Chinese food has become a widely loved cuisine all around the world. From more traditional Chinese food to American-Chinese takeout (check it out: American Chinese Food VS Authentic Chinese Food), there are a lot of dishes that fall under the label of Chinese food which you can get from a local Chinese restaurant.
However, this sheer variety that even small Chinese restaurants offer can be overwhelming. Many people find themselves ordering the same sesame chicken over and over because they do not know what else to try. If you are ready to expand your Chinese food horizons, check out our list of over 25 tasty new options!
Fried wontons are a crunchy and savory food that makes an excellent appetizer. These triangle-shaped crisps are typically filled with some type of meat and served with sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Fried wontons are the perfect middle ground between egg rolls and chips. They provide a savory snack before your main course without filling you up entirely. They are also a better choice for large groups as they tend to be served in larger quantities. Make sure to try these often overlooked staples of Chinese restaurants!
Technically Crab Rangoon is a specific type of fried wonton. Fried wontons can have a variety of fillings. Crab Rangoon is a fried wonton stuffed with cream cheese and crab. This may not be the most traditional Chinese dish, but it has skyrocketed in popularity for a reason. Crab Rangoon is a delicious way to start a Chinese meal!
Do not let the crab in the name scare you. These fried wontons are mostly stuffed with cream cheese with a small amount of crab adding some needed texture. They are either fried in the traditional triangle shape or in a flower-like formation.
Like all fried wontons, Crab Rangoon is a lighter appetizer choice that is easy to share. This particular flavor of fried wonton with its cream cheese filling also gives you the chance to try something that differs from the main course flavors.
It would be impossible to write a list of the best dishes at a Chinese restaurant without mentioning the egg roll.
If you are especially hungry, egg rolls are the perfect way to get a meal started. These large appetizers are stuffed with various fillings such as cabbage and pork. Crispy on the outside and with a full meal on the inside, egg rolls are just plain satisfying.
Egg rolls are offered at most Chinese restaurants and can thus be a great way to judge the overall quality of a restaurant. However, be aware that egg rolls are actually an Americanized Chinese food. They are tasty, but if you want a roll that is closer to Chinese tradition then check out our next entry.
The spring roll is the egg roll’s smaller cousin. While egg rolls are more popular in American Chinese cuisine, spring rolls are closer to authentic Chinese food. Although always remember that the true authenticity of a dish depends largely on the individual restaurant.
Spring roll wrappers are made of just flour and water, with no egg, making them a lighter option than their large cousin. Spring rolls tend to be more delicate and crisp than egg rolls. Like egg rolls, they come in a variety of flavors from shrimp stuffed to vegetarian.
If you always order egg rolls at your favorite Chinese place, then give spring rolls a try! You won’t be disappointed with these smaller crunchy rolls.
Steamed Vermicelli Rolls
If you want the packed goodness of roll that is not fried, then steamed vermicelli rolls are a lesser-known Chinese dish. Vermicelli rolls consist of wrappers made of rice starch rolled and packed with various fillings and topped with some type of condiments such as soy, sesame, or chili sauce.
These rolls are steamed giving them a softer texture than the fried spring and egg rolls. Vermicelli rolls are a popular dim sum item, but they can also be found as part of a Chinese breakfast or street market.
As their name implies, the preparation of century eggs has to do with time, but this time is more like weeks or months rather than years. During this time the eggs are packed in a salty mixture which makes the whites turn dark.
While this may seem like a strange way to prepare eggs, it creates an egg that is creamy and savory. Century eggs are a must if you already enjoy eggs, and they make a nice pairing with some of the other dishes on our list such as congee.
There is perhaps no better way to judge a Chinese restaurant than by their dumplings. Dumplings are traditional Chinese food that comes in a variety of flavors and types.
Because dumplings have a rich history and an enormous potential for different flavors and customization, ordering whatever dumpling is available at your local Chinese restaurant is an excellent way to get a feel for the flavor and quality of the restaurant.
