While I’ve written about favourite Chinese food on several occasions already, I’ve avoided the following dishes. These are foreigner favourites – dishes most foreigners learn to order pretty soon after arriving. The reason I’ve avoided highlighting them is that many foreigners don’t get much beyond the foreigner favourites and miss out on all the other awesome food available in China. But I give in – they are pretty yummy, and many of you who have left China still miss them. So here you go! 6 foreigner favourites – three meats and three veg.
gōng bǎo jī dīng
This is probably the number one foreigner favourite dish here in Beijing. It’s known in the US as Kungpao Chicken and a lot of my American friends were familiar with it before arriving (unlike me). It’s actually not one of my favourites and I rarely order it unless I’m ordering for a group. But it’s a classic for a reason – most people love it! I had a friend my first year who ate Gongbao with rice for lunch every. single. day. It’s basically diced chicken and fried peanuts with da cong (spring onion) and a sweet spicy sauce. See a Chinese recipe here.
táng cù lǐ jí
The second classic dish ordered by foriegners – sweet and sour pork. This is the northern version of sweet-and-sour, made with tomato and vinegar. The southern style uses pineapple and I am not a fan of that one – pineapple is great unless cooked, in my opinion. (The name of that dish, by the way, is 咕嚕肉- gū lǔ ròu). Northern tang cu is sticky and sweet over cripsy, deep fried, battered meat. The same sauce is often used for fish, and sometimes for chicken or tofu. See a Chinese recipe here.
jīng jiàng ròu sī
This dish is slivers of pork in a sticky plum-type sauce, served with slivers of spring onion and squares of tofu skin. The tofu skin sheets are used as wrappers, with the pork and spring onion rolled up inside. I was surprised by how popular this dish was among foreigners, given the tofu, but the sauce is REALLY tasty so I guess that explains it. See a Chinese recipe here.
xiāng là tǔ dòu sī
This dish – sometimes called “Chinese french fries” by foreigners – is traditionally served as tower, piled up high on the plate. It’s basically slivers of potato that have been floured and deep fried until crispy, flavoured with coriander (cilantro) and dried chili. Sometimes there is vinegar, too. Done well it is AMAZING! Sometimes the words “油炸” (deep fried) are put in front to clarify that it is the fried dish, not the stir-fried dish – as stir fried sliver-cut potato (usually with a strongly vinegar flavour and a little green capsicum for colour) is another common Chinese dish. See a Chinese recipe for the FRIED version here.
dì sān xiān
This is a simple dish but very popular – it’s flavoured simply, savoury but not spicy. The “three” in the name of the dish refers to the three main ingredients – potato, egglant, and green capsicum (bell peppers). I don’t order this much because I’m not supposed to eat the eggplant or the capsicum – but it really is quite good.
See a Chinese recipe here.
gān biān dòu jiǎo
I’m finishing on a high with a dish made and enjoyed all around the country. This dish is grilled green beans with garlic and chili and sichuan peppercorns, sometimes ginger, and usually some pork mince. It is soooo good! The beans have an interesting texture and smoky flavour due to being effectively barbecued rather than stir fried. Sometimes it’s super spicy, and the peppercorns make your mouth numb, but that’s all just part of the fun.
See a Chinese recipe here.