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Top 10 Authentic Chinese Dishes You Must Try!

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Updated on January 12, 2024

Reviewed by Marise

Take out your chopsticks because you’ll want to stab them into these delicious Chinese dishes. China is popular for making its cuisine both authentic and popular. Each Chinese dish may differ from region to region, making it difficult to know where to begin.

Colour, flavours, scent, meaning, and appearance are the five distinguishing features of a traditional Chinese dish. So, know that any dish you order has a fascinating backstory, and, of course, the taste is mouthwatering.

China is a large country with many regional differences in cuisine due to differences in climate, history, local ingredients, and dining customs. So, let’s learn more about the top 10 authentic Chinese dishes that you should try at least once in your life.

8 Must-know Chinese Cuisines

Firstly, you should know that Chinese cuisine is divided into eight categories; after all, China is a large country, but we’re sure you didn’t expect eight different cuisines in one country! In addition, cooking styles and regional flavours play an important role.

Let us get to know the eight Chinese cuisines, each of which has a famous dish that we will talk about.

Sichuan Cuisine / Szechuan Cuisine / Chuan Cuisine

One of China’s eight cuisines is Sichuan cuisine, which originated in Southwest China. It is well-known for its fiery and sensational flavour. Sichuan cuisine is famous for its spicy, pungent, and hot flavour, as well as its vibrant red colour. 

Seasonings such as different pepper and chilli, garlic, and broad bean paste, which are the main ingredients in any Sichuan dish, are favourites among Sichuan chefs. If you are looking forward to having a flavourful experience, the Hot Pot is always the best first option to go for in a Chinese restaurant.

Popular Chinese Sichuan dishes are:

  • Kung Pao Chicken
  • Ma Po Tofu
  • Dandan Noodles
  • Fish-Flavoured Shredded Pork
  • Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil
  • Sliced Beef 
  • Ox Organs in Chili Sauce

Hunan Cuisine / Xiang Cuisine

Xiang cuisine is another name for Hunan cuisine. Hunan cuisine is popular not only in Hunan Province but throughout China. Hunan cuisine can also be found in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia

Hunan cuisine, like most Chinese cuisine dishes, is known for its flavourful and spicy taste, as pepper is the most important condiment. 

Spicy Hunan dishes include:

  • Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chili
  • Fried Pork with Chili 
  • Tasty Lobster
  • Changsha Stinky Tofu
  • Hunan Rice Noodles
  • Dong’an Chicken
  • Spicy Salted Duck
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Shandong Cuisine / Lu Cuisine

Shandong cuisine is ranked first among China’s eight great cuisines, so it must be tasty! Shandong cuisine, also known as Lu cuisine, is a type of Chinese cuisine. It is the only self-originated cuisine among the eight Chinese cuisines with a 2,500-year history, resulting in a truly authentic and historical taste.

Shandong dishes are known to be inspired by good quality and natural taste of food, and the number of details you may find in a single dish will surprise you! To know that you’re served a Shandong dish, Simply look for these seasoning essentials in any dish. Soup and scallions are important, and we must not overlook the importance of seafood. Finally, most Shandong dishes have a fresh, savoury, and moderately salty flavour.

The Yummiest Shandong dishes are:

  • Sweet and Sour Carp
  • Braised Sea Cucumber with Scallion
  • Braised Intestines in Brown Sauce
  • Braised Prawns in Oil
  • Steamed Stuffed Tofu 
  • Dezhou Braised Chicken
  • Caramel Sweet Potato
  • Omelet Chicken Slices
  • Four Joy Meatballs
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Zhejiang Cuisine / Zhe Cuisine

The name suggests where the cuisine originated. Popular in Zhejiang, Zhejiang cuisine is frequently lightly seasoned, and as the famous saying goes, the eye eats before the mouth, so most of their dishes are visually appealing. 

Zhejiang cuisine chefs prefer fresh food materials such as seafood, freshwater fish, and seasonal vegetables. To make their dishes even more perfect, they are extremely picky about the raw materials they use.

Remarkable Zhejiang dishes include:

  • West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy
  • Fried Shrimp with Longjing Tea
  • Dongpo Pork
  • Braised Bamboo Shoot
  • Deep-Fried Beancurd Rolls Stuffed with Minced Tenderloin
  • Sliced Lotus Root with Sweet Sauce West Lake Beef Soup
  • Steamed Pork with Rice Flour in Lotus Leaves
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Fujian Cuisine / Min Cuisine

Non-greasy dishes can be found in Fujian cuisine, which originated in Fuzhou, Fujian. Chinese cuisine is known for being fresh, light, mellow, and grease-free!

Rich food materials are used in Fujian cuisine because the majority of the ingredients are fresh from the land or sea. Red vinasse, sugar, and vinegar are common seasonings. Fujian cuisine, like Jiangsu cuisine, emphasises cutting techniques.

