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6 of The Most Delicious Things I Ate While Living in China

One of the most pleasant surprises about living in China was the food.

I was very familiar with the Americanized version of Chinese food and even though I knew that it would be different once I got to China, I wasn’t expecting it to be so good.

Chinese cuisine quickly became number one on my list and as I learned which dishes were my favorite, I tried to savor them before moving out of the country for good. If you happen to be traveling to China, keep a look out for these items; your taste buds will thank you.

Sugar Coated & Fried Taro

Because I have a massive sweet tooth, I quickly fell in love with this dish after trying it once. Essentially a sweet potato, taro is purple in color when cut open and quite large and brown from the outside.

It’s popular in places like Hawaii and Asia and is commonly eaten as a dessert. In fact, many candies and pastries around China can be found in the Taro flavor.

This particular dish involves chunks of taro that are coated in a caramelized sugar and then deep fried. The outside is crunchy and sweet while the taro itself becomes creamy. It can be a little difficult to eat as they stick together but it’s well worth it.

Photo Source: Daydaycook.com

Photo Source: Daydaycook.com

Lamian

The name of this dish literally means; hand-stretched noodles. I often saw restaurant staff pulling the noodles by hand in the windows of their establishments. While China is full of options for noodle dishes, Lamian is a popular dish coming from the Muslim population in the country.

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The noodles typically appear in beef flavored soup with cilantro and other spices. They are quite soft and tender to eat and sometimes appear without the soup and instead tossed with a tomato based sauce. The best spot to try this soup is in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an where heaping hot bowls are offered to guests in abundance.

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Szechuan Eggplant

Szechuan cuisine comes from the Szechuan province in western China and is characterized by its spice.

These dishes are not only hot but are known for their distinct flavor profiles which include the Szechuan pepper, white pepper, chili pepper, anise, garlic, and cilantro.

The long and thin Chinese eggplant is fried in a wok with oil, soy sauce and chili paste with a heavy helping of seasoning. The end result is a bowl of tender and perfectly spiced eggplant; popular with people all over the country.

Photo Source: Redcookbook.net

Photo Source: Redcookbook.net

Smashed Cucumber

One of the few cold dishes that I came across in China, the smashed cucumber salad is packed with flavor and quickly became my go-to side dish when dining out.

Coming again from the Szechuan style of cuisine, these cucumbers can be so spicy that they numb your mouth. Chefs will take the long, ridged cucumbers that are typical to China and smash them open with a meat cleaver.

This leaves the chunks of cucumbers in various shapes and sizes. They are then mixed with chili paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, raw garlic, cilantro and sugar to finish off the dish.

smashed cucumber

Dumplings

I was familiar with dumplings before even moving to China but the quality of what I tried there was off the charts. My favorite kinds were filled with tofu, mini shrimp and cilantro and were always cooked by steaming.

The dumplings I had were always hand-made from a little shop on the corner and I got to watch as the dough was filled up with vegetables and meat, pinched to close and then steamed in tiny baskets.

They were always fresh, soft and perfect for dipping in my favorite concoction of soy sauce, chili paste, and rice vinegar.

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Tea Eggs

More of a snack than a dish, these tea eggs caught my eye as they seemed to be everywhere I went.

They look strange at first; brown eggs floating in a slow cooker of brown water, and it wasn’t until I asked a local friend what they were that I actually tried one.

The shelled eggs are actually hard boiled in a mixture of tea, giving them an odd color and an extremely distinct flavor. They are a bit saltier than the usual hard-boiled egg and are extremely popular in places all over China.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.