Undoubtedly, Chinese cuisine is probably the most popular food globally. So, what does authentic Chinese food actually taste like? There seems to be a common belief that authentic Chinese cuisine is largely raw or bland – without a trace of spice. While there maybe some truth behind this misconception; it’s hard to categorise Chinese food into a particular slot or typecast it as being totally different to what you’ve had back home. With a country as diverse, both culturally and geographically, as China, the eating patterns vary from the North to the South. And with China rapidly opening up to American fast food giants such as Burger King, McDonald’s, & KFC; it is always possible to get a meal of your preference. Besides, in a bid to modernise itself, it’s possible to find a local Chinese outlet serving, if not authentic, but savoury International cuisine. Vegetarians might find it harder to find a square meal; but supermarkets and bakeries are plenty. If you’re willing to experiment, like us, you’re in for a treat.

Traditional Chinese Cuisine

Hot Pot 

As the name suggests, a hot pot is a pot of boiling stock, in which, you can add the ingredients of your choice. Leafy veggies, mushrooms, seafood, and/or meats are slowly cooked in a broth. I’ve never tried hot pot in China, but did so in Japan. It’s an experience on its own. And what’s the best part? While your meal cooks; you have a perfect opportunity to strike an engaging conversation with your hosts.

Local Delicacies 

We were invited by Basil’s colleague to sample traditional Chinese cuisine in an up-scale restaurant in Shanghai. I was apprehensive, although, I had already spent three weeks in China. I tried to stick to dumplings, rice, and chicken. But our hostess was insistent we try traditional delicacies. And I’m glad she did. From lotus leaf vegetable, eggplant salad, river fish in brine, to plum juice; our food was very different from what I’d expected it to be.

Local Chains 

There are many local outlets/eateries that cater to quick meals and local delicacies. Rice with chicken gravy or shrimp dumplings in soup; these meals target those who are looking for a budget meal and want it fast. It’s best to come armed with some prior chopstick practice.

Pan Asian Cuisine

Korean ramen/instant noodles are easily available in most supermarkets, in a variety of flavours, such as mushroom and seafood. It’s a budget option for a service apartment meal. Vietnamese cuisine is also an option worth trying. Quick to try something new, Basil never missed an opportunity to taste Vietnamese shrimp/meat soup in Beijing.

European / Continental Cuisine

Shanghai’s increasing expat population ensures you’d always be able try international cuisine. Xintiandi or Tianzifang might be good bets to indulge in some savoury Italian/continental cuisine.


Sweet cravings will be difficult to resist in china. There are varieties of desserts and ice-creams to choose from. Irrespective of the weather – you will find someone with an ice-cream. In Beijing and Xian, we were particularly amazed to see the number of locals trying the smiley-face(our nick-name)lolly. After a warm, humid day in the Summer Palace, it was my time to indulge in some ice-cream cravings. And surely, it lived up to its fame.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

6 replies on “What does Chinese food taste like?

  1. I love chinese food and indeed its difficult to categorise the flavours! I have eaten chinese in lots of countries, and they all taste different – ranging from bland to super hot. Here in Johannesburg, there is a ChinaTown which is full of restaurants run by authentic Chinese chefs. But even there, the food differs. Quite an experience!

    1. Rightly said! I’ve read in the southern provinces the food tends to get hotter. We went as far as Guilin & Yangshuo. But, it’s difficult to know what’s truly authentic. 🙂 The world seems to have become a giant melting pot of sorts. Cultures seem to coalesce. I think it blends the best of the east with the west. We’re not complaining. Hehe!

  2. I ate one of the best eggplant dishes ever in Beijing and that was quite a surprise for me – eggplants were not what I expected. The hot pot looks delicious, I wish I had tried that too!

    1. There are many variants of the eggplant dish. I loved all of them! I think, you can get hot pot in Korea as well. If you’re still in Seoul, you could try it there! 🙂

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