6 Symbolic Chinese Dishes Eaten All Year Round

Food is an important part of Chinese culture, and Chinese cuisine holds many symbolic meanings.

Chinese dishes are often eaten around celebratory occasions. Many believe eating certain dishes during festivals such as the Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival or Dragon Boat Festival is considered auspicious. However more often than not, people of Chinese heritage eat certain dishes over and over again most days, and these dishes are equally important in Chinese culture.

Instant chicken ramen

Instant chicken ramen

Chinese food is not something I eat every day. But Chinese cuisine is one of my favourite cuisines. I find it fun replicating traditional Chinese recipes at home. It’s a treat when I get to eat at a low-key Chinese restaurant with family and friends on a casual weekend.

No matter the occasion, most Chinese dishes are symbolic of traditions and lessons learnt from the past. There are many variations of Chinese cuisine, ranging from Shanghai cuisine to Hainanese cuisine to Sichuan cuisine and so much more. Notably there are common ingredients within each cuisine. Here are six such symbolic Chinese dishes eaten around the world for breakfast, lunch and dinner on an average day.

Yangzhou fried rice

Yangzhou fried rice

1. Rice and noodles

Rice and noodles are regarded as firm staples in Chinese cuisine and accompany most everyday Chinese meals. A bowl of white rice is usually served alongside other dishes when it comes to Chinese dining. Rice has a long history in China. Initially around 1100BC, aristocrats in the Zhou dynasty were the ones who were able to afford rice. Later on everyone relied on it for food as it’s easy to cook and store, practical to eat every other day. Today rice is one of China’s top commodities; China relies on rice production to sustain its economy (interestingly importing rice for the first time from the US recently, probably to meet local demand), is responsible for about 30% of global rice production, and eats more than twice as much rice as Japan. To put it simply, rice is a way of life in Chinese culture.

While rice is mostly cultivated in the south of China, noodles are cultivated more easily in the north as that’s where wheat grains thrive due to climatic differences. Like rice, noodles have fed China for thousands of year and are a most economical energy, cereal food. While rice symbolises wealth and abundance, noodles symbolises longevity and long life.

Time and time again I’ve heard my folks and extended Chinese Malaysian family say they feel weird if they don’t eat rice or noodles after a day or two. Whenever we go out for Chinese dinner and don’t feel like eating white rice, my folks normally order fried rice instead as it is…rice. Call me a bad Asian but I have no problem not eating rice every day and have gone weeks without eating rice. That said, yangzhou fried rice (扬州炒饭) is one of the dishes I like to cook and eat, just like how I like making instant Maggi noodles for weekend breakfast.

Marinade chicken

Marinade chicken

2. Chicken

There are endless Chinese chicken recipes, many of which have been adapted to suit local palates around the world. While steamed yellow-skinned chicken is a popular dish during celebratory occasions (with chicken head, feet and tail symbolising unity and togetherness), chicken is common in Chinese stir-frys too. Oyster sauce chicken with bok choy, Malaysian mango chicken and cashew nut chicken were some dishes I remember my mum cooked when I was younger.

A lot of the time many Chinese are fond of eating chicken head and chicken feet for their gritty texture. This is in contrast with chicken breast which some Chinese reckon is ‘the meat of fools’, tasting like wood and nowhere near as enjoyable as eating meat with bones. Personally chicken breast is my favourite meat. Thick and smooth is just my preference.

On a side note, apart from chicken, duck is notoriously popular in Chinese cuisine. Duck (Peking duck) is historically an iconic dish in Chinese culture, prepared for royalty and later served to everyone else like rice. Not surprisingly China produces around 83% of duck meat production in the Asian region. In general, duck is more expensive than chicken as it’s the rarer of the two birds and not found in all parts of the world.

