If there’s one thing that brings the world together, it’s food. While Chinese New Year celebrations are commencing all over the world, we wanted to bring in the Year of the Monkey with a blog inspired by must-try Chinese dishes! We also chose to pick our top 8, because in China, 8 is a lucky number! With that, cheers to good luck and good food, keep scrolling to discover some delicious, not-to-be-missed meals! Oh, and Happy New Year 🙂
Sweet & Sour Pork, Chicken or Tofu Get the best of both worlds with one of China’s most popular sauces: sweet and sour! The pork dish is one of the classics of the Han people. Legend goes that the first emperor of ancient China, Qin Shihuang, (221–207 B.C.), held a cooking competition to see which of the local cooks could satisfy his craving for the perfect sweet and sour combination. Using a mixture of salt, vinegar, cooking wine, starch, tomatoes, sugar, and coriander, an old woman won the contest and instead of a grand prize simply asked for the promotion of her son in the army. Today, sweet and sour anything is a favorite amongst the whole world. (Image via Twistofffood.com)
Dim Sum The literal translation of Dim Sum is “to touch your heart,” and a visit to China, especially Hong Kong, would not be complete without trying it. Similar to the French concept of hors d’oeuvres, you can stop by a Dim Sum restaurant at relatively any hour to enjoy a wide range of delicious snacks are served in bamboo baskets. History goes, that during the prime of the Silk Road (206 BC – 220 AD), tea houses began appearing along the road in order to accommodate weary travelers and farmers. At first, tea was only served but once it became widely known that tea aided in digestion, an array of dumplings, steamed buns and other goodies were offered in accompaniment to the tea. Dim sum has been a tradition in China ever since.
Chinese Dumplings Perhaps one of the world’s most well known Chinese foods; dumplings are a must try when visiting China, especially in the north. Dumplings are also considered a lucky food to eat on New Year’s Eve! Traditionally, cabbage and radish-filled dumplings are eaten on New Year’s Eve in order to induce healthy skin and a relaxed mood, or fish-stuffed dumplings are eaten to accumulate wealth. Dumplings are also meant to be arranged in a line as opposed to a circle, so that your life will go in a straight line and not around in circles.
Steamed Buns (Bao Zi) Whether vegetable, lamb or pork filled, steamed buns are a delicious Chinese specialty. Bao zi are served all over China, and the comfort food is often a popular breakfast choice. In the south and northwest, bao zi are mostly served stuffed with pork. The spin on the dish in Sichuan is a bit more spicy, and around the Shanghai area there are more vegetarian options which are generally filled with spinach and tofu. It can get competitive when it comes to seeing which region does it best, so be sure not to miss out on some authentic steamed buns during your visit to China!
Hot Pot The hot pot has been a popular dish in China for over 1000 years, especially in the Sichuan area. The dish is considered to be relatively healthy as boiling is better than frying; and if it’s hot outside, a hot pot will warm you up, where if it’s cold outside, it will aid in perspiration. You simply can’t go wrong with a hot pot! Common hot pot ingredients include beef, mutton, lamb, chicken, duck, fish or shrimp/prawns that you cook in a boiling pot of broth in the center of the table. Ribs and prawns are generally served in what’s known as a “dry hot pot,” given there is no broth. The dish is meant to be shared with friends or family, and is a great choice for New Year’s Eve dinner!
Sweet Rice Balls On the 15th night of Chinese New Year celebrations, known as the Lantern Festival, it is custom to enjoy gluttonous sweet rice balls. This is generally when first full moon of the year occurs, and sweets are meant to be enjoyed! The round shape of the rice balls symbolizes harmony and togetherness, making this a great dessert to share with your family. Rice balls can be served filled or unfilled, but traditional fillings include sesame paste, red bean or peanuts. Yum!
Longevity Noodles In China, it is believed that the longer the noodle, the longer your life. Noodles should not be broken or cut in half, so feel free to slurp them up with a superstitious smile. Noodles are a staple in the Chinese diet, and there are so many amazing noodle dishes to try! You can opt for chow or lo mein, wonton noodles, or try making some at home simply dressed with sesame, garlic, scallion and soy sauce. You’ll be able to say goodbye to takeout forever!
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