Taste the local delicacies, feast on a Chinese banquet and snack on street food. It’s the only way to eat in China.
Rich and flavoursome, Chinese cuisine is a favourite of many all over the world. If you’re a fan, then the most authentic Chinese food experience can really only be had in its country of origin.
Here, different regions of the country serve up different versions of the same dishes. The food is cooked fresh, fast and in a way that appeases the local tastebuds.
Some dishes may seem familiar to you like stir fries, fried rice and dumplings, though others may be a little more unique, such as fried pigeon or snake soup. Whether you’re feeling adventurous or you’re simply seeking something addictively good, these dishes will hit the spot.
Top 5 must-eats in China
Sweet and sour pork
And to drink?
Being such a vast country that features a variety of climates, different parts of the nation boast different traditional cuisines. Here’s a snapshot of what you can find in each:
The mountainous region of northern China features rich meaty dishes. Examples include Peking duck in Beijing, beef and dairy in Mongolia, seafood in Shandong and flatbreads in the Muslim northwest region. Dumplings and congee are popular breakfast dishes. Vegetables aren’t as plentiful due to the climate.
Hot and spicy is the name of the game in central China. Chilis and peppers are often used to flavour dishes, which include kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, Sichuan hotpot and dan dan noodles.
Southern China is a small and minor region where the food tends to take on a more sour palate. Ingredients are often pickled due to the fact that the south was a poorer area in previous dynasties, where pickling was a popular means of food preservation. As such, the cuisine in southern China is less extravagant, with rice being a staple of many dishes.
Similar to northern Chinese cuisine, western Chinese dishes are heavy on the meats and lighter on the vegetables. As this region borders numerous Muslim countries, the cuisine takes on a similar style with lamb being a common ingredient due to it being halal.
Eastern Chinese food is light and sweet, making it one of the more favoured cuisines for western tastebuds. Examples include dumplings, pickles and soups, with seafood being the hero of many dishes due to the region’s proximity to the coast. Dishes include fish ball soup, sweet and sour mandarin fish and shark fin soup.
Etiquette and food safety
China is a proud and traditional nation and while you may be excused for poor etiquette, you should still try to respect it. Here are a few pointers for the banquet table:
All dishes on the table. It’s common courtesy to not start eating until everyone has been served their meal.
Respect your elders. Traditionally, the first person to eat should be the eldest at the table. Once he or she has started their meal, everyone else is free to join in.
Don’t poke your chopsticks into your food. This is considered a sign of death and is bad luck.
When it comes to food safety and hygiene, China is a country where you should not drink water from the tap. Instead you can purchase bottled water from the shop or drink hot tea when dining out. Also try to avoid fresh salads as they’re likely to be washed in tap water.
Food and drink tours in China
A great way to learn about the local cuisine and to discover the best restaurants for later is through an organised food tour. These are some of the best to wrap your tastebuds around:
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