Chinese cuisine is diverse and rich in flavors. The staple foods in China include rice, noodles, and dumplings. Vegetables such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli are commonly consumed. Meat, especially pork, is widely eaten, along with poultry and seafood. Chinese cuisine also incorporates various spices and condiments like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and five-spice powder. Popular dishes include Peking duck, Kung Pao chicken, Mapo tofu, and hot pot. Dim sum, a variety of bite-sized dishes, is a favorite for breakfast or brunch. Chinese cuisine varies by region, with Cantonese, Sichuan, and Shanghainese cuisines being prominent examples.
When you have a strong appetite…we mean REALLY hungry…what kind of food do you desire? Is a juicy cheeseburger the only thing that will satisfy your craving? Or would you prefer something from a different culture? Maybe a burrito or a taco? How about an egg roll instead?
If you enjoy egg rolls, then you must enjoy Chinese cuisine. Have you ever dined at a Chinese restaurant? It can be a delightful and adventurous experience as you taste foods that you may have never encountered before.
But have you ever stopped to PONDER…do people in China eat the same types of food that you see in an American Chinese restaurant? In summary, the answer is yes…and no!
Some of the dishes you will find on American Chinese restaurant menus are traditional Chinese recipes, while others are purely American inventions. For example, have you ever had a fortune cookie for dessert? You won’t come across those very often in China! And those egg rolls we mentioned earlier? People in China usually prefer more delicate spring rolls over the deep-fried egg rolls commonly found in American Chinese restaurants.
Similarly, some popular American Chinese dishes, like General Tso’s Chicken, are American creations that appeal to Americans but not necessarily to people in China. So what do people in China eat?
China is the most populous country in the world, with well over a billion people. So it is logical that you will find many different types of food throughout the country. Like the United States, China has different specialties that vary by region. We can, however, make some observations about foods that tend to be popular in many areas.
If you have ever dined in a Chinese restaurant, you have probably noticed that rice and noodles are very popular. Guess what? They are popular in China too! The people of the Canton province are known to be big rice consumers, while noodles are more popular in northern areas where it is more difficult to grow rice.
The Sichuan and Hunan provinces are known for their love of spicy foods that include hot peppers. So dishes like Hunan Pork and Kung Pao Chicken definitely have their origins in real, traditional Chinese recipes.
Most American Chinese restaurants also offer soups. If you have ever tried Wonton Soup or Egg Drop Soup, you have eaten a dish that would be very common in China.
Many traditional Chinese dishes also include a variety of vegetables. Some popular vegetables in China include green beans, cauliflower, leeks, bean sprouts, bok choy, and cabbage. So if you want a genuine, authentic Chinese meal that people in China would eat, you had better enjoy your veggies!
Give It a Try
Mmm! Feeling hungry yet? We certainly are! Continue learning about China and its cuisine by attempting one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:
When you are finished, share your cooking experience with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. Feel free to upload a picture or two of what you made. We can’t wait to see your Chinese creation. We’re already getting hungry!
- If you don’t know where the nearest Chinese restaurant to your home is, find out! You can ask your parents or search the Internet for the information. Ask an adult to take you there on a field trip for lunch or dinner. Make sure to grab a takeout menu to look at while you eat. It can be fun to try and understand the Chinese symbols on the menu. Can you figure out which symbols represent common words like chicken, beef, pork, and rice?
- How healthy are your favorite Chinese foods? Write down a typical Chinese meal that you might eat at a local Chinese restaurant or make at home. Then write down another favorite meal that you eat regularly. Use the Internet to find the nutritional information for each meal. Which one has more calories? How do they compare in terms of vitamins and minerals, fats, and carbohydrates? Share what you learn with a friend or family member.
- Want a challenge? Instead of ordering takeout from your local Chinese restaurant, why not try making some authentic Chinese delicacies in your own kitchen? Ask a friend or family member to help you. Take a look at the recipes below and choose one or two to try. Make sure to check the list of ingredients, as you may need to go to the store to get some supplies before you start.
- Egg Fried Rice
- Spring Rolls
- Three-Cup Chicken
- Egg Drop Soup
- Choy Sum
1. What are some popular staple foods in China?
In China, rice is a staple food and is commonly consumed with almost every meal. Noodles, both wheat and rice varieties, are also widely consumed. Other popular staple foods include dumplings, steamed buns, and tofu.
2. What are some popular dishes in Chinese cuisine?
Chinese cuisine offers a wide variety of popular dishes. Some examples include Kung Pao Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Peking Duck, Mapo Tofu, and Dim Sum. These dishes showcase the diversity of flavors and cooking techniques in Chinese cuisine.
3. What are some traditional Chinese snacks?
Traditional Chinese snacks include items such as steamed buns filled with various ingredients, egg tarts, sesame balls, and spring rolls. These snacks are often enjoyed as street food or as part of a dim sum meal.
4. Are there any regional specialties in Chinese cuisine?
Yes, China has a rich culinary tradition with many regional specialties. For example, Sichuan cuisine is known for its spicy flavors, while Cantonese cuisine is known for its delicate and fresh ingredients. Other regional specialties include Beijing roast duck, Shanghai soup dumplings, and Xinjiang lamb skewers.
5. What are some common ingredients used in Chinese cooking?
Common ingredients used in Chinese cooking include soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and various spices such as Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. Chinese cuisine also makes use of a wide variety of vegetables, meats, and seafood.
6. Are there any dietary restrictions or preferences in Chinese cuisine?
Chinese cuisine does not have strict dietary restrictions. However, there are certain preferences and practices. For example, many Chinese people avoid consuming dairy products as they are not traditionally part of the Chinese diet. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available in Chinese cuisine, with tofu and vegetable dishes being popular choices.