BY LOUISA MARSHALL/DEC. 14, 2020 2:24 PM EDT
Whether you’re a fan of ordering from your favorite restaurant or cooking a meal from scratch, few cuisines have the mass appeal that Chinese food does. It seems like every small town and massive city has that one Chinese restaurant that outshines the rest, or a family-owned business that boasts authenticity. So whether you prefer chow mein over fried rice or your favorite part of the meal is the fortune cookie at the end, opting for Chinese food is always bound to please.
From tasty small dishes like dumplings and spring rolls to crowd-pleasing entrées like Kung Pao chicken and Mongolian beef, it’s hard to go wrong when ordering. But then again, it’s hard to know what to choose, as each item on the menu sounds better than the last. So when you’re in a bind and want to order one of everything, remember that you’re not alone.
We went through some of the most popular Chinese dishes, authentic recipes, and unique favorites to put together a complete list of the best food to choose from.
Truly no meal is complete without veggie spring rolls — that’s just a fact, we don’t make up the rules. The flavorful dish is a perfect way to start off your Chinese food experience. The crunchy outer shell, filled to the brim with a mouth-watering combination of veggies, is bound to please even the pickiest of eaters and is most likely a favorite of someone you know.
As noted by The Woks of Life: A Culinary Genealogy, there are actually two different kinds of Chinese spring rolls — the Cantonese version and the Shanghainese version. The most well-known, and therefore the crowd favorite, is the Cantonese version, which features the crispy shell. The spring rolls often consist of a mushroom filling and bamboo shoots, resulting in a slightly crunchy and extra delicious flavor.
If you opt for making the spring rolls yourself, The Woks of Life recommends that you tightly wrap the rolls, but be sure not to overstuff them. You should also use fresh spring roll wrappers if possible — you don’t want frozen wrappers if you can avoid it. (No one wants a damp spring roll.) Cook until golden brown and dig in, or if you’re anything like us, order them alongside your favorite entrée from your go-to Chinese restaurant. Either way, enjoy.
A close second: No Chinese takeout is complete without dumplings
If you order spring rolls, you have to order dumplings: It’s the law. Okay, it definitely isn’t, but you can never go wrong with dumplings. Most of us know Chinese dumplings as fried pot stickers, but as noted by China Sichuan Food, there are three different kinds of dumplings that differentiate based on the way they’re cooked: boiled, pan-fried, or steamed.
No matter the style, dumplings are widely popular in China and are one of the most commonly eaten foods during Chinese New Year. They’re typically served as a side dish or even as a breakfast item (count us in), and spending the time to make dumplings is one of the most important shared family experiences. All family members get involved to make the dumplings together. “The older generation with more experience in making dumplings makes the most of the preparation works including making well flavored dumpling fillings and a dumpling wrapper dough with an appropriate hardness,” China Sichuan Food explains. “When the dumpling party begins, someone starts to roll the wrapper and all of the others help to wrap them … Everyone is enjoying the precious family reunion time and looking forward to the next ‘get together’ dumpling party.”
So next time you order dumplings as part of your Chinese food delivery, not only enjoy the rich flavors but remember that dumplings represent an important part of Chinese culture.
Chinese food was brought to the United States and given new twists, spins, and completely new dishes. Chow mein is one of them, which may come as a surprise. While it is a go-to dish, noodles often served with veggies and topped with sesame seeds, it’s not an authentic dish to China but rather a spin on stir fry noodles. Leave it to The New Yorker to shed some light on the situation.