Chinese Food Specialties: Unveiling Culinary Treasures

According to celebrity chef Martin Yan, “Chinese cuisine offers a dazzling array…

… of colorful, aromatic, and flavorful dishes that reflect the diversity of China’s regions.” 

With centuries of culinary refinement, Chinese food encompasses a wide range…

… of cooking techniques, ingredients, and regional styles that tantalize the senses.

From the intense spice of Sichuan flavors to the delicate fragrances…

… of Cantonese dim sum, Chinese gastronomy has captivated people worldwide.

This culinary journey through China’s epicurean traditions will open your eyes…

… and palate to a world of delicious possibilities.

Keep reading to unlock the secrets behind these iconic Chinese dishes and their origins.


What are Chinese food specialties?

Chinese food specialties encompass a rich tapestry of diverse and iconic dishes… (1)

… that reflect the country’s culinary heritage.

From delectable dim sum varieties to regional masterpieces like…

… Peking Roasted Duck, these specialties showcase the depth and variety of Chinese gastronomy.

Must-Try Chinese Dishes

YouTube video
Source: Goldthread

Peking Roasted Duck

There is nothing quite like Peking roasted duck, the quintessential Beijing dish. (2)

This classic dish is cooked by slowly roasting a whole duck over fruitwood, resulting…

… in deliciously crispy skin and tender juicy meat.

The preparation process takes hours of careful tending as the duck is basted in a sweet marinade.

Then the skin is scored before roasting allowing the fat to render into the meat for unmatched flavor.

Slices of the roasted duck are then often served with wheat rolls and typical toppings…

… of scallions and sweet hoisin sauce for a flavor sensation.

Peking roasted duck has its origins dating back hundreds of years and remains…

… one of the most iconic dishes in all of Chinese cuisine still enjoyed for rituals and celebrations today.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is a versatile and popular Sichuan dish known for its bold flavors…

… of spiciness mingling with savory and sweet tones.

Small pieces of chicken are traditionally stir-fried with peanuts, vegetables like…

… bell peppers and mushrooms, and a sauce enhanced with Sichuan peppercorns.

What makes this dish truly shine is the lively balance of flavors – the heat…

… from dried chilies contrasts nicely with the naturally sweet chicken and nuts.

There are many regional varieties of Kung Pao chicken within China, such as replacing chicken…

… with other meats or adding different veggies, but the essential signature…

… combination of ingredients is what makes this dish so craveworthy for both locals and visitors alike.

The dish gets its name from the fact that it closely resembles the way dishes…

…would be presented on a Kung Pao or Grand Protectors tray in Imperial China.

Dim Sum Extravaganza

Chinese food specialties 2

Dim sum refers to a wide array of Cantonese style small plate dishes and pastries…

… that are typically enjoyed at lunchtime or as a brunch in Chinese tea houses and restaurants.

Some popular items include pork and…

… shrimp dumplings (shumai), barbecued pork buns (cha siu bao), curry puffs, spring rolls (chun juan), and steamed chicken feet.

Exploring the world of dim sum is like taking a bite-sized tour of Cantonese cuisine.

What makes dim sum a real treat is how each piece is carefully crafted to maintain…

… a balance of textures – some soft, some crispy, others tender and yielding.

From fluffy buns to delicate dumpling wrappers enclosing savory fillings, dim sum…

… is a true feast for all senses that is perfect for sharing with friends and family while socializing over tea.

Four Seasons Chinese Dish

Chinese cuisine is deeply connected to the changing seasons, with different dishes…

… celebrating flavors of spring, summer, fall and winter.

One classic example is a “Four Seasons Dish” which aims to artistically showcase…

… seasonal produce and cooking styles throughout the year.

In spring, one might find fresh morel mushrooms, edible chrysanthemum flowers, and new greens.

Lightly blanched asparagus and bamboo shoots signify the freshness of the season.

Summer brings peak harvests of fruits like lychee and longans.

Cooling dishes featuring cucumbers, lotus root and tofu showcase the lighter flavor profiles…

… suited for hot weather.

