Although Chinese food is loved the world over, it’s generally accepted that the shiny, sugary dishes we love to hoover up from our favorite takeaway are actually nothing like true Chinese cuisine. At Dr. Foodle, we know that it can be difficult to discover a true taste of this incredible gastronomic culture, and so we’ve decided to make a short list of some of the very best authentic Chinese foods. They are weird yet wonderful, strange yet satisfying. This is our short collection of must-try Chinese classics.
Long a staple of any self-respecting takeaway joint from London to Los Angeles, Chinese dumplings have been satisfying stomachs across the world for many years. However, it might come as a shock to learn that the real Chinese dumplings are, quite often, not at all like that xialongbao you got at your local noodle joint. Originally Cantonese but now popular across the nation, dumplings come in hundreds of guises depending on the dough, filling, and shape. A daily staple in much of China, classic jaozi dumplings are eaten by people from all walks of life. Whilst outside of China people enjoy pork, beef, and chicken-based dumplings, the authentic way generally focuses on a few high-quality vegetables as the filling. Classics include leek, spring onion, and chive, with cabbage a popular choice as well. This focus on vegetables reflects the fact that many Chinese people can’t afford to eat meat daily, and so vegetarian dumplings have been crafted to the point of perfection over centuries of consumption.
Fried rice, fried noodles, and even fried dumplings are all much-loved classics of Chinese takeaways across the globe. However, in China, there is another staple starch that creeps into diets across the country. Rice cakes, made from a rice paste and formed into small discs, are something of an unknown quantity outside of East Asia, yet when cooked correctly they provide a refreshing, delicious alternative to classic Chinese carbohydrates. In Shanghai, the chewy discs of goodness are stir-fried with spring onion, meat, and spices to make nian gao, a wonderfully savory dish whose texture is unlike anything rice or noodles can offer the discerning diner. There are even sweet versions, with sugar and egg added to the cakes before pan-frying to make a kind of sweet fritter that’s often topped with powdered sugar. Something of an unknown quantity to outsiders, anybody with the courage to order a portion of rice cakes will not be disappointed with their unique texture and ability to soak up flavors.
In addition, a whole range of strange yet delicious Chinese food treats awaits those with just a little courage. Preserved eggs, various offal dishes, and a whole range of unusual sweets such as moon cakes keep things exciting and make a refreshing change from tasty yet tired takeaway staples.