Lycium chinense

Lycium chinense

3. Dates and sesame seeds

Some Chinese dishes are sweeter than others. The Chinese date fruit, also known as the red date or jujube, and goji berries are often used in Chinese herbal soups, steamed chicken and teas. Dark red and orange in colour and high in vitamin B and C, a handful of these preserved dried fruits make any Chinese dish a touch sweeter (occasionally sour depending on season) and is believed to bring physical warmth to the body. In recent times jujubes and goji berries have been touted as antioxidant superfoods helping to regulate stress, sleep cycles and suppress cancerous cells.

At times a Chinese dish might come with subtle crunch along with the sweetness. Sesame seeds are commonly sprinkled over poultry dishes such as sesame oil chicken, fried chicken and sweet and sour pork (always debatably a true classic Chinese dish…).

Pan-fried pork dumplings

Pan-fried pork dumplings

4. Dumplings

Chinese dumplings are one of the most important and all time favourite foods in Chinese culture. A staple around the Chinese New Year, dumplings are also popular during yum cha and family gatherings. There are many kinds of Chinese dumplings; the jiǎozi (饺子), xiǎo long bāo (小笼包), shēng jiān bāo (生煎), xiā jiǎo/hā gáau (虾饺) and shāo mài/sīu máai (烧卖) are just a few of them.

As I wrote in Why Many Chinese Like Eating Dumplings, dumplings are dishes for sharing and represent wealth and togetherness. Interestingly enough, when it comes to eating dumplings many seem content to just eat dumplings and more dumplings, no need for rice of noodles. At least that is the case when I eat dumplings with my Chinese friends in Australia – just eat dumplings and no other dishes. Dumplings really are just that good by themselves and it’s easy to feel stuffed from eating more and more dumplings.

Pork buns

Pork buns

5. Green leafy vegetables

There’s almost always a vegetable dish when it comes to having a Chinese meal. Bok choy/Chinese celery (xiǎo bái cài, 小白菜), gai lan/Chinese broccoli (jiè làn, 芥蘭), water spinach and bamboo shoots are some popular greens in Chinese cooking. Probably the most well-known one is the bok choy. Native to China and first cultivated along the yellow Yangtze River Delta, it is nicknamed ‘soup spoon’ for its large leaves that are shaped like a spoon. Chinese immigrants brought bok choy to Australia during the 1850s Gold Rush and it was brought to North America in the 1880s with its seeds were sold in English-language seed catalogues.

In general, raw and uncooked vegetables aren’t eaten too often among the Chinese. Good sanitation has been a problem in China for a long time, and food here is preferably cooked over heat to minimise bacteria. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, uncooked and ‘cold’ food may not be optimal for digestion. Personally I like my vegetables cooked hot and over the years have learnt vegetables are one of the fastest foods to cook. If I come home from work, have the house to myself for the evening and am feeling lazy, boiling some bok choi or Chinese broccoli for five minutes along with some fresh meat makes for a meal right away. Quick and easy for a hungry girl. Not to mention washing up is easy too.

Boy choy

Boy choy

6. Tofu

Traditionally tofu symbolises death in Chinese culture. This is because most tofu is white (at least on the inside) and the colour white is synonymous with death – and so sometimes isn’t served during festivals. That said, some have suggested eating tofu sounds like eating a mouthful of ‘fú’ () or good fortune. In everyday Chinese cooking, tofu is cooked with soups and in stir fries, made into yam rings and simmered in hotpots. Made out of soybeans, milk and coagulents, there are many varieties of tofu such as beancurd, silken tofu, dehydrated tofu, pickled tofu and stinky tofu. One of the most popular tofu dishes is the Sichuan mapo tofu which is beancurd in red chilli and bean oil.

Rumour has it tofu is associated with sexual harassment. There is this story out of Chang’an in China where a husband and wife duo ran a tofu restaurant. The husband made tofu at night while the wife ran the shop in the day. The wife was said to have good looks as a result of of eating tofu (supposedly keeps the skin nice and smooth) and men patronised the shop to ‘eat tofu’ – flirt with her.

