Chinese food-these two words evoke in our minds delicious and mouth watering cravings for chilli chicken, chow mien and fried rice. However Chinese cuisine extends beyond these familiar and well-loved dishes to include many delectable and yummy treats that we are not aware of. It is one of the most popular and well-known cuisines all over the world. Evolving over time and dynasties through thousands of years, it boasts of one of the richest and most diverse culinary heritages in the world. Chinese cooking, considered an intricate art in itself, is a part of China’s profound and rich culture. It appeals to today’s health-conscious generation as it incorporates fresh, seasonal ingredients and involves minimum fuss in most of the dishes. Courses are beautifully balanced in terms of colour, texture and presentation. So take a look at these top ten delectable and scrumptious Chinese dishes and don’t forget to order them the next time you are having Chinese. Indulge your taste buds and your tummy while having a great Chinese culinary experience. Bon appetit!
10. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao or Gong Bao chicken, as it is known, is a spicy Chinese stir-fry dish of chicken, peanuts, chilli peppers and vegetables. Named after a Qing dynasty official, it has its origins in the Sichuan province of South-western China and is basically a Szechuan dish. Hugely popular in Westernized Chinese cuisine along with the Szechuan chicken, this dish is easily prepared by mixing diced chicken with a prepared marinade. The mixture is then stir fried on a wok containing chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, vegetables and fried golden brown peanuts. The complexity of the sauce with its savoury, tangy and spicy flavour is remarkable and makes this dish a favourite with the Chinese as well as people from other countries. Those with a preference for spices will absolutely heart this dish. The addition of Sichuan peppercorns imbibes in this authentic dish, its distinctive hot and numbing flavour. These peppercorns, a typical element of Sichuan cooking, are thus the most important component of this popular dish. However in the Americanized version of this dish, Sichuan peppers were excluded due to an import ban.
9. Fried Rice
A common and popular dish with people all over the world, fried rice consists of stir-fried rice mixed with vegetables, eggs, and meat and other seasonings according to one’s choice. Traditionally prepared by Chinese housewives using leftovers, this dish is simple and easy to make. It is not prep-heavy and all you need to do is toss some steamed rice, chopped veggies, spring onions and soy sauce over a flame and voila!..your scrumptious fried rice is ready to be dug in.
8. Hot and Sour Soup
Boiled over a slow fire for hours, this Szechuan dish is a broth consisting of meat, tiger lily buds, wood-ear fungus, bamboo shoots, tofu, pepper and vinegar. It was considered as a healing tonic by ancient doctors because it incorporated the goodness of savoury chicken broth and the antiseptic properties of vinegar. The spiciness is lent to the soup by ground white or red pepper. It is soothing for those with a cold as it is hot and spicy and also delicious. So cold or no cold, slurp away to your heart’s content and enjoy warming up with this yummy dish.
7. Spring Rolls
A classic popular Chinese dish enjoyed by everyone, these filling appetizers were traditionally served during the Spring Festival in China and thus the name ‘spring rolls’. The traditional bite-sized savouries have a light, smooth, crisp and crackly skin and are filled with meat and crisp, tender vegetables from the harvest. They are deep fried, cut up and then served with a sweet and spicy sauce and gratings of fresh veggies. They are absolutely delicious to eat and a favourite with children.
6. Chow Mein
Chow mien, a distortion of the Chinese word ‘chao mian’, are stir fried noodles cooked with meat, eggs, vegetables and other seasonal ingredients. It is one of the most popular Chinese dishes all over the world and other countries have developed their own styles of preparing this much known and well loved dish. Chow mein can be steamed or crispy consisting of noodles, meat, onion or celery. This dish is a staple on the menu of Chinese restaurants all over the globe and is also sold as a fast food made quickly by roadside vendors.
5. Moo Shu Pork
A northern Chinese dish and a staple in American Chinese cuisine, moo shu pork traditionally consists of scrambled eggs and sliced or shredded pork chop meat stir fried with thinly sliced wood ear mushrooms, tiger lily buds and bamboo shoots. This delicious dish is cooked in peanut or sesame oil and served with sweet Hoisin sauce along with garnishing of scallions, soy sauce and minced ginger and garlic. In the American Chinese style of cooking, moo shu pork is often served in bao bing-thin tortilla-like wrappers made of flour. These servings are also known as ‘Mandarin pancakes’ or ‘moo shu pancakes’.
4. Duck Wonton Soup
Duck Wonton Soup consists of roasted duck pieces mixed in a delicious broth of thin mi wonton noodles and dumplings. It has a delicate and complex range of tastes. The roasted duck is used as topping on the soup which is made of chicken or beef stock. The dumplings are sesame-scented and filled with shrimp, scallions, ground pork, onions, eggs and black pepper. Delicious and substantial, this dish is served with garnishing of bok choy, fried shallots, sliced onions and chopped scallions and involves some heavy duty slurping.
3. Chop suey
Pronounced ‘tsa sui’ in Mandarin, Chop suey meaning ‘mixed small pieces’ has its origins in the countryside of southern China. It was traditionally made by combining together leftover vegetables, meat and noodles and stir frying them. Chop suey is a popular dish in the American Chinese cuisine and consists of meat and eggs cooked in a jiffy with vegetables like bean sprouts, celery, bamboo shoots and cabbage and bound together by delicious gravy. This mouth watering dish is served with steamed rice or stir-fried noodles with a fried egg on top. It is a substantial and filling stew and can be a great comfort food for all those break-ups and broken hearts.
2. Dim Sum
Literally meaning ‘to touch your heart’, dim sums are an assortment of bite sized small savouries consisting of varieties of dumplings, wontons, buns and cakes. Dim sum is associated with Chinese tradition of drinking tea known as ‘yum cha’. Serving dim sums along with tea is a charming custom in tea-houses across China ever since the advent of Silk Road in ancient times. Most of the dim sums are either steamed or fried. Some of the steamed delicacies are steamed pork spareribs, steamed buns with roast pork and shrimp dumplings. Fried treats include mini spring rolls and taro dumplings. These small and delectable appetizers justify their name and can literally touch one’s heart with their succulent and mouth-watering complex tastes.
1. Peking Roast Duck
Peking Roast Duck is considered the national dish of China, having been prepared since the imperial era. According to a Chinese saying, no visit to Beijing is complete without seeing the Great Wall of China or having this succulent and authentic Chinese dish. This famous dish is known for the crisp, thin duck skin which is served with a dipping sauce in the first course. The meat is later eaten with scallion, pancakes, hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce. The meat is also used to make a broth that is served with rice at the end of the meal. It is a prep-heavy dish and ducks are specially bred for this dish. They also need to seasoned and glazed before being roasted in an oven. Peking roast duck is best enjoyed with pancakes, plum sauce and small sliced spring onions.