17 Authentic Local Chinese Dishes You Can't Miss When Visiting China

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Apr. 7, 2023

China is a country with a rich culinary tradition. There are many local dishes worth trying. The following are some of the most authentic Chinese dishes that cannot be eaten outside of China.

1. Chongqing Hot Pot

Chongqing hot pot

 Chongqing hot pot(火锅 huǒ guō)is a traditional Chinese way of eating, with a focus on the soup base. The soup base is mainly made with Sichuan peppercorns. It is known for its spicy and fragrant taste. It has a wide variety of ingredients, both meat and vegetarian, and is widely adaptable with a unique style.

Although hot pot is popular all over China when it comes to authentic spicy flavor,  hot pot in Chongqing takes the lead. Hot pot restaurants can be found everywhere in the streets and alleys of Chongqing, and the restaurants are always full no matter the season!   

2. Beijing Roasted Duck

Beijing Duck

Roast Duck(烤鸭 kǎo yā) is a world-renowned famous dish in Beijing. The dish is made with high-quality meat from the Beijing duck, roasted over fruitwood charcoal. It has a reddish color, and the meat is fatty but not greasy, with crispy skin and tender meat. when eating with thin pancakes and a special sauce, it creates a unique and delicious taste.

 The best place to eat roast duck is at the "Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant" located outside Qianmen, Hepingmen, and Wangfujing in Beijing. This restaurant was founded 130 years ago.

3. Lanzhou Beef Noodles

Lanzhou Beef Noodles

Lanzhou beef noodle(兰州拉面 lán zhōu lā miàn) is a popular clear soup beef noodle dish. You can find it everywhere in the streets and alleys,  but it actually originated in Lanzhou, Gansu Province.

The noodles are freshly made and they taste chewy.  The beef meat is tender and fragrant.

4. Hot Dry Noodles

hot dry noodles

Hot dry noodles(热干面 Rè gān miàn) are a famous snack in Wuhan.  After the noodles are cooked, they are seasoned with oil, salt, sesame paste, salad oil, and other ingredients. 

The noodles have a yellow and oily appearance, with a delicious taste. When eating hot dry noodles, it is best to have something for drinking. Otherwise, you may feel too dry to enjoy the food. 

5. Yangrou Paomo

mutton paomo

Yangrou Paomo(羊肉泡馍 yáng ròu pào mó) or lamb paomo is a very famous dish of Xi'an. It is a hot stew that consists of chopped steamed leavened flatbread cooked in lamb broth and served with lamb meat.

A large amount of baked flatbread is added to lamb soup after breaking it into small pieces. The dish is commonly served with pickled garlic and chili sauce.

6. Rou Jia Mo

Rou Jia Mo

Rou Jia Mo(肉夹馍 ròu jiā mó) is one of the characteristic foods in Xi'an, Shaanxi. It is a kind of hamburger consisting of a baked bun and meat stuffed into the bun.  The meat, usually pork, is thoroughly braised with various spices, making the meat filling soft and chewy but not greasy. 

The bread is baked to be crispy, and the meat is tender and fragrant. Rou Jia mo has a very distinctive flavor, which makes it a popular snack all over China. 

7. Chongqing Noodles

Chongqing noodles

Chongqing noodles also called Chongqing small noodles(重庆小面 chóng qìng xiǎo miàn ) is a kind of soup noodles.  The noodles are seasoned with scallion, garlic, sauce, vinegar, chili, and even beef sauce and pork ribs.  The soup base of Xiao Mian is rich and flavorful.

The noodles are a beloved snack in Chongqing. To the locals, they are even more welcomed than hot pots.   In Chongqing, all the noodles stalls on the street are packed with people in the morning. 

8. Liuzhou Snail Noodles

snail noodles

Liuzhou Snail Noodles(螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn ) is a sour and spicy dish made with chewy rice noodles, pickled bamboo shoots,  spicy chili, and a rich and moderately sour and spicy soup made from cooked snails. Other ingredients like well-braised sausage, duck feet, freshly fried peanuts, and bean curd sticks can be also added. 

Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles has a unique flavor of sourness, spiciness, and crispness. It is a  very common street snack in Guangxi province in South China. 

9. Guilin Rice Noodles

Guilin rice noodles

Guilin rice noodles (桂林米粉 guì lín mǐ fěn ) are the most famous and popular local staples. Usually, people in Guilin tend to eat it in the morning. Guilin Rice Noodles consist of fresh rice noodles, gravy, meat, and fried soybeans or peanuts.