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Certain Chinese cuisine is spicier than others. Think Sichuan and Hunan cooking out of the Sichuan and Hunan provinces south of China where the climate is relatively cool. In general, many Chinese eat spicy and don’t mind spicy food at all. China currently produces around 28 million tons of chilli, which is 46% of the world’s total chillis. These days if you go to a Chinese restaurant, more than likely you’ll come across a spicy Chinese dish on the menu or chilli condiments on the table like chilli flakes or chilli oil.

Growing up Chinese Australian, my Chinese parents forbade me to eat spicy dishes until I was about 15. They argued eating spicy foods at a young age damages brain cells (can’t find research to prove this). Well by the time I started eating spicy food as an adult my tongue couldn’t tolerate it. Eating a bowl of curry noodles never fails to hurt my tongue and stomach a fair bit, and I’ve chugged glass after glass of milk to ease the fire on my tongue and stomach. Even eating ‘white and western’ kind of spicy levels in Australia is too much for me and so all you chilli lovers out there, yes you can call me a wuss.

Wonton noodles

Wonton noodles

Notably, Chinese meals are often centred about the notion of balance and the yin and yang philosophy. That is, in a given Chinese meal there usually is a balance of flavour (sweet, salty, sour, bitter), balance of ‘hot and cold’ foods and a mix of starch, meat and vegetable dishes and maybe even a soup dish so as to encompass as many nutrients and food groups as possible. As such some might argue Chinese food is healthier than other kinds of food. On one hand, eating a wide variety of foods is favourable so you get all the vitamins your body needs. But on the other hand, eat big portions of Chinese dishes and Chinese dishes that are greasy, that leads to calorie consumption overload.

Today Chinese food is found all over the world. In Australia, it’s not hard to find Chinese food in the capital cities. Here in Melbourne it’s not hard to find more than a few Chinese restaurants in the city and in the towns with a high Asian demographic – quite easy to eat at a different Chinese meal at a different Chinese restaurant every night (and so easy to get broke eating this way). The question of whether Australia’s Chinese food is more on the authentic side or more geared towards a Western palate is a question to ponder. But that’s another story for another day.

Do you like Chinese cuisine?

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221 thoughts on “6 Symbolic Chinese Dishes Eaten All Year Round

  1. Gorgeous photos Mabel! Now, I’m craving Chinese food. 🙂 It’s fun to learn the cultural background and significance of different foods and dishes. I’m told most of the Chinese foods we have in the US is not prepared the same as dishes prepared in China. More meat, less vegetables and spice here. Either way, I enjoy Chinese food and could eat it almost every day if there was enough variety of regional styles and flavors.

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  2. I can’t imagine NOT liking Chinese food, but I’ve come across people who don’t like it. One of the students comes to mind.

    A lot of Thai food is essentially Chinese food, so it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. Plus, I think many Asian dishes incorporate a kind of stir-fry. I was raised eating Eastern and Western food like you, so I really feel satisfied with both kinds of foods. I could eat rice everyday though. I prefer it over noodles. I think because we ate more rice than noodles growing up. I don’t know. Many Thais prefer noodles because rice is so common.

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    • I actually have not come across anyone who doesn’t like Chinese food. Everyone I know likes eating fried rice at the very least XD

      Interesting you mention Thai food is essentially Chinese food. I’ve heard Vietnamese food is also Chinese food. Different kinds of Asian foods have their similarities – for instance, noodle dishes. Sort of similar to how American and European cuisines involves bread a lot of the time.

      Lol I had mostly rice growing up but I prefer noodles. Given a choice, I’d go with noodles 😛

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      • Yeah, I mean, I know there are strict cuisines across very similar countries/regions, but there are dishes that you see, and you’re like, ‘yeah, that’s totally a Chinese dish.’. For example, braised pork knuckle in the dark sauce with the boiled eggs, etc. That is a Chinese dish, but it’s served regularly here.

