
- Orange Chicken
- Crab Rangoons
- Fortune Cookies
Overall, many of these dishes have been modified to fit an American audience, so you wouldn’t find them in China themself (see also ‘What Is A Century Egg And Does It Taste Nice?‘).
These are some of my favorite Chinese dishes. Many of them can easily be made in the comfort of your own home.
Chinese food doesn’t have to be a takeout treat. You can experience authentic flavors better when cooking for yourself. So why not try your hand at these dishes?
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