If you’re a fan of Chinese food in the United States, you’ve probably eaten General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken, and chicken and broccoli — all common dishes found in U.S. Chinese restaurants. But they’re actually a rarity in China.
Authentic Chinese food varies tremendously by region. Cantonese cuisine in the south is generally sweet, while Sichuan food in the southwest is famous for it’s spiciness, and Huaiyang cuisine, found in the Huai and Yangzi river area has lighter flavor notes.
Here are five authentic Chinese dishes that you might want to try instead of your favorite Chinese-American fare.
Peking Duck instead of General Tso’s Chicken
- Region: Beijing
- Cooking method: Roasted
- Taste notes: Flavorful duck meat, crispy skin, sweet sauce
If you’re looking for a rich-flavored poultry dish, you’ll be amazed by Peking duck. This dish is a famous roasted duck recipe from Beijing and is known for its flavorful meat and thin, crispy skin. The meat is paired with scallions, cucumbers, asweet bean sauce, and thin pancakes. Kids will love the hands-on eating where diners can assemble and roll your their own Peking duck pancakes.
Baozi instead of Crab Rangoon
- Region: Originated in north China, but every region has a recipe
- Cooking method: Steamed
- Taste notes: Soft bun, savory or sweet filling
You won’t find Crab Rangoon in China, but if you are eager to taste a filled dumpling, order baozi. Baozi, or just bao, is a type of steamed bun that is often served as breakfast in China. It can be filled with meat and/or vegetarian fillings.
La Zi Ji (Chicken with Chilies) instead of Chicken and Broccoli
- Region: Sichuan
- Cooking method: Deep fried and then stir fried
- Taste notes: Spicy!
If you’re craving chicken and want to try something totally different order La Zi Ji at your local Sichuan restaurant. This dish, literally translated as chicken with chilies, is a popular dish made with deep-fried chicken that is then stir-fried with garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. Be forewarned, this is not for those who can’t eat spicy.
Chinese hot pot instead of Mongolian beef
- Region: Mongolian origins, but now throughout China
- Cooking method: Boiled
- Taste notes: Variety is key, spicy and not spicy, boiled meat, sauces
If you’re a red meat lover or vegetarian who wants to experiment with something other than stir fried beef or stir fried greens, try Chinese hot pot. This dish is perfect for cold winter nights and features a large pot where diners can cook their own meat and veggies in a delicious boiling broth with special condiments such as sesame or shacha sauce.
Cantonese dim sum instead of egg fu young
- Region: Guangdong
- Cooking method: Steamed, fried, boiled, baked
- Taste: Everything!
For those craving breakfast food, try out dim sum instead of the Chinese-American and Chinese-Indonesian creation of egg fu young. Dim sum, originally a brunch event in south China offers up carts of a myriad of fried, steamed, and boiled small dishes for customers to pick and choose. Popular dim sum dishes included steamed shrimp and pork dumplings, stuffed eggplant, sesame balls and much more. Expect to stay a while as dim sum is meant to be savored with good friends and family.