25 Traditional Chinese Dishes
No more takeaways for you.
From delicate Cantonese classics to traditional dumplings, from stir-fried vegetables to simple Chinese noodles, Chinese cuisine is as vast and varied as the country itself. Chinese food includes style, culture and etiquette originating from every region of China. So, it is bound to trump all others when it comes to an exotic evening of culinary enjoyment. Whip up authentic and speedy soupy noodles or try your hand at traditional braised beef. Prepare a hearty hotpot, create elegant Xiao Long Baos or put together a sumptuous Sichuan banquet for friends and family with these Chinese recipes from Asian Inspirations. We have both quick and easy recipes and also more challenging ones for the more adventurous.
1. Lip-smacking cumin spiced lamb skewers
These Xinjiang skewers are like kebabs on steroids. The spicy kick comes from a cumin and chilli rub, but you can add ground Sichuan peppercorns for extra heat. Perfect for your next summer barbecue.
2. Deliciously braised e-fu noodles
This noodle dish symbolises longevity and is traditionally served at Chinese New Year and on birthdays. Long noodles, long life, geddit? You can't use regular egg noodles for this, so hunt down a packet of e-fu noodles at a Chinese supermarket.
3. A yummy breakfast bowl of congee
Simple, savoury congee (or juk) is standard Chinese breakfast fare. You cook rice and water into a thick porridge, but the real magic happens when you add your toppings and seasonings. Try shredded chicken, fried onions and sliced spring onions topped with dark soy sauce.
4. Veggie favourite Buddha's Delight (luo han zai)
This dish of tenderly braised vegetables and mushrooms is traditional vegetarian fare for Buddhist monks. The ingredients list might sound intimidating, but most Chinese supermarkets will stock everything you need.
5. Crispy and crunchy sweet and sour pork
Don't settle for the claggy, oversweetened pork you get from your takeaway. Make your own sauce from ketchup, plum sauce, Chinese rice vinegar, oyster sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Sounds weird, but it works.
6. Tongue-scorching mapo tofu
This dish is one of the most popular Sichuanese dishes around, featuring fiery ground peppercorns and dried red chillies. Ground pork adds a meaty heft to the tofu, but vegetarians can substitute with finely chopped shiitake mushrooms. There is also a recipe with veggie option.
7. A refreshing bowl of mango pudding
A light, gelatin-based dessert is the perfect counterpart to a heavy Chinese meal. Add some coconut or condensed milk for a little flourish.
8. Tasty kung pao chicken
You might think this is one of those Westernised Asian dishes dreamed up by clueless foreigners, but kung pao chicken is legit: It was even declared the official dish of the Beijing Olympics. The key is using Sichuan peppercorns – regular pepper won't cut it.
9. A comforting bowl of steamed egg custard
This silky, savoury egg flan is simple home cooking at its best. A mixture of eggs and water is steamed over high heat and garnished with sesame oil, spring onions, and soy sauce.
10. A plate of golden spring rolls
Wrapping egg rolls takes some practice, but once you've nailed the technique you can make a big batch and store them in the freezer for later. There also a recipe with a veggie option.
11. Hearty beef stir-fry with broccoli
Tough, chewy strips of beef are the worst. Go for beef fillet, slice it thinly and don't overcook it. The inside should be left a little pink.
12. Bite-sized pork belly buns (gua bao)
Tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly enveloped by fluffy soft dough. The best part is you can stuff one in your mouth while holding another in your hand. Or is that just me?
13. Mouth-watering egg fried rice
Does your egg fried rice turn out too wet and soggy? The secret is to use cold leftover rice in a super hot wok. Make sure you allow the egg to partially cook in the pan before you mix it in, too.
14. Homecooked mui choy with pork belly
This traditional Hakka dish is packed with umami, thanks to salted mustard greens (mui choy) and tender pork belly.
15. A soothing bowl of wonton soup
Wontons are simpler than they look: just buy the wonton skins (or wrappers) from your nearest Asian supermarket. Boil them in a simple soy-based broth, add in whatever you want (noodles, veg or even an egg) and you've got yourself dinner.
16. A tray of buttery egg tarts
These pastry bowls of custard goodness came to Hong Kong from nearby Macau, back when it was a Portuguese colony. The Macau version of the tart has a burnt caramelised glaze, but the Cantonese version has a silken, eggy texture.
17. A simple bowl of zha jiang mian
Springy wheat noodles are topped with pork mince cooked in a dark, umami-ish fried soybean paste. Voila: Beijing's answer to spaghetti bolognese.
18. Crispy spring onion pancakes
This crispy, fried treat is sold by street food vendors in China and Taiwan – think an Asian version of paratha (with extra spring onions) and you're not far off.
19. Claypot rice with lap cheong (preserved sausage)
Lap cheong is a reddish smoked sausage flavoured with Chinese wine and soy sauce. During cooking, the pockets of fat in the meat melt and coat everything in mouth-watering, greasy goodness. Slice and cook it on top of rice in a rice cooker or clay pot (a heavy-bottomed pot will do too).
20. A platter of dumplings (jiaozi)
You can put mushrooms, shrimp, ground pork, chopped cabbage and pretty much anything you want into dumplings. They're also one of the most versatile Chinese snacks around – they're equally delicious boiled, steamed or pan fried. There are meat-based recipe and a veggie version.
21. Perfectly poached drunken chicken
OK, so pasty off-white poultry never looks good in photos. But I have four words for you: Chicken marinated in wine. WINE. This Shanghainese dish turns simple poached meat into a boozy chicken dinner.
22. A steaming bowl of hot and sour soup
This tangy soup is made from broth, Chinkiang vinegar, Chinese wine, and lots of white pepper. You can beef it up with cubed tofu, dried mushrooms or bamboo shoots.
23. Delicately steamed sea bass
Fish heads aren't the prettiest, but serving fish whole is the traditional way of presenting this Chinese dish. Steam the freshest fish you can find with ginger and soy – this is health food at its best.
24. Sticky-sweet char sui pork
King of all roast meats, hands down. The trick in the marinade, which mixes soy sauce, hoisin sauce, five spice powder, honey, and Chinese rice wine into a caramelised coating. If it's crispy pork belly (siu yuk) you're after, check out this recipe.
25. Aromatic marbled tea eggs
These delicious eggs are boiled in a heady broth of soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, and black tea. Try adding one to your instant ramen or noodle salad for a protein boost.