        Sincerely,
        Team Rice

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  3. I agree Mabel, Chinese food has become global food now! It is interesting that some dishes are considered to be auspicious during festivals, just like many other Asian traditions. The dishes you have mentioned are the most common ones we associate with Chinese cuisine but I have never learned to cook Chinese food. You know why? Well, that gives another opportunity to dine out! 🙂 Ha ha! I like that tofu story! Nice post.

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    • You said it, Balroop. Chinese food is indeed global food now. It can be tricky cooking some Chinese food – you need to get the ratio of the ingredients just right for all the flavours to come through. Hope you have some lovely experiences and great food at Chinese restaurants 😊

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  4. A very informative and mouth-watering post!
    As you may be aware, Japan also has a significant Chinese population, and Chinese cuisine (in many varieties) is very popular here. “Ethnic” foods often seem to vary depending on which country they are being served, and I observed there is much variety in “Chinese cuisine” all over the world to suit the locals.
    As always, thank you for sharing 🙂

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    • Thanks, Takami. Hope I didn’t make you too hungry 🙂 Actually I haven’t heard much of Chinese food in Japan, and lovely to know it’s a popular cuisine over there. True, it does seem there is Chinese food all over the world or at least a Chinatown in many major cities. Hope you get to eat some good Chinese food 🙂

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  5. Great post, Mabel. I think I must be a bad Asian too. I can go weeks, sometimes months without eating rice or even noodles.

    I’m currently in Quebec and have been enjoying French Canadian cuisine. Snails, Brie, Rabbit, Poutine, and lots of maple syrup 😃

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  6. Just a quick feedback to help you: ‘wheat grains thrive due to *climatic* differences’ – I’m assuming you meant climate, not climax.

    From one ‘wuss’ to another, I’ve always thought eating spicy food from a young age helps one become accustomed to it.

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  7. I LOVE Chinese foods, even though I’ve never had the opportunity eat anyone before. I’ve seen these foods in a couple of Chinese movies and cartoons (Kung-fu Panda still is my fave), and I’ve been craving to taste the ones that tickle my fancy – ramen, tofu, and dumplings.
    Seeing the pictures in your posts makes me salivate. I feel tempted to go out now and get some Chinese food right now, but it’s quite expensive here.

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    • Chinese movies do feature Chinese foods. There really is so much Chinese food to choose and eat. Hope you get to eat some great Chinese food soon. Maybe you can have ramen, tofu and dumplings all at once. Or maybe just get one or a small Chinese dish if it costs too much 🙂

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  8. Wow my friend what an interesting and delicious post that has me so hungry! I never knew tofu symbolised death that is so fascinating! Rice is a huge staple in my diet along with noodles and pasta. I love dumplings too of course but my favourite Asian cuisine are the red bean and taro desserts! ❤️ miss you! Xoxoxo

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  9. That’s interesting about the damaged brain cells from eating spicy foods, Mabel. I’m a huge fan of Chinese food. I especially enjoy rice noodles dishes with extra curry. Now I’m craving Chinese! 🙂

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  10. I feel so hungry reading about the food and looking at your photos, Mabel. I love Chinese food. We’ve had some Chinese friends staying with us for the past few weeks (she’s Australian but lived in China for a few years where she met and married her husband). They were here over Chinese New Year so we went out to dinner with them for an authentic Chinese meal. It was wonderful. I love the Chinese way of sharing dishes and like so much of what you included in your post, including fried rice, Asian greens and tofu. He also cooked some meals for us while they were here and I’m looking forward to more of that now that they are living closer to us again. One night he made Peking Duck pancakes. I’d often seen the packages in the shops and wondered how one ate duck pancakes. Now I know – the traditional way. I didn’t know that China was the biggest producer of duck so thanks for that interesting piece of information, along with all the other interesting tidbits too. It’s a good thing I’ve had dinner or I’d be rushing out to the nearest Chinese takeaway (or maybe stealing my friend’s jiaozi which are still in my freezer 🙂 ).

