When first setting foot in China it’s usually the food that worries people the most. When it comes to Chinese food it’s hard to trust your instincts at the beginning. Everything is so different in appearance, smell and taste and it makes your “sensors” go crazy. Many people are brave enough to venture into this uncharted territory of flame and flavor, but if they get burned they head back to the safe borders of the kingdoms of KFC, McDonald’s and Subway. When they get back home they tell everyone there’s nothing to eat in China and that the food there is horrible, which of course could not be further from the truth.
Therefore we have compiled a list of ten common Chinese dishes you can’t go wrong with. Every time I have visitors coming to see me in China these are the dishes I make sure they try. They are all popular laowai dishes and they are all available on the app.
Kung Pao Chicken – Gongbaojiding
Probably the most famous Chinese dish in the world, this classic dish is made by stir frying diced chicken breasts, chili peppers and peanuts in a sweet-spicy sauce. Even though a generous amount of peppers is thrown into the mix, it is usually not too spicy for most people.
If you don’t like or can’t have peanuts but still want to enjoy the combination of chicken and peppers you should check out the dish Spicy Diced Chicken available in the full version.
Sweet and Sour Pork – Tangculiji
Like Kung Pao Chicken this is another classic, but it’s completely on the other side of the flavor scale. The Chinese name of this dish literally means sugar-vinegar tenderloins and no peppers are involved, which make this dish perfect for people can’t eat spicy.
Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes – Xihongshichaojidan
If you want to be extra careful the first time you dine in China, this is probably the dish to go with. It’s simple, not spicy and there are no unfamiliar ingredients. Your stomach should feel right at home.
There’s one thing you should know concerning tomatoes grown in China. Most people find them a bit bland and less tasty than the tomatoes they are used to eat back home.
Dumplings – Jiaozi
The great things about dumplings is that there are so many kinds of dumpling you are bound to find one you like. Most people prefer boiled dumplings over steamed dumplings. Some restaurants specialize in dumplings and that is the only thing on their menu. Dumpling are more common in the north of China.
Stir Fry Green Beans – Ganbiandoujiao
Another excellent dish from Sichuan Province, which is also very high on the list of dishes foreigners like. Though the main ingredient of this dish is green beans, vegetarians beware because it also contains minced pork (which you don’t have to eat).
Cucumber Salad – Pai Huanggua
Cucumber Salad is one of the most popular cold dishes. The Chinese name means smacked cucumber and it is an exact description of the preparation method – smacking a fresh cucumber into chuncks using a rolling pin. The rest of the recipe is “mix with garlic bits and soy sauce and your done”. This dish is very refreshing on a hot summer day.
Add a cucumber salad to scrambled eggs and tomatoes and you are not far from having a continental breakfast.
The Veggie Trio – Dinsanxian
This is another play it safe kind of a dish. Being a dish from the north-east part of China, its taste is much more subtle and delicate. It contains peppers but it’s usually not spicy, and since there no meat inside, only potatoes, eggplants and peppers, vegetarians can enjoy it too.
A fair warning regarding this dish and any other dish with eggplants. Eggplants can retain heat for a long time so bite them carefully. Even when they feel cold on the outside, their inside could give you serious tongue burns.
Lamb Skewers – Yangrou Chuanrs
Available in Muslim restaurants and in small street stands after dark, lamb skewers are a delicious side dish and the perfect snack to grab when you get the munchies on a long night out. Be careful because they are highly addictive and after a while it is very temping to skip the whole chewing part and feed yourself intravenously by sticking the skewer directly into you veins.
The Chinese character for skewer is very useful because it helps you spot the street vendors from a mile away.
Riverside Eggplants – Yuxiang Qiezi
Yet another delicious dish from Sichuan. This dish is the vegetarian spin-off of Riverside Pork but many meat eaters like the eggplant version better. Its rich sauce transforms a bowl of plain rice to a tasty dish by itself.
Even if you don’t like eggplant you might still want to try this dish because Riverside Eggplants simply doesn’t taste like eggplants.
Candied Sweet Potatoes – Basi Digua
Dessert is a concept the Chinese cuisine is not really familiar with. In China you simply serve every dish when it’s ready and let the clients worry about the order. As a matter of fact, the last thing to be served is usually rice, in case somebody is not full from prior and more important parts of the meal. There aren’t many sweet dishes out there, but if you still feel like having something similar to a dessert at the end of your meal Candied Sweet Potatoes is a nice dish to go with.
Because the sugar coating is hot and sticky, this dish is served along with a small bowl of water for you to deep the potatoes in. Eat it fast because after a couple of minutes it gets hard to separate the pieces.
That semi-dessert was dish number 10. I hope you find this list useful. There are more lists to come in the future.