When travelling around China it’s important to learn about the country’s culture. One perfect way to do that is to sample some of the food on offer. Eating is a very important aspect of Chinese life and across the vast country, there are many dishes to try. Here are some of our favorites.
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Possibly one of the most well known Chinese dishes, there are many versions of Peking Duck. Duck has been served up for hundreds of years and was even prepared for the Emperor of China during the Yuan Dynasty.
A typical Peking Duck dish is served with steamed pancakes, spring onions, cucumber sticks and a sweet bean sauce. You’ll also be served a plate of crispy duck skin which is delicious dipped into the accompanying white sugar.
When visiting Beijing we recommend sampling the dish at Jing Yaa Tang, an elegant restaurant housed inside the forever-chic Opposite House hotel. Designed by internationally-recognized restaurateur Alan Yau, you’ll find a number of fares to complement the signature duck.
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Xiaolongbao is a steamed dumpling with soup at the center that comes from the eastern area of China. The Shanghai Xiaolongbao originated in Nanxiang, a scenic water town that is now known all over China for its delectable dumplings. The soup dumplings are traditionally filled with pork but can also be found with crab meat inside. They are placed in bamboo baskets and are left to steam before being served.
Eating xiaolongbao can be a bit of a trial by fire for your mouth – here’s our tip: bite off the tip first, and then suck the soup out before eating the rest of the bun. Be careful not to squirt any soup on your shirt, or worse, on one of your travel companions!
On our Gastronomic Tour of China, Fuchsia Dunlop will take you to a xiaolongbao restaurant in the chic Xintiandi district, housed in a retrofitted shikumen structure. Shikumen is a traditional Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese elements, and it’s a lovely backdrop for sipping on succulent soup dumplings.
Sichuan Hot Pot
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The pride of Sichuan province, the hot pot has a reputation for its numbing spice.
The dish involves boiling meat and vegetables in a spicy broth which contains the infamous Sichuan pepper. Not just spicy, Sichuan pepper leaves a numbing sensation on your lips and tongue. This flavor is unique to Sichuan – well-worth a try just for the sake of novelty if nothing else.
Hot pot is all about cooking the dish yourself, placing the meat and vegetables in the pot and boiling them until they are fully cooked. Part of the experience is the anticipation of the food cooking so that you can finally tuck in.
Once the food is cooked, you select a dipping sauce – we recommend trying a peanut-based sauce to help take away some of the spice.
One of the best hotpot restaurants is Huangcheng Laoma hotpot in Chengdu. So famous that First Lady Michelle Obama was taken there during her visit to Sichuan province.
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Dim Sum refers to a number of bite size dishes such as BBQ pork buns, rice noodle rolls and steamed green vegetables, all served in small steam baskets. Dim Sum is usually found in the very southern areas of China.
In Hong Kong, Dim Sum plays a part of everyday life with people gathering to eat the small dishes together in a family style situation.
Dim Sum can be cooked by steaming and frying with usually three or four small servings placed in one bamboo basket.
If there’s one place you need to visit in Hong Kong for Dim Sum then its Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin starred restaurant. Because of its popularity, queues are usually around thirty to forty minutes but the wait is worth it. Their sugar encrusted barbecue buns are worth the journey alone.
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In contrast to the noodles of Beijing and other northern provinces, the popular, typical noodles of Shaanxi are fat and irregular, having been rapidly cut off a ball of dough.
Like other dishes in Shaanxi cuisine, the noodles are heavy and robust (perfect for the long, cold winters), and served with garlic, onion, shallots, and beef or mutton.
The popularity of mutton in Shaanxi is rather unique and is owed to the large Muslim population. In Xi’an particularly, restaurants and homes feature mutton in their cooking to supplement a pork-free diet. Wandering through the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an will give you the perfect opportunity to chow down on a piping hot bowl of biangbiang noodles.
On a WildChina journey, we know all the great local spots to grab a delicious plate of authentic local cuisine. Our guide can help you order the signature dish, completely customized to your taste palate. If you’re a real foodie, we even have two gastronomic tours led by award-winning writer and Chinese food expert, Fuchsia Dunlop: the Gastronomic Tour of China and the Yunnan Gastronomic Tour.