Autumn sees ingredients like Chinese mushrooms, cooked…

… CHICKEN WITH GARLIC SAUCE, and Chinese squash taking center stage.

Heartier preparations reflect the coziness of fall.

Winter cooking emphasizes soups and stews, keeping the body warm…

… with nourishment from ginger, Chinese dates and tender meats like shredded pork…

… in a red cooked preparation.

Through clever use of seasonal CHINESE cuisine and…

… cooking methods, the “Four Seasons Dish” aims to evoke the spirit and beauty of each passing phase through taste alone.

Dragon and Phoenix Dish

Elaborate multi-course banquets known as “Dragon and Phoenix Feasts” hold…

… important cultural significance in Chinese tradition.

Drawing on FIED RICE, DIM SUM, and other dishes representing…

… yin and yang energies, the meal strives for balance and completeness.

Centerpiece “Dragon and Phoenix Dish” is a showpiece reflecting these ideals.

It arranges a selection of fine cuts and whole fish, poultry, game, and seafood…

… into dramatic aerial or mythical creature shapes using clever knife work.

Vegetables, fungi, and premium ingredients like abalone and sea cucumber…

… provide stunning visual contrast and complementarity when grouped in auspicious pairings.

Food artists consider feng shui, symbolism, and aesthetics along with practical factors…

… like how to keep intricate sculptures intact through cooking.

The gala presentation aims to please all senses and convey celebratory vibes for important events like weddings and festivals.

Viewing the finished work feels like partaking of an intricate edible art form invoking…

traditional and popular Chinese dishes at their most elaborate and sublime.

Regional Culinary Influences

Chinese food specialties 3

Cantonese Cuisine (Guangdong)

Cantonese cuisine is probably the best known regional Chinese cuisine worldwide.

Originating in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, also known…

… as Canton, Cantonese cooking is all about freshness, light flavors, and superior cooking techniques.

Cantonese chefs excel at stir-frying and steaming dishes in a way that preserves…

… the natural flavors of the ingredients.

They also have a knack for using sauces and cooking methods that highlight rather than overpower different foods.

SOY SAUCE is a ubiquitous condiment that provides a savory undertone in many Cantonese dishes.

Other signature sauces created with CHINESE WINE or rice wine impart a mellow depth of flavor.

Spring rolls, dim sum dishes like HAR GAO and char siu BARBECUED PORK are…

… some absolutely delicious examples of Cantonese cooking.

Cantonese cuisine is probably the most widespread Chinese cooking style thanks…

… to the global influence of Chinese immigrants from Guangdong.

Sichuan Spice Explosion

If you want your mouth to erupt into a tingly, numbing euphoria, Sichuan cuisine is for you.

This southwest Chinese cooking from the Sichuan province is all about bold, complex flavors…

… created with CHILI PEPPERS and Sichuan peppercorns.

These unusual spices provide a sensation quite unlike ordinary heat from features like capsaicin in chilies.

Dishes like KUNG PAO CHICKEN with peanuts and chili peppers are iconic examples…

… of the tongue-coating heat that Sichuan food is famous for.

Mapo tofu simmered with silky tofu and ground pork in a spicy, numbing sauce brings…

… flavors to life like few others.

The creative use of BAMBOO SHOOTS, bean paste, and other vegetables…

… combine for an explosive symphony of tastes in each mouth watering morsel.

No wonder Sichuan cuisine is so wildly popular across China and beyond…

… for all you thrill-seekers who enjoy pushing your limits with sensation overload!

Jiangsu’s Delicate Touch

The eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu is renowned for its graceful, refined take on regional cuisine.

Located along China’s historic Grand Canal waterway, Jiangsu’s culinary traditions…

… value fresh, beautifully-prepared dishes highlighting quality seafood and produce.

Presentation is key, with ingredients artfully arranged with minimal yet vibrant sauces.

ZHEJIANG CUISINE from a neighboring province also shares these sensibilities.

Classics like Dongpo Pork, a silky pork belly stew seasoned with rice wine and soy sauce is flavorful without heaviness.

