43 Chinese Foods Everyone Should Try

Speaking of food, people generally believe China is a foodie heaven. Over 2600 years ago, Confucius said, "Eating is the utmost important thing in life” – no wonder the conversations between Chinese people always begin with polite chitchat about food and the classical question “Have you eaten?”

Given its Eight Great Cuisines, tens of thousands of dishes, and countless regional snacks, it is hard to choose the best food in China.

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To help world travelers plan on best China food tours, here we’ve filtered through recommendations from both gourmets and ordinary local people to bring you this list of China’s best picks for eating. Try at least some of them when touring in China.

In North China

People in the north of China like cooked wheaten food, mainly including noodles, dumpling, baozi (steamed bun), and an array of pancakes. One of the eight great cuisines in China, Lu (Shandong) Cuisine originates in North China. Modern and ancient capital of China, Beijing brings together ingredients and flavors from all over the country, and features some of the most famous traditional Chinese foods and historical royal dishes. 

Best Chinese foods to try in China

* Roast Peking Duck (北京烤鸭). The most famous Chinese dish and must-have food in Beijing, it is roasted over charcoal, smells good, and tastes crispy and tender. >> Explore the Best Peking Roasted Duck Restaurants in Beijing

* Dumplings/jiaozi (饺子). One of the best foods to try in China, dumpling has a history of over 1800 years. There are boiled dumpling, steamed dumpling and fried dumping, with various kinds of stuffing, to cater to different tastes. When traveling in Xian, you may feast on a dumping banquet, and learn to make dumplings yourself.

* Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁), one of the most popular Chinese dishes among foreigners, it has its name recorded in Lu Cuisine, Chuan Cuisine and Qian Cuisine. Kung Pao Chicken is made of chicken, peanuts and peppers.  

* Sugar-coated haws on a stick (冰糖葫芦). A traditional snack food originated in South Song Dynasty (1127-1279), it tastes sweet and sour, gets popular in winter.  

* Harbin sausage (哈尔滨红肠) - a specialty food in Harbin and a must-eat food in China if you like sausage.  

* Donkey Huoshao (驴肉火烧), originated in Baoding Hebei Province, and has become a popular snack in Beijing 

* Xian Rou jia mo (肉夹馍). Nicknamed Chinese hamburger, it is also popular among foreign travelers and expats in China. Rou jia mo combines perfectly meat in wax sauce and steamed buns. 

* Fruit pancake /jianbin guozi (煎饼果子). A famous food in Tianjin, local people have it as breakfast, it is composed of mung bean pancake, egg, and guozi (fried dough stick), and garnished with noodles sauce, chopped green onion, fermented bean curd and chili sauce (optional). 

* Lanzhou stretched noodles (兰州拉面). One of the must-eat Chinese noodles, it is also known as a kind of fast food in China, and now can be eaten in every city of the country.  

* Tianjin Go Believe/Goubuli steamed bun (天津狗不理包子). There are 98 varieties in 6 categories such as three fresh buns, seafood buns, pickled meat buns and plain buns. 

In East China

East China mainly Include Shanghai, Zhejiang Province, Jiangsu Province, Anhui Province, Jiangxi Province, Fujian Province, Taiwan Province. The staple food is mainly rice. Local people are good at cooking delicate cakes, dim sum, and balls, and prefer raw food, and cold food of the ancient style. Zhejiang Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, and Anhui Cuisine are among the Eight Great Cuisines in China. The taste of this area is usually light, and tastes slightly sweet.

Most populra food to eat in China

* West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy (西湖醋鱼). One of the best foods to eat in China, and the most famous food of Hangzhou, It uses grass carp, garnished with vinegar, soy source and white sugar.

* Dongpo pork (东坡肉) – Another popular food in Hangzhou, it is said to be created by the famous poet Su Dongpo, hence its name. Foodies like meat should not miss this dish.

* Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish (松鼠桂鱼) – A popular and classical dish in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, it has a carp carved with pattern, wrapped in egg yolk paste, stir-fried in hot oil, added with sweet and sour marinades, and finally shaped like a squirrel.

* Jiangsu’s braised meat balls in brown sauce (红烧狮子头). Also named Si Xi Wan Zi, it is a famous dish of Huiyang Cuisine. There are fat and thin meat with water chestnuts, mushrooms and other materials, made into balls, and then fried and boiled.

* Shanghai Steamed Buns (上海汤包). A must-eat snack food in Shanghai, Shanghai steamed bun belongs to the local cuisine. It is famous for its small size, thin skin, big filling, fresh meat, delicious taste, delicious soup, and delicate fragrance.

* Shanghai braised pork in brown sauce (上海红烧肉), made of streaky pork, soy sauce, wine, sugar and other ingredients, it is a one of best foods to try in China.

* Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs(糖醋排骨). One of the most popular Chinese foods and a classic dish of Zhejiang Cuisine, it tastes sweet and tender.

* Anhui Wonton (安徽馄饨). Initially named "Jiang Mao Dumpling", Anhui wonton was first seen and sold during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty. It is made of mountain black pig's hind legs with shrimps and pickled vegetables, and boiled with stewed chicken juice or bone chicken. This unique favorite is now popular in Huangshan, where Yellow Mountain is located.   

* Earthenware pot soup (瓦罐煨汤) – a favored traditional Chinese food in Jiangxi Province.

* Nanjing’s Duck blood and vermicelli soup (南京鸭血粉丝汤). Nanjing is known as “the capital of duck”, since there are many delicacies made of duck. The duck blood and vermicelli soup is one of the most famous and popular dishes.

* Nanjing’s boil duck with salt (盐水鸭) – a classic dish of Jinling (Nanjing) Cuisine, it has a history of over 2500 years.

* Boiled chicken with sauce (白斩鸡) – selected as one of the 10 classic dishes in Shanghai

In Central China

Located in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, Central China, mainly include Henan, Hubei, Hunan provinces, is one of the cradles and birthplaces of Chinese farming culture and food culture. The food culture in the Central Plains reached a new stage in the Northern Song Dynasty, which represented the highest achievement of the Chinese food culture at that time.

china foodie tours to eat the best foods in China

* Wuhan Pot-stewed Duck's neck (武汉鸭脖) - one of the most popular snack food to eat in China.

* Wuhan hot-and-dry noodles (武汉热干面) – one of the 10 famous noodles in China, It is made of dietary alkali noodles, and garnished with edible oil, sesame paste, salad oil, sesame oil, red oil, chives, garlic seeds, radish diced, sour beans, brine juice, raw soy sauce, vinegar and other ingredients. 

* Changsha Sticky Toufu (长沙臭豆腐). Favored by many and hated by many alike, it is black, smells sticky yet nice, and tastes better.

* Chilli Fish Head (剁椒鱼头) – a classic dish of Xiang (Hunan) Cuisine, and a best Chinese dish to eat if you are crazy about spicy foods.

* Luoyang Soup Banquet (洛阳水席). A traditional dish from Yu Cuisine of Northern China and originated in Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), it is actually a banquet with 24 dishes in total, including 8 appetizers and 16 main dishes.

In South China

The foods and dishes in South China are usually more delicate than those of the North, and lay emphasis on the selection of food materials. The aesthetic concept of the southern people that focuses on elegance and softness is also showcased through the foods, cooking methods, tableware, and dinning habit. The famous Sichuan Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine and Canton Cuisine are in the South. For each dish, there is always a complex and exquisite process, ensuring freshness, tenderness, fragrance and smoothness, in order to satisfy the taste buds with all kinds of subtle experience.

Must-eat foods in China

* Pork lungs in chili sauce / husband and wife pork lungs (夫妻肺片) – a famous dish of Sichuan Cuisine, and named “Mr and Mrs Smith” in overseas.

