Unusual Chinese Dishes That are Worth Trying

2 November 2016


Chinese food is one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the UK and the US. This popularity is fairly easy to explain.

Both countries have relatively large Chinese populations (about 5% of the non-white population in the UK, and 1.5% of the total US population). Chinese food is remarkably healthy, as has been shown by many studies, and it is among the more inexpensive types of restaurant fare.  Chinese food is also remarkably easy to prepare at home.

If you check the menus of the Chinese restaurants in your neighbourhood on Urban Spoon (Zomato) or Hungry House, you are likely to find some dishes, such as duck and quail and some fish dishes, which are not common in other restaurants, but in most cases those restaurants are serving westernised versions of the recipes.

Part of the appeal of Chinese food is the unique combination of ingredients that complement one another and which often offer very pleasant contrasts.  Traditional Chinese cooking also makes full use of the ingredients. This has resulted in some unusual preparations and cooking techniques, at least by western standards.
With that in mind, here are some traditional Chinese dishes and cooking techniques.

Bones 
Chinese chefs believe that the meat near the bone is the best tasting. Therefore meat is often cut so that the bones shatter and end up in the dish; this is especially true if the meat is duck, chicken, or pork. This not only ensures that the best meat is in the dish, but also has the side benefit of releasing the marrow into the dish, which significantly adds to the taste.  Finding a bit of bone in your dish is a mark of a traditional Chinese chef, not a sign of careless preparation.

Vegetables
The “raw food” movement is one of the latest fads in the western world. Raw vegetables are an oddity in Chinas, where many foods westerners eat raw, such as lettuce and cucumber, are served pickled, fried, or boiled.

Lotus roots and bamboo shoots are becoming fairly common in UK Chinese kitchens. With proper preparation both have a similar texture and taste to common lettuce.


Chinese markets frequently have bitter melon, also called winter melon. Bitter melon rarely finds its way onto mainstream Chinese restaurant menus due to its exceedingly bitter taste which can be overpowering. However, bitter melon does have its fans, most of whom have developed a taste for it over a period of time. One advantage of adding bitter melon to your diet is that it may have significant health advantages as it has been show to lower the blood glucose levels of diabetics and some researchers feel it may be an effective cancer fighter.

Meat and Fish
Chinese cooking has a long history of preparing dishes that are totally foreign to the western way of thinking, however most are never found outside of mainland China. However, it is not uncommon to find heads, feet, and beaks on your plate in more traditional restaurants outside of China.

That said, there are a few that are sometimes available and well worth sampling.

Fried chicken feet are one example of how nothing goes to waste in Chinese cooking.  Often served as starters, fried chicken feet are quite crisp and tasty.

Many scientists have stated that one of the best ways to address the issue of world hunger and sustainability is by consuming insects, something the Chinese have practiced for centuries.  Scorpions, ants, and cicadas are among the insects that can frequently be found at Chinese markets and Chinese food festivals.  Most are served deep-fried and have an unique but pleasant taste. Scorpions are served deep fried and all and are perfectly safe to eat as any poison is killed during the cooking process. Most insects have a sort of nutty taste, with the exception of ants, which surprisingly taste like limes.


Practically everything found in the ocean has made its way onto the dinner plate in China. In all honesty the decision on whether to try them depends on your personal taste in seafood. One item that can be easily avoided is sea cucumbers, which are frequently sold in Chinese herb and medicine shops. Despite their unusual appearance, their taste is very bland.

Thousand-year-old eggs are another item which can frequently be found in Chinese markets. Thousand-year-old eggs are actually only about 100 days old and are preserved duck eggs that have been coated with ash and salt that turn the whites a dark colour.  Preserved eggs can be frequently found in soups or other dishes. They are a bit of an acquired taste and have a strong salty flavour.

Exploring some of the more traditional Chinese foods is a great way to expand your culinary horizon, and many of the items (with the exception of preserved eggs) are amazingly easy to prepare at home.


Give a Gift

If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a gift to help Kuriositas to continue to bring you fascinating features, photographs and videos.
Thank you!



Pick your favorite way to stay updated

Amung Feedjit
Follow Kuriositas on Facebook