Stop Calling Panda Express Chinese Food, Try These 20 Authentic Chinese Dishes Instead

Stop Calling Panda Express Chinese Food, Try These 20 Authentic Chinese Dishes Instead

Listen, we've got no hate towards Panda Express, but in the West, it's become synonymous with Chinese cuisine for many Americans. Despite its popularity, and that it's delicious in its own right, the menu here is one that has more of an American take rather than a true representation of authentic Chinese flavours. It's time to move beyond the comforts of orange chicken and fried rice - let us show you 20 authentic Chinese dishes that are truly delicious and demonstrate the beauty of this country's food.

1. Chicken Feet

Chicken Feet, often referred to as "Phoenix Claws" in Chinese cuisine, are a common dish in dim sum restaurants. They are typically marinated in a sauce of black bean and chili before being steamed or fried, resulting in a unique texture and flavor, appreciated for their gelatinous and tender qualities. But for most Westerners, the scary appearance of this dish makes it one of the lesser-appreciated Chinese dishes in America.

Seasoned-Chicken-Feet-749362 1280Image by jyleen21 from Pixabay

2. Stinky Tofu 

Stinky Tofu is a popular street food in China, best known for its pungent odor which is already given away in its name. Often compared to rotten food or feet, its strong smell is described as offputting to most people unfamiliar with it. But despite its scent, the tofu has a surprisingly mild taste and is usually deep-fried and served with a delightful chili sauce or soy sauce. It's got the best crispy exterior and soft interior, and if people could get over the smell, they'd seriously love it.

Stinky Tofu FriedThe original uploader was Richy at Chinese Wikipedia.

3. Lotus Root with Glutinous Rice

This dish is both visually appealing and delicious! Lotus roots are stuffed with chewy, glutinous rice before being slow-cooked in a sweet syrup. Offering a unique blend of both crunchy and soft textures in just one bite, you'll fall in love with the sweet flavor of this dish.

Hk Syp 西環 Sai Ying Pun 明星海鮮酒家 Star Seafood Restaurant 晚餐 Diner Food 乳香蓮藕片 Fried Lotus Root Slice July 2023 Px3 01Luoywo Huandgaum 663 on Wikimedia Commons

4. Hot Pot

Hot Pot has slowly made its way to the West, making everyone fall in love with it. It's a communal eating experience where a simmering pot of savory broth is placed at the center of the table, and ingredients like thinly sliced meat, vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, and egg dumplings are cooked right there. People love hot pot for its customizability and its interactive nature, bringing everyone at the table even closer together.

Hot-Pot-4018869 1280Image by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay


5. Mapo Tofu

If you love a bit of strong and spicy flavour, you're absolutely going to love this popular Sichuan dish. Mapo Tofu involves soft tofu set in a spicy and aromatic sauce made from fermented bean and chili paste, minced meat (typically pork or beef!), and Sichuan peppercorns. It's got some serious heat to it, so if you're bad with spice, look for a mild version or maybe just try a little bit.

Mapo-Tofu-2570173 1280Image by Frank Zhang from Pixabay

6. Chongqing Chicken

Chongqing Chicken is a fiery and flavorful dish from Chongqing, consisting of deep-fried chicken pieces tossed with an abundance of dried chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and various spices. It's certainly got a kick to it! It's a perfect choice for spice lovers, offering an intense heat balanced by the fragrant spices, and juicy chunks of fried chicken.

Chongqing Chicken (9322465494)Charles Haynes on Wikimedia Commons

7. Biang Biang Noodles

Biang Biang Noodles are a type of Shaanxi cuisine known for their wide, belt-like shape. These hand-pulled noodles are chewy and thick, served with a variety of toppings like chili oil, vinegar, minced pork, and vegetables, offering a delightful mix of textures and flavors. We're drooling just at the thought of it!

Biang Biang Noodles At Qintangyizhan, Tianzhu, Beijing (20200412133323)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons

8. Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup

Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup is a popular Chinese soup known for its complex and bold flavors. If it's got the word Sichuan in it, you already know what that means. It combines ingredients like wood ear mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, and pork, in a broth that's both spicy from white pepper and sour from vinegar, creating a distinctive taste experience.

Mmm... Hot And Sour Soup (7218396478)jeffreyw on Wikimedia Commons

9. Dongpo Pork

Dongpo Pork is a famous Hangzhou dish made from pork belly, which is slow-cooked in a rich sauce of soy sauce, sugar, and Shaoxing wine. Here's a little bit of fun history: supposedly named after the poet Su Dongpo, this dish is celebrated for its melt-in-the-mouth texture and the balance of sweet and savory flavors. Sound like something you might want to try?