* Fish filets in hot chili oil (水煮鱼) – a must-have dish in Chongqing, it is usually made with fresh grass carp, garnished with bean sprouts, peppers and other ingredients, and regarded to be "oily but not greasy, spicy but not dry, numbness but not bitter, and smooth and tender".

* Yunnan’s Crossing the bridge noodles (云南过桥米线) – A popular food in Yunnan and a classic dish of Dian (Yunnan) Cuisine, it can be served with dozens of ingredients, such as pork tenderloin fillet, chicken breast fillet, mullet fillet, pork loin fillet, belly fillet, squid, pea tip, leek, coriander, scallion, grass sprouts, ginger, magnolia, bean curd, etc.  

* Sichuan Hot Pot (四川火锅). Definitely the most popular in China, you should not miss it when traveling in Chengdu, especially if you love spicy foods. All of kinds of food materials, from meat, sea foods, animal innards to vegetables, can be cooked in a hot pot. 

* Xianjiang style stir-fried chicken with big dish (新疆大盘鸡). When you travel along the Silk Road to Xinjiang, make sure you try this popular dish in the area. The main ingredients are chicken and potato. It is also served with unique Xinjiang belt noodles. 

* Dali Xizhou Baba (大理喜州粑粑) – you can even learn to make Xizhou baba, kind of a fun cooking experience for foodies and family with kids.

* Lao GanMa chilli sauce (老干妈) made in Guiyang, Guizhou, a best choice for noodles or if you are looking for some strong flavors.

* Guizhou’s Fish in Sour Soup (酸菜鱼). It is a traditional dish of Miao and Dong nationality, and a classic dish of Qian (Guizhou) cuisine. The main raw materials are fish, sour soup, Shan Cang and other spices.

* The Steamed Rice in Clay Pot (砂锅蒸饭) is a traditional Cantonese dish

* Eat morning tea / Zaocha (Guangzhou dim sum, 广东早茶). In the morning, local people, especially the retirees gather morning tea restaurants to enjoy the various kinds of dim sum breakfast, and chat. Morning tea is like brunch in China.

* Fried spring rolls (春卷). It is a kind of traditional food served in Chinese folk festivals, popular in all parts of China, especially in South China, where spring rolls, in place of dumplings, is a food for Spring Festival

* Bamboo-tube-cooked rice (竹筒饭), a favored and popular food among Zhuang, Dai, Hani, Banglang, Jinuo people, can be found in Longji Rice Terraces, and minority areas of Yunnan.

* Guilin Rice Noodles (桂林米粉). Legend has that it was invented over 2400 year ago, when Emperor Qinshihuang inspected the Lingqu Canal when it was completed. Now it is one of the best foods to try in China.

* Yangshuo beer fish (阳朔啤酒鱼). One of the 10 classic dishes in Guangxi, this dish uses the fresh carp from the Lijiang River in Yangshuo. First fry the fresh in tea oil, and then braised in fine beer produced in Guilin. Yangshuo beer fish has a unique crispy and tender flavor.

* Fujian Fo Tiao Qiang (福建佛跳墙). A famous dish of Min (Fujian) Cuisine and a truly luxury Chinese dish, it combines abalone, sea cucumber, fish lips, yak skin gum, pleurotus eryngii, tendons, flower Mushroom, cuttlefish, conpoy, quail Eggs, etc, to gently simmer together with soup-stock and rice wine.

* Sweet and sour pork (咕噜肉). With a similar flavor of sweet and sour spare ribs, it is a traditional dish in Guangdong. This dish dates back to the Qing Dynasty, when many foreigners in Guangzhou liked it very much.

* Fried bean with eggplant (茄子炒豆角) is a popular home style dish and popular among foreigners too.

* Worm Jelly (土笋冻) – with a worm as the main raw material, it is a popular specialty snack in South Fujian Province



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