Chinese Language Blog

20 Common Chinese Dishes Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Culture, Vocabulary

If you’ve ever been in a real Chinese restaurant before (by that I mean one that’s actually in China), I’m sure you know that awkward feeling of not being able to understand anything on the menu. While plenty of restaurants in China fix their menus up with pictures and others translate the names of dishes into English (with often hilarious Chinglish results), most typical local joints have nothing but Chinese characters on the menu. As a result, you’re going to be stuck picking some random dish and crossing your fingers. You may end up with something magically delicious, but then you may end up gnawing on chicken feet. To help you avoid that, here are the names of 20 common Chinese dishes that you’ll find all across the country:

A table full of great Chinese food at a local Lanzhou restaurant.

A table full of great Chinese food at a local Lanzhou restaurant: 回锅肉,西红柿炒鸡蛋,羊肉串,拍黄瓜.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 11.37.26 AMOf course, it’s not always possible to translate the names of Chinese dishes into English. For some examples of that, check out my past posts – Chinglish Menu and Chinglish Menu Part II. For example, the dishes “fish-scented pork” and “fish-scented eggplant” actually smell nothing like fish. Don’t let the odd English translation throw you off, because both are incredibly delicious. Words aren’t enough to get your appetite going, though, so here are some pictures of some of these common dishes in action:

Start your day off with a 煎饼。

Start your day off with a 煎饼.

Donkey meat is awesome. Try a 驴肉火烧 for lunch.

Donkey meat is awesome. Try a 驴肉火烧 for lunch.

The ubiquitous 宫爆鸡丁.

The ubiquitous 宫爆鸡丁.

There's nothing like a hot plate of 饺子.

There’s nothing like a hot plate of 饺子.

The Sichuan classic dish - 麻婆豆腐.

The Sichuan classic dish – 麻婆豆腐.

Probably the most fun dining experience around - 火锅.

Probably the most fun dining experience around – 火锅.

Of course, we’ve also got some videos about real Chinese food floating around on our YouTube channel. Here are some of my favorites:

Munch on the amazing donkey meat sandwiches.

Hit up Ghost Street in the capital for some Old Beijing hot pot.

Take a class at Beijing’s Hutong School to learn how to make Chinese dumplings.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there into a Chinese restaurant and put your language skills to use by reading the menu and ordering in Chinese!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. typhooonn:

    most of these dishes are all from Northern China. But you know the best food are from Southern China.

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