Jiangsu specialties also include Yangzhou Fried Rice piled high and perfumed…

… with shrimp, fried egg, CHINESE SAUSAGE and greens.

Delicate spring rolls filled with shrimp and vegetables also typify the province’s understated…

… elegance and emphasis on showcasing natural flavors above all.

Beyond the Basics: Uncommon Chinese Delicacies

Chinese food specialties 4

Bingtanghulu: Candied Hawthorns

Bingtanghulu, or candied hawthorns, may seem like an unusual snack but they hold cultural significance…

… in traditional Chinese CUISINE.

Native to China, hawthorn berries have a sweet yet sour taste when fresh but become meltingly…

… syrupy treats when coated in a caramelized sugar glaze.

The preparation requires ATTENTIC CHINESE COOKING TECHNIQUES, slowly candying…

… the fruit over low heat until the natural pectin causes the individual berries…

… to fuse together into abstract shapes.

Regional styles exist, with southern Guangdong province versions boasting the deepest…

… ruby red hue and chewiest texture.

Though lesser known than classics like SWEET AND SOUR PORK, bingtanghulu…

… offer a delightful surprise for those exploring beyond usual Chinese takeout fare.

Stinky Tofu Adventures

Known in Chinese as chou doufu, stinky tofu lives up to its English name…

… with an unforgettably pungent aroma from fermented bricks of tofu.

A speciality of HONG KONG and other parts of China, the acquired taste divides opinions…

… but loyal fans say it has an almost cheese-like funkiness when prepared properly.

Traditional dishes deep fry or simmer cubes of the fermented bean curd in broth with meat or vegetables.

Regional capitals like Chengdu in Sichuan province take it to new heights through…

… creative preparations like mapo tofu, bubbling the tender morsels in a spicy, numbing sauce.

The adventuresome diner need not fear – a single nibble is enough to understand its unusual charms.

For those open to new sensory experiences in CULINARY TRADITIONS, stinky tofu…

… offers a ride on the wild side.

Chinese Food Tours and Authentic Experiences

For the true taste of Chinese cuisine, join experiential tours of regional markets, family-run restaurants and culinary classes.

Immersive experiences led by locals offer travelers insights beyond mainstream delights into niche specialties.

Tours introduce Chinese culinary techniques and seasonal ingredients across diverse regions.

In Sichuan, witness artisanal tofu and noodle making before savoring the lip-tingling flavors of mapo tofu.

Learn tea pairings in Fujian on hikes through plantations.

Join home chefs in Cantonese communities for dim sum making and banquets showcasing celebrations of food as art.

Authentic cultural exchanges through shared meals with locals provide…

… truly memorable encounters beyond any guidebook.

Cooking Techniques and Ingredients

Chinese Food Specialties: Unveiling Culinary Treasures

Stir-fry Mastery

Stir-frying in a WOK over high heat is integral to Chinese cuisine, locking in textures and flavors.

Having the proper technique and ingredients makes all the difference.

Follow expert instruction on knife skills like precise vegetable cuts.

Learn to stir vigorously, adding protein and SAUCE at just the right moments.

Practice CLASSIC recipes like kung pao chicken, bok choy and chili bean paste…

…with confidence in your newfound skills.

Tea in Chinese Culinary Culture

TEA plays an aromatic and flavor enhancing role in Chinese recipes, with different varieties selected to match foods.

Learn tea-food pairing wisdom from masters of ZHEJIANG CUISINE.

Discover tea-smoked duck and sticky rice infused with lap sang souchong.

Try rich egg tarts sweetened naturally by rock sugar-infused oolong.

For a soothing finish, savor longjing green tea after a chili-laced Sichuan feast…

… to soothe the TASTE BUDS.

Subtle and satisfying tea pairings showcase its significance in Chinese culinary culture.

Exploring Chinese Culinary Traditions

The Eight Great Cuisines of China

China boasts a diverse array of regional CUISINES known as the “Eight Great Traditions.” Some famous examples include Sichuan, known for MA LA hotpot and mapo tofu.

