Here is Worldcare Travel Insurance’s guide to Chinese food!
“Have you eaten?” is one of the most common greetings in China and reflects the importance of food in the national psyche.
Yunnan cuisine is influenced by its location on the Silk Road and the region’s varied ethnic groups. The area is rich in many raw ingredients – fish from the lakes, spices from the mountains, chicken, duck, pork, beef, eggs and, of course, rice. Indian and Sichuan spices enhance the taste.
Locals enjoy Vietnamese-style fish and vegetable dishes, such as stuffed fish served with a mint and tomato salad, or clay pot ginger chicken from the Mongolian Steppes. Exotic favourites include toasted goat cheese and stir fried cauliflower with chilli and black vinegar.
Ham, duck, spare ribs or chicken are dipped in a pepper and spicy salt mixture and deep fried. The region is also famous for its cheese dishes particularly fried milk curd.
With its location at the mouth of the Yangtze River, seafood features in many dishes of this region. Shanghai dishes are delicately seasoned to compliment the seafood. Steamed crab is a popular local dish, usually only served in winter.
The crab is tied and steamed in a bamboo steamer and served with vinegar. Beggar’s chicken is another famous dish, said to have originated in the Qing dynasty. The chicken is spiced and marinated, and then wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed – tender and delicious!
Nanxiang steamed buns are found all over Shanghai and consist of a thin dough skin stuffed with minced pork, then steamed and served with vinegar.
Fried mantou is a local dim sum dish often served with soup. The dough is left to slightly ferment, then stuffed with fresh meat and sesame or spring onions, and wok-fried with water sprays to give a combination of steamed and fried flavours.
Beijing cuisine is famous for the Imperial Cuisine of the Royal Ming and Qing Dynasties, featuring elaborate preparations and intricately carved vegetables. Noodles often replace rice in many dishes.
The famous Peking roast duck with its bronzed crispy skin and tender meat is everywhere; best served cut into thin slices and served in rice paper rolls or with steamed buns with Chinese onions and a special sauce.
Also, try mutton hot pot – thin lamb slices placed into boiling soup to cook, then dipped in a sesame butter sauce Beijing is also home to many ‘snack streets’ – street and streets of ‘snack sellers’ serving every kind of food from spicy lobster to Muslim-influenced lamb dishes.
Known as ‘su cai’ for short, this southern region food features light tastes with moderate saltiness and sweetness. It was once the food of the Chinese royals. The traditional cuisine features soup and light stir-fries with not too many spices, retaining the fresh taste of the food.
Try tofu dry thread soup – thin delicately sliced tofu pieces added to chicken or shrimp soup. Lion's head braised with crab-powder is actually many types of minced meat shaped into a lion’s head and braised in a clear soup, with a sprinkling of powdered crab to finish.
Another famous local dish is three roasted duck – a wild duck stuffed with a farmed duck is in turn stuffed with a pigeon, and all three are basted and roasted. When cooked the duck is melt-in-the-mouth, the wild duck crisp and delicious and the pigeon is delicate.
Guangzhou is the home of Cantonese food, which is the cuisine served in most Western Chinese restaurants.
There’s no need to stick to sweet and sour pork and fried rice, though; try the street sellers’ roasted whole suckling pig, rice rolls filled with pork, liver or beef, fresh lobster sausage, crispy pigeon and many kinds of exotic dim sum.
Dim sum is a famous dish and can literally mean any kind of small snack-type dish served with tea - soup dumplings, wontons, egg tarts, barbequed pork buns, sweet sesame rolls, or stir-fried noodles.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try long hu dou (literally, dragon fighting against the tiger) made from snake and wild cat. After all, the locals say that the only things not eaten in Guangzhou are the tables and chairs!