Dumplings are a broad category of dishes, and the rest of this list will feature some specific types such as potstickers and Xiao long bao. However, even if the Chinese restaurant does not have the specific type of dumplings we recommend here, any dumpling is a great order from a Chinese restaurant.
Essentially potstickers are leftover dumplings, but do not let that turn you off of these tasty treats! Potstickers are dumplings that are reheated through frying. The result is a crispier dumpling wrapping with the same delicious filling.
Although pork potstickers are the most common, you can also find potstickers filled with vegetables and other meats.
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings, are something you must try if you find a Chinese restaurant that serves them! Not only are these dumplings delicious, but they are also unique food that you are sure to remember eating.
Xiao Long Bao is like the inverse of wonton soup. Instead of dumplings floating in soup, the soup is sealed inside the dumplings. Xiao Long Bao involves placing congealed broth inside a dumpling, which then turns back into the soup when heated. The result is a dumpling with soup inside!
Xiao Long Bao is traditionally eaten by breaking the dumpling and slurping the soup. Popping the whole thing in your mouth may seem tasty but will probably burn your tongue and make a mess. These dumplings are both delicious and fun to eat, so make sure to try them the next time you see them on the menu!
Bao or Baozi
While many of us think of rice and stir fry when thinking of Chinese food, Chinese baking is a lesser-known but equally delicious aspect of Chinese cuisine. Baozi or Bao are steamed bread dumplings that can be filled in both sweet and savory options.
These steamed buns are soft and fluffy and come in so many different flavors that you are sure to find something you like. Bao can be a dessert or be packed with meat and veggies for a complete and convenient meal. Bao is kind of like a Chinese sandwich, and they are worth a try.
Dou Sha Bao
If we are going to recommend bao, then we have to talk specifically about dou sha bao, which is bao buns filled with red bean paste.
Red bean paste is a common ingredient in Eastern Asia. A sweetened version is often used to make desserts, which is what dou sha bao is. Red beans in a dessert may seem odd, but these sweet fluffy buns will quickly change your mind.
Dou Sha bao also makes a great breakfast. While these may be hard to find at a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese bakery is sure to have some dou sha bao for you to try.
Shumai is steamed pork and shrimp dumplings with lots of filling and thin wrappers. Sometimes the pork is paired with other seafood such as crab or scallops instead of shrimp.
These meat-packed dumplings are a hearty treat. They have a soft rather than crispy texture because they are steamed. They are usually part of dim sum, but you can order shumai at many Chinese restaurants at any time of day.
Char siu is a Cantonese method for barbecuing pork. The pork is cooked on a skewer and with a blend of spices that give it a sweet barbecue flavor.
Char siu is tender and full of flavor. It can be served in a variety of ways. Char siu often comes with noodles or is used as a filling for bao. If you like barbecue, then give char siu a try next time you visit a Chinese restaurant.
Speaking of barbecue, did you know that Chinese restaurants often have great spareribs? Chinese cuisine is a master of marinating meats, and this results in not only char siu but another great barbecue as well.
The exact spices and flavors of spare ribs vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant, but if you are a fan of meat, then be sure to give your local Chinese restaurant’s spare ribs a try. You are in for a flavorful and tender experience.
Egg Drop Soup
No trip to a Chinese restaurant is complete without soup. Soup is a large part of Chinese cuisine, and there are a large variety of Chinese soups that make excellent sides or even main courses. Egg drop soup is a classic that can be found at almost any Chinese restaurant.
Egg drop soup is a simple affair that does not include a lot of extra garnish. Typically made with chicken broth or stock, this soup includes strings of egg and often has green onion as a garnish. While it may seem overly simple, egg drop soup is a comforting choice with a simple but full flavor.
Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and sour soup is another common soup that is worth a try. The hot comes from the inclusion of white peppers, and the sour comes from added vinegar.
Besides its namesake ingredients hot and sour soup usually consists of some type of meat broth, bamboo, mushrooms, and tofu. While its name can make this soup sound a little off-putting to the less adventurous, it is a well-known and well-beloved dish that is likely to surprise you with how great it tastes!
