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China > General information > Online travel guide > Culinary experiences not to miss in China

Culinary Experiences Not to Miss 

 

African Chicken – this very un-Chinese sounding spicy dish has its roots in the Portuguese trade routes of yesteryear and can be enjoyed throughout Macau. 

 

Beggar’s Chicken (jiaohuaji) – this delicious eastern dish allegedly first came into being when a beggar who had no cooking utensils was given a chicken and ingeniously packed mud around the bird to cook it in his fire. To his surprise this method not only cooked the chicken perfectly, but also removed the feathers when the baked mud casing was cracked open. 

Beijing
duck (beijing kaoya) – crispy oven-roasted duck in wafer-thin pancakes with spring onions and plum sauce is the dish to try in the capital. 

 

Caramelized Apples (basi pinguo) – other than seasonal fresh fruit, desserts aren’t that common in Chinese restaurants and this dish of sliced apples coated in caramelized sugar makes for a wonderfully sweet change. 

 

Mapo Tofu (mapo dofu) – the spiciest tofu Szechuan has to offer.  Crossing the Bridge Noodles (guoqiaomian) – a kind of miniature one-person hotpot, this Yunnanese dish was supposedly devised by a Qing scholar’s wife in order to keep his food warm when she carried it out to his place of study, by covering it in a layer of insulating oil. 

 

Dim Sum (dian xin) – the archetypal Cantonese breakfast made up of dozens of miniature taste sensations (see The Four Major Styles, Southern, above).  Drunken Prawns (zuixia) – prawns marinated in alcohol. 

 

Dumpling Banquet (jiaozi yanhui) – a northern specialty with innumerable elaborate stuffed parcels, generally served in fine surroundings.  Fish-flavored Pork (yuxiang rousi) a spicy Szechuanese dish with sauce that supposedly imitates the taste of fish.  

 

Gongbao Chicken (gongbao jiding) – this dish of diced chicken, peanuts (or cashews), chilies and flower peppers is at its hottest and best in Szechuan, but you’ll find versions of it in restaurants throughout the country.  

 

Hotpot (huoguo) – a bowl of bubbling broth (sometimes divided into a spicy half and a vegetable stock half, known as yuan-yuang huoguo) into which you dip wafer-thin strips of meat and assorted vegetables. This is my favourite meal to eat in a group and is popular throughout the country, particularly in Chongqing and Szechuan. 

 

Stretched Noodles (lamian) – this Hui (Muslim) dish is usually prepared with beef, chili, coriander and leek or spring onion and is to be enjoyed as much for its preparation as its consumption. The noodles are made by continually stretching the dough between the fingers with a wide sweeping motion of the arms. Seconds later the noodles will be dropped in to cook and just a few minutes 

after that you’ll be tucking into them. Around the country you’ll find clean, simple canteens offering a hearty bowl of beef stretched noodle soup for under a dollar, which can’t be beat on a cold winter’s day.  

 

Sweet and Sour Fish (tangcu yu) – the contrast between the two elemental flavors of this Cantonese dish has made it popular around the world, but you need to try it in southern China to experience 

the real deal.  

 

Yangshuo Beer Fish (yangshuo pijiu yu)  – the specialty dish of this rural region, Beer Fish lives up to its name and is cooked in the local brew, Liquan, until it is so succulent it falls off the bone. 


 

 Dishes For The Fearless

 

Scorpions on sticks


A host of seemingly unpalatable foods, including cow’s blood, chicken’s feet, duck’s tongue, rat, orpion, snake and shark’s fin, are eaten in China, particularly in the south.

The reason for the
amazing diversity of food consumed is partly rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, following beliefs about balancing the various elements of the body to improve health.

Thus, dog is seen as warming in the winter, cat is cooling in summer and snake offers male virility!  

 This variety is also partly borne of necessity many of the insects consumed today were initially eaten due to famine.

The purported health benefits do little to encourage most visitors to try such dishes,
but don’t worry about mistakenly being served them – they’re fairly easy to spot even on Chinese-only menus, as they tend to be the most expensive.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are some tamer dishes to try which are still well out of the ordinary – try a green centered Thousand Year Old Egg (pidan), which has been preserved for months in straw and ash! 

Scorpions on sticks 

See also: 

Where to eat in China & How to order food
Drinks in China

 Eating and Drinking in China


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Culinary experiences not to miss in China