When traveling in China, one of the best ways to experience the local culture is by sampling some of the country’s most popular dishes. From dumplings to chow mein, there are many delicious options to choose from.
You may be used to Chinese-American cuisine, but the dishes served in China are often quite different, and most of the time, even better!
Here are 30 of the most popular chinese dishes to order in China!
30 Chinese Dishes to Order in China
1. Peking Roast Duck (Běijīng kǎoyā)
Peking roast duck is one of the most popular Chinese dishes originating from Beijing and for good reason! This succulent duck dish is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, making it a real treat.
To try this delicious duck meat while in China, be sure to order it at a local restaurant. When you order, you might also find that it comes with other fixings such as julienned cucumbers and green onions with thin pancakes to eat them on.
2. Kung Pao Chicken (gōngbào jīdīng)
Kung Pao chicken is a spicy Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts or cashew nuts, and chilies. They also add other vegetables such as onions and bell peppers to the dish.
It’s a popular dish in China and can be found in most Chinese restaurants. If you’re a fan of spicy food, then this is the perfect dish for you! Just be sure to order it mild if you can’t handle too much heat.
3. Sweet and Sour Pork (tángcù lǐjǐ)
This dish is exactly what it sounds like – sweet and sour pork. It’s a popular dish in China that can be made with pork. The meat is cooked in a vinegar and sugar sauce which then turns out sticky to the touch.
Usually, in China, there aren’t any added vegetables to the dish so you can eat all the meat you want! You’ll want to ask for some rice to eat with your sweet and sour pork!
4. Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (tángcù paigu)
Just like the dish mentioned above, sweet and sour pork ribs is another popular dish in China and will most likely be found in restaurants rather than homes.
The preparation for tangcu pai gu is very difficult as the dish needs to maintain high heat without burning the ribs, but also hot enough to create a delicious, crispy skin.
When you’re out in a highly rated restaurant in China, see if this dish is offered on the menu!
5. Char Siu (chāshāo)
Char Siu is a popular Cantonese dish in China made with pork marinated in spices to create a sweet flavor.
The pork is then roasted or barbecued on a skewer until it is nice and tender. Char Siu can be served as a main dish or as an ingredient in other dishes like rice or stuffed inside a baozi.
6. Twice-Cooked Pork Slices (huíguōròu)
The dish known as twice cooked pork slices, or hui guo rou, is a popular Chinese dish that is made with pork mixed into cabbage. The pork is first boiled and then stir-fried with vegetables, making it twice-cooked.
Hui guo rou is often served with chilies and Sichuan pepper and white rice on the side.
7. Beef Sandwich (ròu jía mò)
Rou jia mo is a popular Chinese snack that is made of beef and bread. It can be served with green onions and spices, but is generally delicious with just the meat and bread.
Rou jia mo is a delicious and hearty dish that is perfect for satisfying hunger. When traveling in China, be on the lookout for roujia mo being sold by street vendors.
8. Squirrel Fish (sōngshǔ yú)
Although very weirdly named, squirrel fish, or sōngshǔ yú, is a very delcious and popular Chinese dish! It is very difficult to make at home, so you’ll see most people ordering this dish in restaurants.
Squirrel fish is a whole fish that is filleted, fried, and then smothered in a red sweet and sour sauce all over.
Squirrel fish will often be found during special occasions like weddings or birthday celebrations.
9. Hot Pot (Huǒguō)
Hot pot is more of an experience than a special type of dish in China. You’ll usually want to go with a group of friends and order a pot to be set in the middle of the table. You can then choose your broth (we usually went half spicy and half non-spicy).
Then everyone can add their favorites into the pot which includes everything from beef, pork, chicken, or seafood to mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, or more vegetables.
When all of the food is cooked in the boiling pot of soup and spices, then you can take out your food and eat it with various dipping sauces.
Chinese hot pot is a fun dish to eat with friends and family, and is perfect for wintertime!
10. Lotus and Rib Soup
Lotus and rib soup is a popular Chinese dish that is made with lotus root and pork ribs. The lotus root is sliced into thin strips and then boiled in a broth until they are cooked through. The pork ribs are boiled in the broth until they are cooked through.
