Chinese Food: Exploring the Best of Chinese Cuisine

China, a country rich in history and heritage, is also a paradise for food lovers. The joy of discovering authentic Chinese food is an adventure in itself. It promises a journey that will tickle your taste buds and leave you craving more. From zesty street food to exquisite fine dining, the Chinese culinary scene is a fusion of flavors. Each dish is a testament to the country’s vibrant culture and culinary expertise.

I’m taking you on a mouthwatering journey as we explore the intricacies of Chinese food. Imagine immersing yourself in the intoxicating aroma of Chinese street food markets, where each stall tells its own flavor-saturated story. Or stepping into a dimly-lit, bustling family-owned restaurant in Hangzhou, savoring the delight of each morsel as they speak volumes about China’s vast culinary heritage.

Prepare for a feast of knowledge that will inspire, inform, and—most importantly—whet your appetite for more! So pack your bags (and chopsticks!) as we explore the spice-laden streets of Shanghai, the canal-side restaurants of Suzhou, and beyond.

Peking Duck: The Ultimate Chinese Food

Peking duck, one of the most popular Chinese food dishes in the world | Davidsbeenhere

Peking duck is a renowned Chinese food, and arguably one of the country’s most famous dishes. This iconic, meaty dish originated in Beijing. It’s essentially roasted duck with crispy skin and tender meat. It comes with thin, delicate pancakes, spring onions, cucumber, and a sweet bean sauce. Its complex preparation is an art form in itself, beginning with air-drying the duck.

Roasted Peking ducks hanging by hooks in Shanghai | Davidsbeenhere

The cook then glazes it with a sweet and tangy maltose syrup and roasts it until the skin turns irresistibly crispy and golden. It’s rich and savory, with crispy skin and tender, fatty duck meat on the inside!

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Jianbing (Breakfast Crepe)

A rolled-up jianbing I ate in Shanghai, China | Davidsbeenhere

One of my personal favorite Chinese dishes is jianbing. I first discovered this dish in Shanghai in 2015 and couldn’t get enough of it. It consists of a folded crepe that contains eggs, pickled vegetables, crispy crackers, and hoisin sauce. The dish is both sweet and savory, with a freshness from the vegetables and a nice crunch from the crackers. The crepe itself is somewhat similar to an Indian dosa, but with bold, vibrant Chinese flavors!

Táng Cù Yú (Sweet & Sour Fish)

Táng Cù Yú is a tasty sweet & sour fish that anyone who loves Chinese food should try | Davidsbeenhere

If you find yourself in Suzhou, you must try this next Chinese delicacy. One of the city’s most famous dishes is a sweet and sour fish known as “Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish.” It’s a unique name for a banger of a Chinese food dish. It’s basically perch that the cook scores so the meat fans out into small, tender, bite-sized pieces. Then, it’s battered, deep-fried, and coated in a sweet and tangy sauce. Best of all, it’s entirely boneless, so you don’t have to worry about bones getting caught in your throat!

Xiaolongbao (Pork Soup Dumpling)

Freshly steamed xiaolongbao are a staple Chinese food in Shanghai | Davidsbeenhere

One of Shanghai’s most popular Chinese food dishes is the xiaolongbao. Known around the world, xiaolongbao is basically a Chinese soup dumpling. The steamed dumpling has a tender and chewy exterior and comes filled with scalding hot pork, broth, and vegetables. It’s delicious, but easy to burn yourself while eating it. The trick is to nibble a hole in the corner, suck out the broth a little at a time, and then let the rest cool before eating it. It’s a bit of work, but it’s worth it!

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Char Siu Bao (Sweet Pork Bun)

Char Siu Bao are delicious, fluffy buns containing sweet and savory pork | Davidsbeenhere

When I first visited China in 2015, I fell in love with several Chinese food dishes, including char siu bao. These steamed pork buns are a popular street food and breakfast item, and after one bite, you’ll see why. These buns are soft and fluffy on the outside, but on the inside, you’ll find spicy and savory pork in a sweet and savory sauce. They’re so good, I ate one almost every morning during my first trip to China. I even sought them out on my first day back in 2019!