Wonton soup is a broth with wontons and vegetables. Because the wontons are the source of meat, the exact flavor of this soup can vary widely. Pork, shrimp, and chicken can all be used as fillings. Vegetarian wontons can also be used.
Some versions of wonton soup include thin noodles in the broth as well. If you like wontons but are not in the mood for fried food, then wonton soup is a warm and filling way to indulge in your wonton fix.
Winter Melon Soup
For a soup with a unique main ingredient, winter melon soup provides a tasty experience. Despite the inclusion of fruit, this is still a savory soup that often has some sort of meat as well as vegetables in it.
It cannot be denied that the inclusion of melon in a hot soup can be a little strange upon the first bite, but this dish has been around a long time because it works. Two or three bites into this soup you will be fully enjoying its unique flavor.
If you happen to be sick and also craving Chinese food, then congee is the perfect comfort food. Congee is a rice porridge, although it can be made with other grains, that is easily digested and can be topped with different veggies and meat.
Congee may be hard to find at some Chinese restaurants as it is more of breakfast food, but if you get the chance you should try this comfort food. Congee can be sweet, savory, thick, or thin, making it a dish that will give you a different experience at each new restaurant.
Yangzhou Fried Rice
Every Chinese restaurant serves fried rice as a side dish, but you can also get Yangzhou Fried Rice as a main course, although you are unlikely to find it under this exact name.
Yangzhou Fried Rice is fried rice with vegetables and meat mixed into it. It is a hearty meal by itself not a side like plain fried rice. Yangzhou Fried Rice is often listed at Chinese restaurants as pork fried rice, shrimp fried rice, house fried rice, or even simply Chinese fried rice.
For the more adventurous, stinky tofu is a common Chinese dish that many Westerners fail to give a chance. Stinky tofu is tofu that has been brined and then fermented. Its exact preparation and the way it is served varies from place to place.
While stinky tofu can seem incredibly odd, remember that smelly cheese often has the best flavor. Just because something smells bad does not mean it tastes bad! Fermentation is a food preparation method that has been around for a long time and which is essential to many of our favorite foods like cheese.
The name may be unappealing, but stinky tofu is a favorite food of many people around the world. Give it a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
While you may hear greens and immediately think salad, Asian greens are in a class of their own and are served at most Chinese restaurants. Asian greens include things such as bok choy, choy sum, and Chinese broccoli.
Instead of the watery or mild taste of lettuce and spinach, Asian greens have a fuller and savory flavor. Prepared with a sauce through steaming or sautéing these greens are packed full of nutrients and taste amazing.
It can be easy to dive into the different noodles, rice, and meat options at Chinese restaurants, but if you take the time to order this vegetable dish, you will not be disappointed. A plate of Asian greens can add some needed brightness and nutrition to the table.
Salt and Pepper Dishes
American Chinese food is often heavily sauced, spiced, and marinated, but the light seasoning of Chinese Salt and Pepper dishes showcases Chinese cuisine’s overall breadth.
Salt and Pepper dishes refer to the meat that has been flavored with salt and Szechuan pepper. Salt and pepper shrimp is common, but you can also get squid, crab, tofu, ribs, and more with this simple salt and pepper seasoning.
Salt and pepper dishes allow the main protein to shine through rather than focusing on the sauce. These dishes are also especially good for takeout because they lack heavy sauce which can render your food soggy.
Sweet and Sour Dishes
Sweet and sour pork, chicken, and shrimp are a staple at American Chinese restaurants. While they may not be as authentic or traditional as other items on our list, we think they are worth mentioning as a genuinely tasty dishes that can be ordered in Chinese restaurants.
You can recognize sweet and sour dishes by their signature orange-red coloring from the sweet and sour sauce. Some places serve the sauce alongside the dish instead of coating the meat in it. This signature sauce is so good that it is often served alongside foods like fried wontons as a dipping sauce.
If you have not yet had sweet and sour anything, then you need to try this dish. It has become incredibly popular for a reason.
Kung Pao Chicken
While this dish is eaten all over China, the version you will find in most Chinese restaurants around the world is far from authentic. That being said even the less authentic Kung Pao Chicken is based on traditional food and still manages to be quite delicious.