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    • So lovely to hear you like Chinese food, Norah. Even more lovely to hear you have friends of Chinese background and all of you exchange cooking tips and cultures 🙂 The Chinese way of sharing dishes is absolutely wonderful – we don’t just get to have different dishes for a more balanced diet, but it teaches etiquette about sharing and making sure there is a portion for othres. It is very nice of your Chinese friend’s husband to cook for you, and Peking Duck pancakes sounds fabulous. Never actually heard of it and he must be quite the chef. Have to try those kinds of pancakes myself some day. Duck is seemingly slightly more popular than chicken among the Chinese community. If you ever get to visit Chinatown again and see roasted birds hanging outside restaurant windows, chances are it’s duck 🙂

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      • There is a small Asian eatery and supermarket in my local shopping mall. There are roasted birds hanging in one of the stores. I must look more closely in order to identify them next time I go there.
        Yes, I am very fortunate to have such lovely friends. 🙂

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  11. I love this food – great post and shots as well, Mabel. One thing though – we have been to China five or six times, and every time there is at least one evening filled with song, dance and dumplings. I love dumplings – at least I did from the start. But…it just got too much – or rather too many of them. They almost killed me. Now I feel I cannot eat dumplings even if I want to…

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  12. I love my leafy greens! I’ve gone shopping at my local markets so often that now I can recognize all the different kinds of chinese vegetables by their names and shapes.

    While dumplings are a common chinese food, I can’t say I enjoy eating them often. I feel like I am in the minority with that opinion although I am chinese. Xiaolongbao is nice as a treat once in a while but they’re not very healthy. Eating jiaozi is ok but again I would never be able to eat it as an everyday thing since I am not crazy about meat. That being said, I don’t like pork buns lol… To me, they’re way too greasy and packed with too much meat.

    I do like mapo tofu. The spicer the better it goes down with a bowl of rice, though being older now and more conscious of choosing to make better food choices, it’s disappointing this dish is not too healthy. Everything in moderation, I guess.

    Growing up, rice has always been a constant staple I had to go along with dishes during mealtimes. What has changed from then is I don’t always eat a full bowl of rice anymore, simply because sometimes eating a little from each individual dish can quickly make me full. Plus there is often soup after a meal, which if I drink then I’ll definitely be stuffed if I wasn’t already full from the actual meal. Fried rice is a classic favorite. Making it is hard work though… I tried cooking it once with large amounts of rice and it was harder to flip everything in the wok pan than I thought. Really heavy!

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    • Yay you love your leafy greens! Very impressive you can recognise different chinese vegetables. Some of them look quite similar XD

      Haven’t heard too many people who don’t like eating dumplings. Agree xiao long bao is a nice treat but so true, they aren’t too healthy as some of them are high in sodium. I don’t like pork buns too and most pork dumplings in general – not a fan of the taste for pork. Generally I prefer steamed dumplings, and find some friend dumplings tend to be greasy – and the skin can turn hard after the dumpling turns cold.

      I also don’t eat a full bowl of rice anymore, and that’s because I rather eat more different dishes to get more nutrients. Maybe you can try cooking less fried rice at one go an then wok tossing can be easier. Or you can just use a spatula to toss the rice in the wok instead 🙂

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      • Lol yes… Some of those vegetables look striking similar to each other. It takes a lot of time to notice the physical differences in each one.

        I think I remember commenting on one of your old posts about how my dad taught me how to shape dumplings from the skin used to make them. I don’t hate dumplings but they definitely are not first on my list of quick food options if there was nothing else to eat. The steamed kind are better. When I was more used to the fried kind, I would almost always cook it in the pan for too long until the bottom would be too dark. And you’re right that the skin of the fried ones don’t taste good when they aren’t eaten fresh right after cooking them.

        Eating different dishes to get more nutrients is a great way to fill up during a meal. The portion sizes of rice given at restaurants is scary. Often it’s honestly too much, especially when it comes with a large dish meant for one person to eat. I never finish it all! Cooking with less rice could help. It’ll be easier on my arm lol. 😁

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        • I do remember you sharing your dad taught you how to shape dumplings. They can be hard to shape and make. It is so easy to ruin fried dumplings – you have to flip it and watch it to cook it right.