Sūzhá Qiézi (Deep-Fried Eggplant)

Sūzhá Qiézi is a delicious Chinese food made from battered and deep-fried eggplant | Davidsbeenhere

While its Chinese name is very hard to pronounce (seriously, don’t ask me), it’s easy to see why this Chinese food is so good. Made with high-quality Chinese eggplant, sūzhá qiézi may be the best eggplant dish I’ve ever eaten in my life. The cooks batter it in cornstarch, salt, pepper, and other spices, and deep-fry it until it’s golden brown.

Enjoying the buttery Sūzhá Qiézi and other delicious Chinese food in Shanghai, China | Davidsbeenhere

The eggplant comes out hot, with a light crisp on the outside. But the inside is as smooth and silky as butter, and full of flavor. The kind I had in Shanghai in 2019 came smothered in a delicious tomato sauce. It was so soft and tender it practically melted in my mouth. Even if you think you don’t like eggplant, try this dish!

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Huǒguō (Hot Pot)

The hot pot at Hai Di Lao in Shanghai, China | Davidsbeenhere

Ah, hot pot. This authentic Chinese dining experience is a staple throughout the country, and for good reason. The concept is simple: your table contains a pot of four boiling broths. Your waiter brings various raw items to your table, including meats, vegetables, and mushrooms.

An incredible assortment of Chinese food waiting to be cooked in the hot pot | Davidsbeenhere

You then place the items into the broth of your choosing and cook them for as long as you’d like. The end result is a flavorful Chinese food experience that can range from mild to intensely spicy. A word of caution: the spiciest broth is one of the hottest things I’ve ever had in my life!

Fu Pei Guen (Tofu Skin Roll)

Fu pei guen is a surprisingly tasty Chinese food I discovered in Hangzhou in 2019 | Davidsbeenhere

I can’t write an article about Chinese food without including fu pei guen, or tofu skin rolls. They’re essentially thin, crispy layers of fried tofu skin wrapped around spiced minced beef. I tried these delightful snacks in Hangzhou 2019 and they’re still one of my all-time favorite Chinese dishes. They season the meat with warming spices like star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, and it comes with a delicious chili sauce. They’re crispy, juicy, savory, and spicy all at once!

Tu Tou (Sichuan Rabbit Head)

Tu Tou is a rabbit head cooked in hot chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns | Davidsbeenhere

A dish that’s grown in popularity in recent years is Tu Tou, or Sichuan rabbit head. Sichuan cuisine is notorious for its use of chilies that numb your tongue and lips, and this dish is no exception. For this Chinese food, they cook a whole rabbit head in hot chili oil with Sichuan peppercorns. It’s messy and you don’t want to get the oil on your hands, so you eat it with gloves.

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Tu Tou is so spicy, they give you protective gloves so you don't get the sauce on your hands | Davidsbeenhere

It’s definitely spicy, but not overbearing. The meat is tasty, but the real flavor explosion comes when you break into the skull to eat the tongue, brain, and eyes. It may sound a bit extreme, but it’s actually very tasty. Just be prepared to not be able to feel your mouth for a while afterward!

Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancakes)

Cong you bing, a delicious Chinese food, being cooked at a roadside stand in Shanghai | Davidsbeenhere

Savory pancakes are popular in Chinese food culture, and one of my favorites is cong you bing. These pancakes are savory and crispy, and filled with fresh green scallions. They get their crispiness from being pan-fried and then baked afterward, which keeps their center soft and moist. They make for a great breakfast or street food snack on the go!

Enjoy a Chinese Food Feast in China

Enjoying an amazing Chinese food feast in Hangzhou, China | Davidsbeenhere

In the West, we often have a fairly narrow idea of what Chinese food is, but in reality, it’s one of the most expansive and diverse cuisines on the planet. Each regional style is different from the last. So, while these are some of my favorite Chinese dishes, they barely scratch the surface of Chinese cuisine. Book a trip to China and enjoy these amazing foods—and many others—for yourself!

NOTE: Need information about which travel documents you need for your next international trip? Check out my essential travel documents guide!

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