In China , food conquers all. Eating is the national obsession, plus China’s incredible diversity of terrain and climate, coupled with millennia associated with culinary history, equals an unmatched abundance of dishes and cooking styles.
From the dim sum carts of subtropical Guangzhou to the samsa -sellers of Urumqi on the old Silk Road, it’s a distance associated with well over 2000 miles, with millions of sizzling woks in between cooking up endless regional Chinese food.
In a country with a food scene as diverse as mainland Europe, where does one start? Read on to discover just a few of the must-try tastes plus dining experiences China has in its ample larder.
Savor the particular hands-on joy of hotpot
Traditional Chinese food is often eaten communally, but hotpot ( huoguo ) takes the group fun to a new level. Diners cook their own by dunking thin slices of raw meat, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients in a table-top cauldron associated with bubbling soups. These soups might be volcanically spicy, like Chongqing’s famous sweat fest, austere such as Beijing’s sesame-and-lamb shuan yangrou , or even laced along with fresh coconut water like a version from Hainan island. Hotpot restaurants are everywhere, proof that DIY dining is for many the most popular way to eat within China.
Where to try it: Pei Jie Hotpot, Chongqing .
Learn Sichuan’s mouth-numbing secret
Over inside China’s steamy Sichuan basin, everything from noodles to tofu dishes to bullfrog are served up with an one-two flavor punch known as ” mala” – the marriage of chili heat (la) with the tingling, mouth-numbing fragrance (ma) of Sichuan pepper – the dried berries of the prickly ash tree. It’s the seriously addictive combo fundamental to meals like Chongqing hot pot and mapo tofu, and a big reason why Sichuan restaurants often rank as the most popular of many local styles in China.
Where you can try it: Chén Mápó Dòfu , Chengdu.
Eat Peking duck like an emperor
In Beijing, the best kaoya (roast duck) restaurants are usually almost molecular in their pursuit of poultry’s holy grail – that perfect union associated with lacquered bronze skin and succulent meats. Preparation is really a long process of drying, inflating, and basting before roasting over flaming fruit wood in open-fronted ovens. The final flourish is watching a chef precisely carve the particular duck into symmetrical platters of chopstick-friendly morsels, ready to be rolled in wafer-thin pancakes with julienned scallions, cucumber plus soybean sauce. Yum.
Where to try it: Dadong Roast Duck, Beijing .
Slurp upward soup dumplings in Shanghai
Biting into xiaolóngbāo and slurping out the rich consommé inside is a culinary rite of passage when visiting Shanghai . Cooked and served in bamboo steamers, these bite-size round parcels are traditionally filled with pork (sometimes crab) and a savory jelly, or aspic, which melts during cooking into a delicious soup. It’s this magic trick that sets xiaolongbao apart from other dumplings. Close cousin to the xiaolóngbāo is the shengjianbao , also soup-filled but with a thicker dough plus fried on the base for a crispy crunch.
Where to try it: Jiajia Tangbao , Shanghai in china.
Have a Hunan chili-spiked sweat-fest
Chilies are indispensable in the cuisine of Hunan province, and dishes have a habit of turning up all the flavors – salt, spice, sour, smoke – to 11. Duo lajiao (chopped pickled chilies) is the singular Hunan condiment, added liberally in order to stir-fries, stews, soup stocks, or, in the case of the province’s best-loved dish, simply dumped in a heap atop the particular steamed head of a carp. Hunan cuisine is meals that will make you beg for mercy, weep for joy, but not be able to stop eating. Just order another beer to put out the flames.
Where you can try it: Huǒgōngdiàn , Changsha.
Brunch on delectable dim amount (and tea)
The ultimate brunch feast, dim sum (also known as yum cha ) is a parade of delicious small plate dishes, both sweet and savory, which are usually consumed for breakfast or even lunch plus always along with tea. Hailing from Guangdong in southern China, the spread associated with dim amount might include barbecue-pork-filled buns ( chashabao), shrimp dumplings (shuijing xiajiao), egg custard tarts (danta) and countless other treats. It’s the perfect foods to enjoy in a group, as the more people you eat with the more meals you can try.
Where to try it: Tao Ju , Guangzhou.
Taste the exotic flavors of Yunnan state
China’s most ethnically diverse province draws around the flavors of its many minority groups – the Bai, Dai, Naxi and Yi to name just a few – along with influences from its southeast Asian neighbors, to forge a cuisine that will feels unique even amid China’s endless culinary diversity. In Yunnan you can dine on everything through edible flowers, ferns plus insects in order to rare mountain mushrooms and even fried goat cheese, all washed down with pu’er , a type of fermented tea once traded for Tibetan ponies along remote caravan trails.
Where you can try it: Shípíng Huìguǎn , Kunming .
Ride your culinary camel to the old Silk Road
For centuries within China’s northwest, camel traders crossed the particular desert sands between China, Central Asia and Europe. These trade routes furthermore facilitated the exchange associated with ingredients and cooking techniques, influencing the particular cuisine of the region. In Lanzhou , Hui Muslim chefs – the distant descendants of Arab plus Persian merchants – twirl ribbons associated with chewy wheat noodles before serving them in beef broth. Inside Urumqi, you’ll find cumin-spiced lamb, rice pilaf, oven-baked flatbreads and matang – sticky cakes made from honey, nuts, plus dried fruit.
Where to give it a try: Mazilu Beef Noodles , Lanzhou.
Find your carb nirvana in Xi’an
While grain reigns in China’s fertile south, further north it’s all about whole wheat, made into dumplings, steamed bread and best of all, noodles. The ancient walled capital of Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors , is also exactly where you’ll find some of the best rib-sticking noodle dishes. Youpo chemian is one such dish, where chewy ribbons of flat noodles are usually hand-stretched and served with Shaanxi soup paste, dark vinegar along with a splash ( po ) of hot oil ( a person ), which tops the noodles along with bean sprouts, greens and braised pork. Simply mix plus devour!
Where to try it: Tian Xia Di Yi Mian, Xi’an .
Toast your host at a Shandong banquet
Chinese food can be typically subdivided into the ‘Eight Great Cuisines’, along with Lu cooking food – the food from Shandong province – one of the most esteemed. Dishes like sweet and sour carp, braised sea cucumber plus cuttlefish roe soup lend themselves towards the banquet table and are often paired with baijiu , China’s best-loved booze distilled from grains like sorghum and used as the toast of business dinners and family gatherings. For something less potent, coastal Qingdao is the birthplace of Tsingtao, China’s most famous beer, which usually pairs wonderfully with the city’s signature stir-fried spicy clams.
Where to test it: Chengnan Wangshi, Ji’nan
Vegetarians plus vegans
While finding dishes entirely free of animal products can be a challenge inside China, the country has a 1000-year-plus tradition associated with Taoist and Buddhist philosophers who abstained from eating animals, which means you can often find vegetarian ( sushi ) restaurants near temples.
These places tend to serve ‘mock-meat’ fare made from tofu, wheat gluten, mushrooms and vegetables designed to look and taste like meat or fish dishes. This can be a rewarding foodie experience, but not necessarily appealing for vegetarians who neither crave meats nor want to be reminded of eating it. Fortunately, there are plenty of conventional vegetarian restaurants within the more international cities associated with Shanghai plus Beijing.