Scallion in pieces, chili, and pickled condiments such as pickled bamboo or beans with a spicy taste is added to the rice noodles depending on people’s tastes.

10. Goubuli Steamed Buns

steamed buns

Goubuli is a brand of stuffed baozi in Tianjin. Goubuli Steamed Buns is a very famous snack in Tianjin. Goubuli has a history of over 100 years ago, which was first created in 1858.  

The freshly steamed buns have loose and fresh meat filling, which is not greasy and has a refreshing taste. In addition to the traditional pork buns, there are also more than 100 varieties, including seafood buns, wild vegetable buns, and whole crab buns.

If you have a chance to Tianjin, you must try Tianjin Goubuli buns. 

11. Pan-Fried Buns

Pan-Fried Buns

 Pan-Fried Buns (生煎包 shēng jiān bāo) are a must-eat snack in Shanghai. The most common fillings for the buns are pork and chicken. 

The buns are pan-fried until their bottoms turn golden-brown and then sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions.

They have a white, soft, and fluffy exterior, with tender and juicy meat filling and a savory broth inside. When bitten, the buns release a sesame and scallion aroma.  Pan-fried buns are best eaten hot off the pan.

12.  Chopped Chili Fish Head

Chopped Chili Fish Head

Chopped Chili Fish Head (剁椒鱼头 duòjiāoyútóu) is definitely the most famous dish in Hunan cuisine.  It is usually made with fish head and chopped chili as the main ingredients and is steamed with soy sauce, ginger, scallions, garlic, and other seasonings.

It tastes sour, spicy, fresh, and smooth. This delicious dish can be found in almost every restaurant in Hunan Province. 

13. Big Plate Chicken

Big plate chicken

 Big Plate Chicken(大盘鸡 dà pán jī)is a famous dish in Northwest China that originated from roadside restaurants in Xinjiang in the 1980s. It is mainly made by stir-frying and stewing chicken and potatoes. The dish is often served with local wide noodles.

The chicken is brightly colored and spicy, while the potatoes are soft, sweet, and moist. It is a very popular dish served in local street restaurants. 

14. Char Siu Buns

Char Siu Buns

Char Siu Buns are one of the representative traditional snacks in Cantonese cuisine. It is a flowering steamed bun with char siu pork filling. The buns are usually about five centimeters in diameter, with three or four buns in a basket.

The filling of Char Siu buns is made by cutting char siu into small pieces and adding seasoning such as oyster sauce.  A good Char Siu bun uses char siu with moderate fat and lean meat as the filling. The bun skin is soft and smooth after steaming, and slightly cracks to reveal the char siu filling, emitting a strong aroma of char siu.

15. Sour Soup Fish

sour soup fish

People in Guizhou like the sour flavor very much.  Snack Streets are filled with various types of sour soup. Sour soup fish is one of the most popular dishes in the region.

Sour soup dish is originally a delicacy of the Miao ethnic group. The soup is made with special fermented chili paste and many nutritious Chinese herbs. The cleaned live fish is then added to the pot to cook. 

The soup has a sour and fragrant taste.  If you add some soybean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and scallions as side ingredients, the flavor becomes even more unique.

16. Chuan Chuan Xiang

chuan chuan

Chuan Chuan Xiang(串串香 chuàn chuàn xiāng)  is one of the characteristic traditional snacks in Sichuan, and a well-known street food in China.  It is actually another form of hot pot, so people often call it a "little hot pot". Various foods are skewered on bamboo sticks and then cooked in a hot pot.

The taste of Chuan Chuan Xiang depends largely on the soup base. There are currently four types of soup bases: red soup (spicy and numbing), white soup (bone broth), clear soup (fresh and fragrant), and seafood soup. 

17. Hangzhou Dongpo Pork

Dongpo pork

Dongpo braise pork(东坡肉 dōng pō ròu ), also known as Dongpo pork, or Dongpo meat, is one of the most famous dishes of Zhejiang cuisine. The main ingredients of Dongpo pork are half-fat and half-thin pork, which is stewed with yellow rice wine and sugar. The food is a little sweet and oily but not greasy.

It was said that Dongpo pork was created by a Chinese poet called Su Dongpo in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). So the dish is named after him.

More articles on Chinese food 

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