Culinary Highlights of China

When it comes to food, China is probably one of the most adventurous countries you could imagine. In the Land of Dragons, you can dig not only into traditional dumplings called baozi/ jiaozi or famous noodles, but also such dishes as grilled chicks, chicken and duck feet, snails or even dog meat. Would you ever consider them edible in your home country? I don’t think so!

There are two types of food available in China:

Street Food and Traditional Chinese food.


The real Chinese street food is extremely ghetto, cheap and perhaps a bit dirty, but this is what you should expect when visiting China and eating from street vendors. Eating street food in China on the cheap is more of an experience than just a meal. The options are seemingly endless – from stuffed buns called baozi steamed in a tray, tea eggs (eggs hard boiled in green tea and soy sauce), delicious and old-school qiang bing (lightly salted dough with chopped spring onions) to perfectly seasoned lamb kebabs, noodles and Taiwan shouzhua bing (Taiwanese pancake stuffed with eggs, ham, bacon, cheese and de-boned chicken drumsticks).

Traditional Chinese food is mostly available at pricey restaurants and hotel buffets. It is mainly characterized by its unexpected taste and aroma and perfect combination of herbs and spices. Every province has its typical dishes you can’t afford to miss them once you travel around various cities and towns across China.

Best Street Food Choices

From simple porridge and congee meals to sophisticated scorpion and snake dishes, Chinese street food has it all. There are plenty of night food markets placed all over big and small cities in China where you can taste starfish, testicles, snake, scorpions and many more interesting foods on kebab sticks to satisfy anyone’s curiosity for the first time. Here are top Chinese street foods you should definitely try when you are in China:

Snake meat

Spicy snake meat – it’s very delicious and soft and tastes like perfectly grilled fish.

A snail

Baked snails – they are served in shell and taste like a minced beef. Many Chinese order them with some local beer and spicy tomato sauce. The best snails are served in one of the most picturesque places in China –  Guilin, Guangxi Province.

Duck feet – served mainly in Hunan and Chongqing province known for spicy food. They are served as a beer snack and usually deep fried, then steamed before being stewed.


Grilled chicks – vacuum-packed snack often eaten in local trains and buses. They are salt-baked or grilled. You might go for a spicy version or the mild one if it does not disgust you.

Fried tofu – the smell of it can linger everywhere, but it’s extremely soft and delicious. Tofu is mostly basted with spicy herbs and spices and topped with sesame oil.


You tiao – deep fried bread sticks sold as one of breakfast options early in the morning. They are made of dough and served hot as an accompaniment for rice congee or soy milk.


Sweet potatoes – baked in a huge barrel in the street, extremely soft and dry so make sure you get them with soy milk or tea.

Best traditional Chinese food

Are you curious to know what real, traditional Chinese food looks like? This isn’t that imitation Chinese you get from the 24-hour buffet around the corner from your apartment. Here are top traditional dishes you should definitely try when visiting China:

Hot Pot – a traditional dish of Chongqing province. You can just imagine that there is a pot of stock placed in the centre of the table (if you’re in a more upmarket restaurant you’ll have your own) and you can add some ingredients into it such as vegetables, meat, mushrooms and tofu, which will be cooked before your very eyes. Watch out if eating with Chinese colleagues however, as they will fill your pot or pile your plate with lots of cooked food.

Peking duck – a highlight of Chinese cuisine, very famous not only in Beijing but also in other provinces all over China. The duck has a thin and crisp skin and it’s served with small Mandarin pancakes, green onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce.

Baijiu – traditional Chinese spirit which appears to be like vodka but in reality tastes nothing like it. It’s nice to have it with nuts or fruits (especially dragon fruit), although many business deals are done over bottles of baijiu, you have been warned.


Baozi traditional Chinese dumplings, steamed or fried, filled with pork, beef and vegetables and served with soy-based sauce, chilli, vinegar and sesame oil.


Jiaozi – crescent-shaped dumplings (much smaller than baozi) filled with minced stuffing and steamed, boiled or fried.

Fried rice with vegetables and bean curd – a very common street food made by locals. The rice is served in bowls with meat and vegetables as toppings and adding some bean curd (processed from soybeans) on top will make it taste even better.

As you can see, China has a lot to offer when it comes to food. The more adventurous you are with local dishes, the more you can experience. Don’t be afraid of digging into snails or scorpions!

Having jiaozi for my breakfast in DongguanAgness is a full-time English teacher in Dongguan, China and a part-time blogger who stands behind eTramping – a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. She loves to indulge in Chinese dumplings, take photos of sunsets and dance on the beach. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her “Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.

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