Kung Pao Chicken relies heavily on the use of dried chilies, so this dish is not for those who cannot handle spice. This chicken stir-fry is usually served with rice, and the level of spice varies depending on the restaurant.
If you have not tried this Chinese dish yet, then you need to do so immediately. Peking duck is duck rubbed with seasoning, dried, and then hung in an oven to cook. The result is roasted crispy goodness.
Peking duck is usually served in small slices which are then eaten in wrappers with vegetables. The skin is also served and the bones are often used to make a broth, making Peking duck a full course meal by itself.
Peking duck is also typically accompanied by pancakes which serve as the next item on our list of dishes to order at a Chinese food restaurant.
Although these are called pancakes, they are not the fluffy breakfast food accompanied by maple syrup that you may be picturing. Scallion pancakes are made with a dough infused with scallions and oil for a savory flatbread-like food. These pancakes are cooked in a pan for crispy edges and chewy insides.
Scallion pancakes can be found as street food, making it an excellent snack, or serve as an accompaniment to larger dishes such as Peking duck.
Shrimp with Cashew Nuts
This seafood dish is a less calorie-heavy meal with a distinct taste and texture. Peeled shrimp provides a tender protein while the cashew nuts give the dish crunch and flavor. This may not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of shrimp and Chinese food, but it is an undeniably tasty dish with a lighter feel.
At its most basic chow mein is a stir fry dish with thin noodles. It includes meat (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp), onions, and celery. Chow mein ingredients can go beyond this to include other vegetables as well. It is a highly customizable dish.
Chow mein is a less sauced stir fry than lo mein, which allows the individual components to shine through better. Chow mein has plenty of flavor without needing to swim in the sauce.
Another great stir fry option besides chow mein is chow fun. Chow fun consists of wide rice noodles with a protein source and vegetables tossed in a light sauce. The sauce is thick rather than soupy, so you get plenty of flavor without the wetness of lo mein dishes.
Chow fun has all the flavor of lo mein but is a more authentic and less messy dish. If you typically go for lo mein try chow fun instead. You may discover a new favorite dish.
Ma Po Tofu
Do not let the name fool you. Ma Pa Tofu is not a vegetarian dish, but it is delicious enough to get anyone eating and loving tofu.
Ma Pa Tofu is tofu topped with minced beef or pork. Seasoned with broth and chili oil, this is one dish that will make your mouth numb. Western versions of this dish do tend to be less spicy than the traditional dish.
If you are a meat eater who is unsure about tofu, then give Ma Pa tofu a go. It will show you the full flavor of tofu while also pairing it with meat. For vegetarians, sorry this is one tofu dish that is not for you.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
This no-fuss main course may not look as fancy as some of the other options on our list, but it packs plenty of flavor into its basic concept.
Hainanese chicken rice features a slow-cooked chicken served with rice flavored with the chicken’s broth and chili oil. If you find an abundance of spices and sauce overwhelming this dish could provide an easier entry to Chinese food for you.
Dan Dan Noodles
At its core dan dan noodles is a dish consisting of long noodles tossed in chili oil. However, the dish often gets additions such as pork, various vegetables, soy sauce, and peanuts. Chili oil ensures that this dish is spicy, and it can be made even spicier depending on the additions.
This isn’t technically a dish, but more of a cooking and eating method that is absolutely worth experiencing if you can find a Chinese restaurant that does it. Hot Pot involves a large pot of hot broth in the center of the table. Raw vegetables and meat are placed around it, and everyone cooks their food using the broth.
This is less of a dish and more of an experience, but that does not make it any less tasty! With Hot Pot, you can enjoy a memorable time with family and friends as well as good food. Hot Pot is also the most customizable Chinese dish on our list. You can make yourself whatever you want and easily avoid foods you do not like.
China is a large country, and it is unlikely you will be able to experience all of the country’s vast culinary traditions at your local Chinese restaurant. However, if you order some of the above options, you are sure to experience more of what Chinese food has to offer. (check it out: Order Chinese Dishes Like a Local)