Guangdong offers dim sum and heartyCantonese fare.

Shanghai is iconic for xiao long bao, while Shandong shines with QUAIL EGGS IN CHILI OIL.

Hunan, Anhui, Fujian, Zhejiang round out the eight, each putting a unique spin…

… on classic CHINESE FLAVOR PROFILES using local ingredients.

Modern Twists on Traditional Favorites

Chinese chefs today put creative spins on heritage dishes.

In trendy Shanghai, braised pork belly gets an Asian fusion makeover.

Chinese lamian noodles cross cultures as taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Contemporary chefs reimagine sichuan peppercorn BRAISED PORK SLICES in a sweet and sour style.

Fast casual chains popularize dishes for new tastes, with PANDA EXPRESS…

… bringing Americanized orange chicken and fried rice to the masses.

Tradition meets innovation on modern Chinese restaurant menus globally.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common Chinese foods?

Some very common Chinese foods include things like stir fried dishes, hot pot, dishes…

… made with stir frying, foods that are deep fried, dishes from Shandong cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine…

…and Anhui cuisine.

Peking duck is also very well known.

What sauces are commonly used in Chinese cooking?

One very important sauce used in many Chinese dishes is bean sauce.

It is made from fermented soybeans and has a sweet and savory flavor.

What are some examples of the different regional cuisines in China?

China has many different regional cuisines that developed based on the cuisines…

… of China and availability of ingredients in each area.

Some examples include Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Fujian and Hunan cuisines.

What are some very popular Chinese dishes?

Two very popular Chinese dishes are Peking duck, which is roasted duck, and chow mein, which is fried noodles.

Other popular dishes include hot and sour soup and fried chicken.

What are traditional Chinese foods?

Many traditional Chinese foods have been enjoyed for hundreds of years as part of Chinese culture…

… and authentic Chinese cooking.

Things like hot pot, dim sum, noodles, rice, steamed buns and soups have been staples…

… of traditional Chinese food for a very long time.

What foods are common during Chinese New Year?

During the Chinese new year celebration, which is one of the most important holidays…

… in China, people enjoy eating special foods for good luck and prosperity in the coming year.

Fried chicken, dumplings, spring rolls and fish are believed to symbolize good fortune…

… and are commonly eaten during this time as traditional dishes.

What are some examples of great cuisines from different parts of China?

China has many famous great cuisines that developed in different regions…

… like Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong provinces.

Some great cuisines of china include Sichuan cuisine known for its liberal use…

… of chilies and bold flavors, Hunan cuisine with spicy and fresh flavors, and…

… Cantonese cuisine from Guangdong which influenced street food found around the world.

What are some Chinese delicacies?

In addition to more common Chinese foods, China is also known for numerous Chinese delicacies.

Things like abalone, sea cucumber, bird’s nest soup made from swiftlet saliva, and shark’s fin soup are some examples of luxury foods and delicacies enjoyed in China.


Through this culinary journey across China, we have only scratched the surface of Chinese gastronomy’s deep traditions and diversity.

From flavorful Sichuan dishes to aromatic Cantonese dim sum, each regional cuisine… 

…offers its own culinary identity and mastery.

Key takeaways include:

  • Chinese cooking techniques like stir-frying, steaming, and braising perfectly marry flavors and textures.
  • Fresh, seasonal ingredients and balance are paramount in Chinese cooking.
  • Rice and noodles comprise staple accompaniments in most Chinese meals.
  • Soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger and garlic season foods with quintessential Chinese essence.
  • Every dish tells a unique story of its regional roots and cultural significance.

I hope this guide has sparked an appreciation for the artistry and legacy behind Chinese food specialties.

With over 5,000 years of gastronomic history, China’s culinary traditions continue…

… to evolve while retaining their core philosophies.

Though we only explored these iconic dishes here, vast culinary wonders still await.

Let me know in the comments which Chinese specialty you are most excited to try! 

I’m always eager to discuss the boundless world of Chinese cuisine.



Related Articles

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!