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What Food to Order in Chinese Restaurants

Do you like the food from Panda Express? Do you know many Chinese restaurants in the US don’t serve authentic Chinese food? For many first-time visitors traveling to China from the US, they expect to order the same Chinese food they usually eat in the US. However, local food in China are totally different from what you have in the US. What food to order in Chinese restaurants? Read on to find some best dishes for US travelers.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Authentic Chinese Food


Authentic Chinese Food vs American Chinese Food

Never expect to eat the same flavor as what you always eat in Chinese restaurants in the US, because what you have are American Chinese food, not like authentic Chinese food that you can taste in China. You may wonder why Chinese people cook inauthentic Chinese food for you people. Because they have to take eating habits of local people into consideration, they have to adapt to the local culture so that most people will love this flavor.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Smashed Cucumbers (Pāi huángguā)

Now let’s take a look at how different is authentic Chinese food from American Chinese food.

  • Chinese people know nothing about General Tso’s Chicken, or Orange Chicken. Due to the adaption of culture, restaurants like Panda Express have created some Chinese dishes, mostly cater for the taste of non-Chinese customers. You may not find the same kind of dishes when traveling in China.
  • Fortune cookies are only popular in the Chinese restaurants located in the United States. Don’t expect to have some after meal when you are in any restaurants in China, because no restaurant provides fortune cookies.
  • Chinese takeout boxes are invented for Americans, you can’t find this kind of container in China, no matter which city you travel to. Restaurants in China use degradable meal boxes.
  • Authentic Chinese food are not just about the same taste of sweet and sour. You can taste all kinds of flavors in different areas of China, because authentic dishes vary from region to region.
  • Chinese Salads or Asian Salads are never existed in China. Chinese people rarely eat raw vegetables, and Chinese restaurants generally serve cooked vegetables, except for cold dishes like smashed cucumbers (Pāi huángguā).


1.Peking Roast Duck

No food tour in China is perfect without tasting Peking Roast Duck. As one of the most representative Chinese dishes, Peking Roast Duck, or Peking Duck, should be put on the list of the best dishes for US travelers.

Peking Roast Duck is usually served to the customers after cutting into small pieces with sweet bean sauce, round pancakes and scallions alongside, In order to have the best experience of tasting Peking Roast Duck, you should fill your pancake with the crispy skin, the meat and other ingredients according to your taste.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Peking Roast Duck


2.Kung Pao Chicken

Being one of the must-try dishes in China, Kung Pao Chicken is also popular throughout the world. You may try the western version before, with sweet and sour flavor. However, the authentic Kung Pao Chicken is sweet and spicy, normally cooked with diced chicken, dried chili and peanuts.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Kung Pao Chicken


3.Xiao Long Bao

Want to order Crab Rangoon when you are in China? To be honest, it’s only popular in the US. You should try Xiao Long Bao instead. Xiao Long Bao is like a kind of dumpling originally created by Shanghai people, but there are different versions around each region in China right now. Tasting Xiao Long Bao when you’re in Shanghai is highly recommended.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao is basically served with steamer basket, with vinegar alongside. The best way to eat Xiao Long Bao is to put one on a spoon with some vinegar, take a bite of the corner of the dumpling to let the broth out, then eat it and catch the broth. 


4.Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls look similar to Egg Rolls you eat in some Chinese restaurants in the United States, but Egg Rolls are created for Americans, not authentic Chinese food. You should try Spring Rolls during your trip in China, especially in southeastern regions like Guangdong.

Spring Rolls are usually wrapped with meat, vegetables, then fried the rolls into golden yellow color. The fillings will be different in every region. You will get an amazing flavor with the Chinese vinegar.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Spring Rolls


5.Ma Po Tofu

Ma Po Tofu is one of the most famous dishes in Sichuan Province, which you really should order in a local Chinese restaurant. The hot and spicy flavor comes from the Sichuan peppers and the dried chili peppers, besides, the fresh and soft tofu makes a perfect match with the minced meat, no matter pork or beef. You won’t regret tasting Ma Po Tofu during your food tour in China.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Ma Po Tofu


6. Dumplings

Jiaozi, or Chinese Ravioli, is beloved by both Chinese people and westerners. As one of the most famous traditional Chinese food, you’ve got to try the authentic dumplings in China. Chinese people have created all types of shape and flavor for dumplings, local restaurants in Xi’an even develop Dumpling Banquet. Don’t miss it if you really love dumplings.

There are varieties of fillings you could choose, vegetables only, or vegetables with meat, such as pork, beef, chicken and shrimp. Regardless of various fillings, there are kinds of ways for cooking dumplings, like steaming, boiling and frying. It’s more delicious when you dip the dumpling in the vinegar, also mix the chili sauce if you like.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Steamed dumplings


7.Chow Mein

Chow Mein refers to the Stir-fried Noodles with meat and vegetables. You may also see Chow Fun on the menu, because people in the southern part of China prefer using rice noodles. For the meat, you can choose from pork, beef, chicken and shrimp, by the way, some people like to use eggs instead of meat.

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8. Hot Pot

You can try Hot Pot in any cities of China during your amazing China food tour. It’s interesting to eat Hot Pot together with your family or friends, since you will dip all the ingredients you order in the boiling broth by yourselves.

Don’t worry about the hot and spicy flavor, you can choose whether it’s spicy or not, or different levels of the spice. The other funny part is that you can create your own sauce, just mix your favorite sauces according to your own tastes.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Hot Pot


9.Seasoned Asian Greens

As you can’t have Asian Salads in China, try to order cooked Asian Greens. Most restaurants serve different Asian greens according to the seasons, usually are Bok Choy and Chinese broccoli and lettuce.

The way Chinese people like is to stir-fried with oil, ginger and garlic, sometimes with peppers, meanwhile, some people like to steam with oyster sauce. You’d better not miss them.

what food to order in Chinese restaurants
Cooked Greens

Once you decide to travel to China from US, it’s time to taste the authentic Chinese food, not American Chinese food. Not satisfied with these dishes? You can know more about Chinese food.


Have a Gourmet Tour with Top China Travel

Having a gourmet tour in China will be a great experience, for various Chinese dishes and snacks may satisfy all your imagination for authentic Chinese food. Traveling with a local guide will give you a better experience for local food culture. See our food tour for some inspiration.


Want a unique food tour in China? Please feel free to let us know your flavor, your favorite food and all the other requirements for this tour, we will create the most suitable China food tour for you.

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