4 Popular Chinese Dishes to Try

Stir fried tomato and eggs in blue dish

If you’re eager to learn more about some of China’s most popular dishes, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’re breaking down four of our all-time favorites, from an easy comfort food classic to a celebratory staple. Hoping to give them a try? Order today on Shef.

Stir Fry Tomato and Egg

Considered to be the unofficial “national dish” of China, stir fry tomato and egg sits at the top of every Chinese comfort foods list. Fresh, savory-sweet tomatoes are reduced in a hot pan, then folded into fluffy soft-scrambled eggs. (Some chefs also include oyster sauce and sesame oil). The simple recipe, often served with rice or noodles, lives in the personal cookbook of every traditional Chinese kitchen.

Stir fry tomato and egg emerged in the 1930s as a hybrid between western and eastern tastes. Popularized by the American palate, Chinese chefs continued to perfect the technique until it became beloved in homes all over China. The cooking process is quick (less than 15 minutes), so it’s no surprise that it’s often the go-to meal for Chinese households looking for an easy-going dish at the end of a busy day.

mapo tofu bowl

Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu, a spicy aromatic tofu stir-fry made with fresh herbs and umami-rich chicken stock, originates from the Chinese province of Sichuan. Its flavor is often described in Chinese culture as “málà,” a numbing, tingly sensation felt on the tongue. Not quite spice, but an almost electrifying, unforgettable zing.

Mapo tofu was invented in 1862 during the Qing Dynasty by a small restaurant in North Chengdu. The restaurant owners fried a spicy fermented mix of soybean paste and Sichuan peppercorns with soft tofu and ground pork, then added chicken stock and cornstarch. The result? A deeply flavorful sauce (thickened by the cornstarch) that smothered the tofu and pork with just the right amount of heat & málà. What started as a humble local dish in Chengdu is now offered in Chinese restaurants worldwide, giving everyone a little taste of Sichuan.

Closeup on Chinese roast pork

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

This famous Chinese dish originates from Cantonese cuisine. Char siu translates to “fork roasted,” referencing the ancient Cantonese method of skewering marinated meat on long forks and cooking them over crackling flames.

Today, char siu is typically cooked in an oven or over an open fire. Its signature reddish hue comes from the flavorful Chinese ingredients used in the marinade, including soy sauce, honey, Chinese five spice, and fermented red bean curds. As the pork sits, the fermented red bean curd imparts a natural rosy hue and deepens its flavor. The marinaded char siu is then roasted at high heat and evenly glazed during the cooking process. After roasting, you’re left with juicy, sweet, and succulent roasted pork that perfectly represents what good Chinese BBQ can achieve.

side view of traditional asian food peking duck with cucumbers and sauce on a plate

Peking Duck

Known as a pristine celebration dish for Chinese banquets, weddings, and holidays, peking duck is considered Beijing’s signature dish. The name “peking” derives from the old name for Beijing before its modernization. The cooking process for peking duck is laborious and takes days to finish (Chinese chefs will train for years to perfect it), but the result is tender juicy meat accompanied by a crispy golden layer of duck skin.

The ducks used for this dish are raised in a specific environment that ensures the meat stays tender throughout the cooking process. Air is forced into the exterior skin to separate it from the cuts of fresh meat, which allows it to isolate and crisp up as it’s roasted over the flames. The sliced duck is accompanied by Chinese soft buns, spring onions, and sweet bean and hoisin sauces.

Ready to order? See if Shef delivers to your area.

Find Local Shefs & Meals

Shef delivers food in the following locations:

Find your local home-cooked food today!