Top 10 Popular Chinese Dishes on Foreigners’ Tables
Chinese food, considered to be the biggest cultural exchange between China and other countries, is famous for its colors, aromatic flavors and the variety of its regional cuisines and ingredients. The following ten dishes are each unique in their own way yet they all have exquisite flavors, wonderful presentations and deep cultural meanings.
No. 10 Fried Shrimps with Cashews
Compared with the heavy tastes of Spicy Tofu, this dish is relatively light. Known for being nutritious, good-looking and tasty. Fried Shrimp and Cashews is said to protect the cardio-cerebral-vascular system and prevent cardiovascular disease. The shrimp is usually soft and easily digestible and accented by the cashews.
The dish is easy to cook at home. There are two very important tips that you should follow. First, if the shrimp is a bit too hard, one can put flour inside of them to soften them up. Second, one knows when the cashews have been in long enough once they start to sink in the hot water. They should then be fried until golden yellow.
Main Ingredients: shrimp, cashews and celery.
No. 9 Chow Mein
Chow Mein is a rich source of nutrition and has many health benefits including improving digestion, anemia and immunity. Extremely popular in China and all over the world, this stir-fried noodle dish comes in many varieties. Cantonese Chow Mein is the most famous in Western countries.
In American Chinese cuisine, Chow Mein consists of noodles, meat, onions and celery. It is served as a specific dish at westernized Chinese restaurants. The East and West Coasts of the United States do have some differences in preparation of this dish. On the East Coast, Chow Mein is almost always prepared in the “Hong Kong” style and crispy. On the West Coast, Chow Mein is almost always steamed and soft.
Most restaurants in China cook this dish by deep frying the noodles; the fastest way to obtain the beautiful golden yellow noodles associated with this aromatic dish.
Main Ingredients: noodles and oil.
No. 8 Peking Duck
Now considered to be one of China’s National Foods, the Peking Duck is prized for its eloquent taste and stunning presentation. This famous dish can be found at restaurants all around Beijing. Upscale restaurants take this dish so seriously that some even have their own duck farms and use only a special kind of duck for their specific Peking Duck dish.
The Quanjude Restaurant, one of the largest roast duck restaurants in Beijing, if not the world, opened its door in 1979. Filled to capacity, Quanjude can serve as many as 5,000 meals a day. Peking Duck is famous for its thin, crispy skin, and its delectable and aromatic meat, which is highly popular among all foreigners, including foreign celebrities and leaders.
Main Ingredients: duck, pancake and greenonions.
No.7 Won Ton Soup
Won Ton Soup, called “Hun Dun” in Mandarin, is a highly welcoming dish in China. Since China is a nation of diverse ethnic groups and different cultures, each region has their own shapes for won tons. Won tons are usually boiled and served in soup, but they can also be deep-fried.
The most versatile shape for won tons is a simple right triangle. Made by folding the won ton in half and pulling together to two opposite corners, won ton’s flat profile allows it to be pan-fried like a pot sticker in addition to it being boiled or deep-fried.
Many people mix up won tons and dumplings, but there are three major differences. First, they have different starting shapes; won tons make use of a 6cm square or isosceles trapezoid base while dumplings use a 7cm diameter circular base. Second, the “skin” used for won tons is much thinner than the “skin” used for dumplings. Finally, won tons are always found in soups while dumplings are dipped in condiments and sauces.
Main Ingredients: pork, shrimp, vegetables and green onions.
No. 6 Dumplings
During the Spring Festival, Chinese families will get together and have dumpling parties. It is said that the dish was invented by Zhang Zhongjing, one of the finest Chinese physicians in history. Dumplings have a 1,800 year long history which is why it is one of the most popular traditional foods in China and extremely popular in Western countries.
They may be cooked by boiling, steaming, simmering, frying or baking.
Dumplings feature thin skin, soft stuffing, and unique shapes. Dumpling stuffings are various, including pork, beef, cabbage, carrots, and/or onions among others. Deep cultural meanings are usually associated with this dish, for example dumplings stuffed with celery is called “qin cai jiao” in Chinese, which is a homophone for the phrase that means “hard working and lots of wealth.”
Main Ingredients: meats, vegetables and flour.
No. 5 Spicy Tofu (Mapo doufu)
Spicy Tofu, known in Chinese as “mapo doufu”, is one of the most famous dishes from Sichuan cuisine. The dish features the trademark “hot” spiciness along with the characteristically tongue-numbing nature of Sichuan’s flavorful food.
Spicy Tofu can be found in restaurants all over China, as well as in South Korea and Japan, where the flavors are adapted to local tastes. The Japanese style still retains the “spiciness”, even though spicy is not the preferred taste in Japanese cuisine, and is coupled with Japanese rice.
Main Ingredients: tofu (Bean Curd) and beef.
No.4 Egg-fried Rice
Originally from China’s ancient western regions, egg-fried rice has now become part of Chinese people’s daily cuisine. Famous for its aromatic smells, soft textures and handsome presentation, one can easily find this popular dish anywhere in China, from high class hotels to family-run restaurants on the street.
While it is fairly easy to make, there are some points that should be kept in mind: use left-over rice rather than newly-cooked rice for better taste. Additionally, before frying, the rice should be churned up.
Main Ingredients: rice, eggs and oil.
No. 3 Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are an appetizer, eaten either fresh or fried.They are usually eaten during the Spring Festival in China, hence the name. The dish bears very auspicious meanings as it resembles gold bars and people tend to link them with ideas of wealth. Of course, they also taste good.
Main Ingredients: flour, pork, vegetables and oil.
No. 2 Kung Pao (Gong Bao) Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken is the most famous dish of Guizhou cuisine. It is popular among both Chinese and foreigners. Ask a foreigner to name some of Chinese dishes, Kung Pao Chicken will be one of them.
The dish is named after Ding Baozhen, a late Qing Dynasty official. Born in Guizhou, Ding served as the head of Shandong province and later as the governor of Sichuan province. His title, Gong Bao, or palatial guardian, is where the name Kung Pao Chicken derives.
Main Ingredients: chicken, dry red peppers and peanuts.
No. 1 Sweet and Sour Pork
Sweet and Sour Pork is a Chinese dish that is particularly popular in Cantonese cuisine and can also be found in Zhejiang cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, and Shandong cuisine. The dish is now popular all over the world. With its great look and taste, Sweet and Sour Pork takes the cake among foreigners’ favorite Chinese dishes.
Main Ingredients: pork tenderloin, soy sauce, ketchup, salt, vinegar, bell pepper and onion.