盐官缸肉2三猎 on Wikimedia Commons

10. Beggar's Chicken

Beggar's Chicken is a unique Chinese dish where a whole chicken is stuffed with herbs and spices, wrapped in lotus leaves and clay, and then slow-roasted. The result is incredibly tender, delicious, and aromatic meat. But what's even more amazing is the story and legend behind the dish - all surrounding a beggar who invented the dish by chance (hence the name!).

1024Px-Chicken Packed With Lotus LeafPauloleong2002 on Wikimedia Commons


11. Lanzhou Beef Noodles

Lanzhou Beef Noodles are a hallmark of Lanzhou cuisine, consisting of hand-pulled noodles that are thick and chewy, clear beef broth, radish, chili oil, and herbs. This dish is renowned for its five colors (clear, white, red, green, and yellow) and offers a perfect balance of flavors and textures that is seriously irresistible.

1024Px-Beef Noodles Set In Anning, Lanzhou (20171005085705)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons

12. Twice Cooked Pork

Twice Cooked Pork, or "Hui Guo Rou," is a popular Sichuan dish made by first boiling pork belly then stir-frying it with vegetables like leeks and bell peppers in a spicy bean paste. This cooking method renders the pork incredibly flavorful and tender, making every bite burst with the most amazing texture and taste.

Twice Cooked Pork, Jia Yan, 5 Rue Humblot, Paris 002Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France on Wikimedia Commons

13. Lion's Head Meatballs

Don't worry, there's no lion actually involved here. Lion's Head Meatballs are large pork meatballs stewed or steamed with vegetables, particularly cabbage or bok choy. They are named for their resemblance to the mane of a lion (these meatballs are huge!) and are known for their juicy and tender texture, often flavored with ginger and soy sauce.

Lions Head Meatballs In Brown SauceJpatokal on Wikimedia Commons

14. Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs are a popular Chinese dish featuring pork ribs cooked in a vibrant sauce that perfectly balances sweetness from sugar and tartness from vinegar. This dish is loved for its sticky, finger-licking goodness and is a staple in both home cooking and restaurants. In other words, it's the kind of food you won't be able to have just one of.

糖醋排骨于厦门董辰兴 on Wikimedia Commons

15. Zha Jiang Mian

Zha Jiang Mian, translated as fried sauce noodles, is a popular Beijing dish consisting of thick wheat noodles topped with a hearty amount of pork and fermented bean paste sauce. It's an umami-rich sauce that we swear tastes good on everything! Often garnished with fresh cucumber or radish, these toppings provide a fun and crunchy contrast to the noodles.

Za Jiang Mian By AvlxyzOpponent on Wikimedia Commons

16. Guilin Rice Noodles

Guilin Rice Noodles are a famous dish from Guilin, characterized by their smooth and soft texture. Served in a broth made from beef, pork, and local spices, they are typically topped with pickled beans, roasted peanuts, and sliced meats, creating a rich and diverse flavor profile.

1024Px-Guilin Rice Noodles In Beijing (20150915111711)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons


17. Congee 

Congee, or rice porridge, is a comforting, homey dish often eaten for breakfast or as a light meal. It's made by slow-cooking rice until it breaks down into a creamy consistency, and can be flavoured with a variety of ingredients like chicken, beef, seafood, or vegetables. Throw in some of your favourite toppings and you've got a warm meal that'll truly touch your soul. Think of congee like America's chicken noodle soup!

Congee-982895 1280Image by YEES from Pixabay

18. Youtiao

Youtiao, also known as Chinese crullers or fried dough sticks, are a popular breakfast item in China. They are long, golden-brown, deep-fried strips of dough, often eaten with congee or soy milk. They're crispy on the outside and airy on the inside, with a slightly salty taste.

1024Px-YoutiaoPopo le Chien on Wikimedia Commons

19. Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup is like a warm hug, consisting of delicate dumplings filled with a mixture of ground meat (usually pork) and seasonings, served in a clear, savory broth. The wontons are known for their thin, silky wrappers and tender filling, making this soup a comforting and satisfying dish. It's the perfect thing to eat on any cold day, or if you're ever feeling under the weather. 

Soup-6902952 1280Image by 张婷芝 Cathy Zhang from Pixabay

20. Black Sesame Soup

Black Sesame Soup is a sweet and smooth dessert soup, made by grinding black sesame seeds into a fine paste and cooking it with sugar and rice flour. It's known for its rich, nutty flavor and is believed to have health benefits in traditional Chinese medicine. If you're not a fan of overly sweet desserts, you'll love this one.

Chinese Tongsui - Sesame Paste2225Group8 on Wikimedia Commons