          Portion sizes are much bigger than in Australia, so I imagine in the States they are even bigger. Sometimes I go into a restaurant and order a bowl of noodles and think I should have gotten takeaway to have the noodles for two meals at home 😁

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  13. Mabel I have to say what struck most about your post is your beautiful food photography! Mouth watering captures. I don’t eat a lot of Chinese food but like others have said I think that a lot of meat has been added to dishes in North America. So interesting about your parents not allowing spicy food. Always learning when I visit your site Mabel.

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    • Thanks, Sue. Food photography really isn’t my forte. I do try 😂 If we get to catch up again at some point, happy to treat you to dumplings and Chinese food. Maybe you will even try some very spicy food too at some point 🙂

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  14. Am sure I’ve had chinese food, but probably the american style. Just like you I don’t eat spicy food, but in Hispanics family it a common thing to add some spice to your dish. It introduce to kids at a young age and up to them if they want to eat it. That the first I’ve heard the damage of brain cell from eating spicy hot food. Hopefully someone does more research to either prove it or disapprove it.

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    • I’ve heard Hispanic, namely Mexican and Latin, food can be quite spicy or at least has some spices like you mentioned. I do wonder if spiciness can kill brain cells too. Some studies have shown if you get used to spicy, your pain receptors get numb and you might be able to withstand more pain.

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  15. Yummy post, Mabel. I know I am going to make fried rice for lunch today haha. I really like Chinese food too. I like how East Asians eat a lot more vegetables than Nepalese people. We eat a lot of rice and it’s accompanied with a side of curried, stir-fry vegetable dish, lentil soup and sometimes meat. I noticed how balanced East Asian diet seemed to me when I once shared with some Vietnamese students. Their part of the fridge was always stocked with lots of fruits and veggies. Nepalese people find chicken with bones tastier too, although eating feet and head are not that common. I’ve to find out if we have good Chinese restaurants in the city!

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    • This was quite the mouth-watering post, Pooja. If you did make that fried rice for lunch, I hope it was a good meal. It has been a while since I heard about lentil soup, and I remember I really enjoyed it the last time I had it. It sounds like you aim to have a balanced diet and that is great. Didn’t know Nepalese people find chicken and bones tastier – and maybe also like Chines people, eat chicken until there is no meat in sight, just the bones. Hope you find good Chinese food in your city 🙂

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  16. Mabel what a wonderfully rich and very comprehensive post which I really enjoyed. I laughed at the spice part and how you were forbidden to eat spices as a young child. Just a caveat, milk is not at all easy on the stomach and so while you may think it is the spices that are setting you off, it could be the milk!!

    We both love Chinese food but nothing more than dim sum. Recently we were in Penang and we ate our hearts out, and were delighted to find that a few of the dim sum restaurants there are open from 7 a.m. in the morning till ten at night! And noodles are a very very popular staple. I’ll take noodles over rice any day ( unless the rice has sushi on top of it.)

    i love fresh tofu in dishes such as silky tofu. Mmm yum. This post has made me hungry for Chinese food.

    Peta

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    • Thanks, Peta. Food is always a great topic of discussion. Had absolutely no idea that milk may not be easy on the stomach. Thank you for that and I will need to do more reading on this 😏

      I read your Penang post and really enjoyed it. It’s amazing how street food stalls open so early and close so late at night – it’s a way of life over there, and you get dim sum all round the clock 😏

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  17. I’m ethnically Chinese, so it should make sense that I love Chinese cuisine. There are a couple of ingredients found in the cuisine that I have sworn not to touch – like red and black dates. It’s just that the skin always get stuck in between my teeth and it would be a hassle to remove them.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t fancy my dumplings, though. 😂

    ‘Call me a bad Asian but I have no problem not eating rice every day and have gone weeks without eating rice.’ – I think it stems from your environment, Mabel. I don’t like the taste of fried rice, so don’t worry about it. =)

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    • That is so true, the skin of dates can get stuck in between your teeth. Come to think of it, it’s always a nightmare when you find something stuck in between your teeth in public and can’t get it out lol.