The dish is often served with rice or noodles and is flavored with salt, soy sauce, and Chinese Five-Spice powder. You can also add chili or Sichuan pepper to taste.
11. Wanton Soup (húndùn)
Hun dun, or wonton soup, is a very popular and delicious Chinese dish is made with wontons and vegetables, usually bok choy. The wontons are made with pork, shrimp, and chives, and are boiled in a broth until they are cooked through.
You can add your own chilies and Sichuan pepper to the soup to taste. It can be found in most restaurants, but not usually as street food!
12. Dim Sum (diǎnxin)
Dim sum is a Cantonese dish originating from the city of Guangzhou consisting of small bite-sized portions of food served in steamer baskets or on small plates.
There are many different types of dim sum available, from dumplings and buns to cakes and pastries, so there’s sure to be something to everyone’s taste.
When in China, be sure to order some dim sum for breakfast or lunch with tea – you won’t regret it!
13. Dumplings (jiǎozi)
Dumplings are a popular dish in China and can be found at most restaurants and most definiltely by vendors on the street. They’re made with dough and filled with meat, vegetables, and spices.
There are many different types of dumplings, but the most popular ones are pork and chive dumplings.
Jiaozi are usually boiled or steamed, and eaten with a dipping sauce. My personal favorite though is having them fried!
14. Small Soup Dumplings (xiǎolóngbāo)
Small soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, are the opposite of wanton soup. Instead of the broth being outside the dumplings, they are prepared with congealed broth on the inside and steamed to melt and cook.
The inside is usually filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. You will usually find them steaming in several layers of bamboo or metal pans. The best ones are always with vendors on the street or in a local neighborhood!
Make sure to take caution when you take a bite as the soup inside may burn your tongue!
15. Steamed Buns (bāozi)
Baozi is another type of steamed bun that is popular in China. They are made with a thicker or breadier dough, making the bun turn out fluffy and soft. You can have baozi sweet or savory.
The sweet baozi are filled with either red bean paste or egg custard. My favorite though is to get 2 meat filled baozi for breakfast for less than $1! You might find some with sweet pork or just pork with cabbage or onions.
You will usually find a store vendor that primarily sells baozi. They steam these bao buns in very large stacks of bamboo trays as this is a staple food in China.
16. Fried Rice (chǎofàn)
One of my favorite dishes to order while in China is fried rice, or chow fan. Fried rice is a dish that is made with cooked white rice, vegetables, and a soy sauce-based sauce. It can be served as a main dish or as an appetizer.
Fried rice is also affordable and can be found at most restaurants in China. Usually the street vendors who make chow mein, will also have chow fan on hand!
17. Fried Noodles (chǎomiàn)
Even better than chow fan is fried noodles, or chow mein. This is a popular dish in China that is made with noodles and vegetables. The noodles are stir-fried with vegetables and a soy sauce-based sauce.
The dish can be served either as a main dish or as an appetizer. It is usually quite affordable and can be found at most restaurants in China or found as street food.
If you purchase chow mein from a street vendor, you’ll see them fry it in front of you–some may even ask if you want an egg to go with it!
18. Lanzhou Hand-Pulled Noodles (lanzhou là miàn)
Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, or lanzhou la mian, are a popular dish in China that is made with wheat flour dough. The dough is stretched and pulled until it becomes thin strands of noodles.
The noodles are then boiled in a broth until they are cooked through. The dish is often served with green vegetables and beef slices. You can also add chili or Sichuan pepper to taste.
You can find lanzhou la mian at most restaurants in China, but it is especially popular with the Muslim community in China.
19. Fried Sauce Noodles (Zha Jiang miàn)
Zha jiang mian is a popular Chinese dish which is strongly tied to Beijing. Zha jiang mian are fried noodles and a sauce made of pork and a sweet bean sauce. The sauce is thick and flavorful, and pairs well with the crispy noodles.
You can find these noodles all over the street vendors or in most restaurants.
20. Biang Biang Miàn
Biang biang noodles are a specialty of Shaanxi Province, and are known for their thick and chewy texture. The noodles are made from flour, water, and egg, and are served with a variety of toppings, including pork, beef, vegetables, and chilies.
Biang biang noodles are a hearty and filling dish, and are perfect for a meal or snack. When traveling in China, be sure to try biang biang mian!