Grease-free Fujian dishes include:

  • Buddha Jumps over the Wall
  • Braised Sea Clam with Chicken Soup
  • Sweet and Sour Litchis
  • Sliced Whelk in Red Vinasse
  • Fuzhou Fish Balls
  • Oyster Omelette
  • Drunken Ribs
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Anhui Cuisine / Hui Cuisine

Hui cuisine is well-known for its salty dishes. Hui dishes are popular in Anhui Province and have a salty, fresh, and light flavour from the ingredients. 

Because multiple ingredients with varying nutrition are scientifically matched, the dishes are known to be healthy and nourishing to the body.

Famous salty Hui dishes include:

  • Stinky Mandarin Fish
  • Fried Hairy Tofu
  • Steamed Partridge
  • Stewed Bamboo Shoots of Wenzheng Mountain
  • Huangshan Stewed Pigeon
  • Li Hongzhang Chop Suey
  • Stewed Soft-Shelled Turtle with Ham
  • Braised Masked Palm Civet
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Cantonese Cuisine / Guangdong Cuisine / Yue Cuisine

Cantonese cuisine is well-known all over the world and is considered to be representative of Chinese cuisine. Cooking techniques in Cantonese are always sophisticated, adaptable, beautifully crafted, and creative.

Cantonese dishes are extremely rich in food materials, which include poultry, birds, seafood, and various vegetables and fruits. You should know that most Cantonese dishes taste mild and fresh, preserving the natural flavour of food ingredients.

Cantonese dishes that are flavourful include:

  • Ah Yat Abalone
  • White Cut Chicken
  • Cantonese Roasted Goose
  • Roasted Suckling Pig
  • Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
  • Poached Lobster in Soup
  • Slow-cooked Soup
  • Beef Chow Fun (Beef Ho Fun)
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Jiangsu Cuisine / Su Cuisine

Jiangsu dishes preserve a significant amount of the original flavour of the ingredients. Jiangsu cuisine, a representative of South Chinese cuisine, is famous for its tender dishes and lightly sweet, umami, natural, and mild flavour. 

Freshwater fish, river fish, and seafood are the primary food sources. The cutting is beautiful and varied, and the heat control game is fantastic. Expect the food to be served as an edible art piece.

Jiangsu dishes that are beautifully displayed include:

  • Nanjing Salted Duck
  • Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish
  • Braised Meat Balls in Brown Sauce
  • Stewed Tortoise and Chicken
  • Beggar’s Chicken
  • Yangzhou Fried Rice
  • Boiled Shredded Dry Bean Curd
  • Pork Trotter Aspic Jiangsu Style
  • Mutton in Fish Maw
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10 Authentic Chinese Dishes You’ll Want To Eat on a Daily Basis

We’re sure you can tell which dish is from which cuisine now that we’ve discussed the different 8 Chinese cuisines. Now, let us discuss the 10 Chinese dishes that are a must-try because they are both traditional in Chinese cuisine and delicious.

Fried Rice (chǎofàn)

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Rice is a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine, so it makes sense that fried rice is the first authentic Chinese dish on our list. Chinese fried rice is a meal that will serve the entire family. 

The nutritious meal can include anything from protein (chicken, pork or prawns) to vegetables (carrots, mixed vegetables). How do you make this simple dish? In a wok, combine the garlic, ginger, scallions, scrambled eggs, and minced protein, then finish with boiled rice. It’s easy to prepare, and the best-fried rice is always leftover rice.

You may have come across Yangzhou fried rice and wondered what the difference was between it and regular fried rice. The difference between Yangzhou fried rice and regular fried rice is that the Yangzhou style always includes a protein combination. Yangzhou uses a variety of proteins as the dominant ingredient in fried rice rather than a single protein like prawns, pork or chicken.

Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding)

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The following dish is a well-known Sichuan-style speciality that is popular among both Chinese and foreigners. Diced chicken, and dried chilli, with ginger, garlic, capsicum peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and peanuts, are the main ingredients.

Kung Pao Chicken is probably the most popular Chinese dish outside of China; therefore, if you’ve tried it before, it may not have been an authentic and traditional dish; instead, it may have been westernised slightly. Because of the Sichuan peppercorns, the truly authentic Chinese dish is fragrant, spicy, and slightly mouth-numbing.

Keep in mind that the Kung Pao sauce, which binds all of the ingredients together, has two layers of flavour. The dried red peppers and scallions, for example, give the dish a little kick with each bite. The second layer is a perfectly balanced mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. As a result, in just one bite, your mouth will be flavour-filled.

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

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If you like pork, you will fall in love with this Chinese dish. When you read about this dish, you may wonder if you can substitute it with another protein, such as chicken or beef; well, only if you make it at home; however, if you have it at a restaurant, it will most probably contain pork, with the option of pork loin, belly, or butt.

Char siu is a method of flavouring and cooking barbecued meat, particularly pork. Char Siu, which literally means “fork roasted,” is a Cantonese dish that is skewered and cooked in an oven or over a fire.

Ingredients such as honey, five-spice powder, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and red fermented bean curd are almost always included in the seasoning to achieve the signature red colour. This mouthwatering dish can be served alone, with noodles, or inside a baozi, a type of steamed stuffed bun.

Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu)

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This Chinese dish is well-known for the fact that the stronger the aroma, the better it tastes. We’re talking about the strong-smelling fermented Stinky tofu.

So, what’s the deal with the strong odour? Tofu is fermented in a mixture of fermented milk, vegetables, meat, and aromatics before being fermented in the same way that cheese is for several months. It is prepared differently in different regions, but there are four options which can be served cold, stewed, steamed or even deep-fried with chile and soy sauces on the side.

Sweet taro paste

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This Chinese dish is a dessert. Binlang yu, a special breed of yam from Fujian’s Fuding county, is used to make Fujian-style taro paste. It is so delicious that once you try it, you won’t get enough of it. The flavour is similar to a sweet potato but with a lighter unique flavour and subtle vanilla undertones.

Sweet Taro has a light, slightly sweet, and nutty flavour that goes well with milk tea. Taro is cooked and mashed before being blended with sugar and lard to make the dessert. The thick, silky taro mash will then be garnished with sweet toppings like dates, candied cherries and ginkgo, and then finger-licking dessert is ready to be served.

Four Joy Meatballs

Four Joy Meatballs is a Chinese dish that dates back to the Qin Dynasty. Isn’t it true that meatballs are an Italian dish? You’ll be surprised to learn that they originated in Shandong Province!

So, how do you make this flavourful dish? Pork mince, diced onions, ginger, lotus root, Shaoxing rice wine, pepper, soy sauce, eggs, and starch are used to make the meatballs. They are then fried before being steamed with more soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine until tender.

The meatballs are a bite-sized snack that is crispy on the outside but irresistibly moist on the inside, a small bite of perfection. The softness of the pork mince complements the crunchy texture of the lotus root, and the umami flavours of the meat blend beautifully with the aromatic ginger. 

The round shape of the meatballs is said to represent gathering and union in Chinese culture. The meatballs are always served in fours to represent the Four Joys of Life, which are traditionally marked by family gatherings: courtship, marriage, child-rearing, and ageing.

Stinky Mandarin Fish

You might be put off by the name, but don’t be. This one-of-a-kind traditional Chinese dish delicacy from Anhui Province is sure to please the taste buds.

So, what’s the story behind this dish? In this dish, freshwater fish is used. It is traditionally marinated with salt, packed tightly under heavy stones in a barrel, and fermented for eight days, so imagine the woof smell that comes out after the barrel is opened, which is why it stinks.

You’re probably wondering why anyone would invent this. Let’s travel back 300 years, when travelling merchants fell in love with the fish and wanted it back to their families, but they were desperate to keep it from spoiling, which is how the dish came to be.

The process changes the texture and flavour of the meat, making it firm and packed with unusual flavours. Even with the strong odour, the merchants discovered that when fried with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and chilli, the fish taste was transformed to another level! 

Steamed Pork with Rice Flour in Lotus Leaves

In Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, a popular traditional Chinese dish is Steamed Pork with Rice Flour in Lotus Leaf. It was said in the late Qing Dynasty that its name was derived from the Wind and Lotus of Quyuan from the Ten Scenes of the West Lake.

Pork belly, mung bean flour, lotus leaf, fermented bean curd, and seasonings are used in this delicious dish. Coat the cooked meat in sauce and deep fry it; then roll in mung bean flour and wrap in lotus leaf for high-heat steaming. 

The lime-green dish has a lotus fragrance, a soft, tasty, and agreeably fatty texture, and it can clear away heat, detoxify, and assimilate cholesterol.

Peking Duck (běijīng Kǎoyā)

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The Chinese dish Peking duck is a magnificent dish. Which consists of crispy roasted duck sliced into bite-sized pieces wrapped in a wrapper with salad and hoisin sauce that you can’t get enough of once you start eating it!

Peking duck is not something you can make at home because it is a long and detailed process that involves seasoning, drying for 24 hours, and cooking in an open-air oven known as a hung oven. However, it is worth trying in a traditional Chinese restaurant.

It’s traditionally served in three courses: crispy skin, meat, and bones in broth, with sides like sweet bean sauce, pancakes or soy sauce with mashed garlic.

Zhajiangmian

A Chinese dish that will have you slurping it all up. Zhajiangmian translates to Zhejiang, meaning ‘fried sauce’, while mian means’ noodles’. In China, the Zhajiangmian dish is a popular small meal or snack. 

Fried sauce noodles from Shandong province are made with chewy, thick wheat noodles known as cumian and are topped with Zhejiang sauce, fermented soybean paste or another sauce depending on where you are in China, and finally, a rich mixture of ground pork. A delicious bowl of flavours that will leave you wanting more!

Final Thoughts..

Chinese cuisine is full of vibrant dishes that use a wide range of vegetables, base sauces, spices, and seasonings that paint a complex picture of flavour and feel. It is a cuisine unlike any other. You are now familiar with authentic Chinese dishes; which one will you try first?

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