Fun fact: This noodle dish is also known as yóu pō chě miàn. The Chinese characters for biang biang mian are so complex, that it needed another name to make it easier to spell out!
21. Hot Dry Noodles (re gan miàn)
Hot dry noodles, or re gan mian, is found mostly in the Hubei province of China. The dish is made of wheat flour noodles that are boiled and then stir-fried with chili peppers, thus getting it’s name “hot.”
The noodles are served dry, or without soup, and are typically very spicy and has a very peanuty taste, making it very popular with the Westerners. You can find this in most restaurants in southern China and also as street food.
22. Ma Po Tofu (Mápó dòufǔ)
Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish that is made with tofu and minced meat. The tofu is cooked in a spicy, oily sauce made with chilies and Sichuan pepper.
This is one dish that may make your mouth go numb from the spice levels! Although tofu is the only ingredient in the title, don’t mistake it for a vegetarian dish!
23. Home Style Tofu (Jia Chang dòufǔ)
Home Style tofu is my personal favorite of all the tofu dishes found in China. I have never really enjoyed tofu before this dish!
The tofu is fried to a crisp then cooked with other vegetables like bell peppers and carrots, and topped with a light, non-spicy red sauce. You can find this dish in most restaurants, but each on will have a different take on it!
24. Stinky Tofu (Chou dòufǔ)
Stinky tofu is a controversial dish in China, made with fermented tofu. The tofu is then deep-fried and often served with chilies and Sichuan pepper.
The dish gets its name from the pungent smell that it emits. Many people either love or hate the smell of stinky tofu, and aren’t able to move past that to tasted the dish.
Stinky tofu is definitely something that you should try if you are brave enough to move past the smell (I definitely wasn’t!).
25. Fried Eggs and Tomato (fànxǐe jīdàn)
The dish known as fried eggs and tomato, or fanxie jidan. The eggs are fried in a pan until they are cooked through, and then the tomatoes are added to the pan and cooked until they are soft. This dish is usually served with white rice or noodles.
Note: Although this dish sounds so simple, it is absolutely delicious and I still haven’t figured out how to make it taste the same at home!
26. Fried Lotus
Fried lotus is a dish that is made with the lotus root. The lotus root is sliced into thin strips and then battered and fried. Sometimes you’ll find red peppers, Sichuan numbing peppers, and sugar added into the fried lotus.
This fried lotus can be compared to getting a side of fries with a meal. Fried lotus can be found in most restaurants in China.
Just a warning, when you first bit into lotus for the first time, you might be surprised to find that you have a feeling of eating hair. This is normal as lotus root has a stringy substance that pulls away once you bite into it!
27. 3 Treasures (di san xian)
Di san xian, literally translated as 3 treasures, is a popular Chinese vegetable dish made of eggplant, green peppers, and potatoes. The vegetables are fried and then cooked in a savory sauce. This dish is hearty and flavorful, and is perfect for satisfying hunger.
You can find 3 treaures in most restaurants and they usually don’t stray very far from eggplant, green peppers, and potatoes.
28. Shredded Potatoes (Tu Dou Si)
Tu dousi is a popular Chinese dish that originaged from the Sichuan province and is made of thinly shredded potatoes. The potatoes are stir-fried with similarly cut carrots and spring onions with added white vinegar.
This dish is simple, but is flavorful and filling. You can eat the shredded potatoes with other dishes or by itself; sometimes having it cold is even better.
29. Chinese Cucumber Salad (Pai Huang Gua)
Pai huang gua is a popular Chinese dish that is made of smashed cucumbers. After smashing the cucumbers, it is then mixed with a vareity o spices including vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
This dish is light and refreshing, and is perfect for a summer meal as you eat the cucumbers cold.
30. Scallion Pancakes
Chinese scallion pancakes are thin and crispy with scallions mixed into the dough. They are fried so the outside is crispy while the inside is soft and chewy – not very similar to the fluffy pancakes you may be picturing!
They can be served along side another dish or you can purchase them as street food for a snack. There may even be some restaurants that will cook an egg and add a sweet sauce to this pancake and turn it into a delicious wrap.
Chinese Foods You Won’t Find in China
General Tso’s Chicken
General Tso’s chicken is a popular Chinese dish that is made with breaded, fried chicken that is then tossed in a sweet and sour sauce. The dish is heavily battered and coated in sugar, making it a favorite among those who enjoy sweet and savory flavors.
While the dish is popular in America, it’s typically not found in China. It sounds pretty similar to the sweet and sour pork listed in this post, but the taste will be different.
Beef and Broccoli
Chinese cuisine doesn’t usually have broccoli as an ingredient, so you may not find this delicious dish in China. But beef and broccoli is a popular dish in America.
This dish is made with strips of beef that are stir-fried with broccoli and a savory sauce. You may find beef and broccoli in an authentic Chinese restaurant in America though!
Chop suey is a Chinese-American dish where vegetables and a variety of meats are stir-fried together. It is usually served over rice or noodles, and can be very greasy and heavy.
While chop suey is popular in America and was an adaption from the Chinese people, it’s not a dish that is commonly found in China.
Crab Rangoon Wantons
Crab rangoon wontons are a type of dumpling that is popular in America, but not so much in China. These wontons are made with crab meat and cream cheese inside a wonton wrapper, and are usually fried and dipped in a sweet and sour sauce.
As you are traveling around in China, just keep in mind that you won’t find this delicious dish on the menu!
Egg rolls are a popular appetizer in America, but they aren’t typically found in China. These rolls are made with an egg wrapper that is filled with a variety of ingredients including pork, shrimp, and vegetables. They are then deep-fried and served with a sweet and sour sauce.
You may find egg rolls in a toursity area, but if you are in a more local area, egg rolls may not be on the menu!
Spring rolls originated from southeast Asia, made with fresh ingredients such as cucumbers, carrots, and cilantro with a type of meat.
The spring roll wrapper is rice based so it’s not typically cooked, but dipped in warm water to be more malleable.
Although spring rolls do have an Asian origin, you most likley will not find them on a Chinese menu.
Egg Drop Soup
Egg drop soup is made with beaten eggs that are slowly stirred into boiling hot broth. The eggs cook and form thin strands, resulting in a light and tasty soup.
This soup is usually garnished with chives, scallions or chilies for added flavor. Although you may find egg drop soup in Chinese-American restaurants, you might have a hard time seeing it on the menus in China.
Fortune cookies are a popular American dessert that is not typically found in China. These cookies are made with a thin cookie dough that is wrapped around a piece of paper with a prediction or fortune inside.
While fortune cookies are tied to the Chinese culture, they actually have closer ties to Japan and America.
How much Does Food Cost in China
When traveling in China, it’s important to note that the cost of food will vary depending on the area you are visiting. In general, food is relatively affordable and you can find many restaurants that offer a wide variety of dishes for under $10.
Street food is also a great option if you’re looking for cheap and tasty eats! You’ll find that street food is even less than it’s cost in the restaurant, and tastes just as good!
Helpful Chinese Food Phrases
Here are a few helpful Chinese food phrases to help you when ordering in an authentic Chinese restaurant:
- rou (row) – meat, usually pork
- ji rou (gee row) – chicken
- ju rou (jew row) – pork
- niu rou (neo row) – beef
- mifan (mee-fun) – white rice
- mian (mee-an) – noodle(s)
- shu cai (shoe xhai) – vegetables
- shui (shou-ay) – water
- re/bing (rur/bing) – hot/cold
- he shui (hur shway) – drink water
- chi mifan (cher mee-fun) – eat rice
- yao – I would like/I want
- duo shao qian? (dwuo shao chien) – how much is it?
- mai dan (my dun) – check please
- ji ge ren? (gee guh wren) – how many people?
- # ge ren – # of people
Final Thoughts: Popular Chinese Dishes to Order in China
So there you have it, a list of 30 popular Chinese dishes that you can order while traveling in China!
Keep in mind that some of these delicious food may not be available in all areas, but hopefully this list will give you a better idea of what to expect when ordering traditional food in China.
Other posts you may be interested in:
- Top 17 Southeast Asia Foodie Destinations
- 21 Best European Foodie Cities
- 27 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling to China: Preparing for Your First trip
- The 8 Best and Worst (and Sometimes Hilarious) of my China Stories
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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources
Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.
- Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
- Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
- Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
- Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
- Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
- Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
- What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.