      I think you’re the first person I know who doesn’t like the taste of fried rice. I like fried rice, but I also like other foods just as much and better 😂

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      • ‘Come to think of it, it’s always a nightmare when you find something stuck in between your teeth in public and can’t get it out lol.’ – and the public embarrassment too, oh my gosh!

        Well… I was once okay with fried rice, but after that bout of fever in Grade 1, it completely altered my palate, so yeah. =/

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        • Aww, no more fried rice for you after such a horrible experience D: Maybe one day, just maybe, you will somehow get reacquainted with fried rice. When I was in school, my school canteen served rice mixed with luncheon meat. That was the most amazing fried rice I’d eaten.

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          • Oh gosh, I must apologise for my tardy reply, Mabel. I barely log in to WordPress nowadays. 🙁 I can feel my stomach churning every time I see or think about fried rice, so I don’t think I’ll be able to get reacquainted with it anytime soon. =/

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  18. Oooooh, so yummy. Your pictures are amazing, Mabel and the descriptions of each dish…my tummy is rumbling. I was treated to the best dumplings in my life while in Melbourne last year. I haven’t heard of some of these dishes you’ve featured, like the red dates. Also, the pork bun? hello…could eat a couple of those right now. My cooking is so boring compared to yours. Thanks for the fun share, Mabel!

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    • Thanks, Lisa. These dishes tasted great. Amazing to hear you enjoyed dumplings in Melbourne. Red dates are usually cooked alongside meat, veggies and soups. I’m usually not a fan of pork, so you can have my share of pork buns if we ever dine dumplings together. To be honest, my cooking isn’t always that exciting 😀

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  19. Hi Mabel, I’ve just taken a “first read,” and I’ll be coming back to review your lovely article in more detail, but I wanted to mention, thank you as always for the historic notes (like on rice and noodles), and I also enjoyed the observation about yin-yang balanced meals. And, your description of quickly preparing hot vegetables made my mouth water. So fun to learn more!

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    • It is so nice of you to have brief read, Theresa. No pressure to come back, a visit is already appreciated 🙂 Food is always an interesting topic of discussion. Hope you get to have some great food soon.

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  20. Yes…. I like Chinese cuisine and I could imagine you cooking those veggies and meat when you had the house alone. I usually love how the veggies are not over cooked with Chinese food – but then it varies place to place.
    Learned a lot here – laughed at the tofu story and the dumplings do seem like
    They could stand alone (mmmm)

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    • It is actually hard not to overcook veggies especially when it comes to boiling…you only need a few minutes. There are a lot of ingredients that go into Chinese dishes, and fully-stocked kitchen is essential.

      Dumplings are amazing. I could eat them ever day (but that would not be healthy). Maybe one day you get to eat some amazing dumplings.

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      • Hi m – I have had tasty dumplings before – there are many kinds out there.
        😉
        And the photo with the wonton noodles – are those pot stickers one the right? I just had one of those at Daryl’s house – they were so good

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              • Yes – well I eat dense foods (meats with good fats and lots of oils) and so never think of portions just eat til full –
                And before this I was always a grazer (but did not know I was grazing and eating bits because I needed more meats – lol) and I almost skipped the dumpling (which I call a pot sticker) because it was at the end of the night and sitting out for two hours – but then said – eh – let’s try them – and yum

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                • Eating until we feel full or even overfull is something so many of us do – we eat to enjoy food and if it tastes good, why not eat more. That said, health is wealth. Dumplings always taste good, even the cold ones aren’t half bad lol 😀

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  21. More than a few Chinese restaurants in Melbourne eh Mabel 😂. My wife and I always feel that small country towns are not complete without the Local Chinese restaurant/cafe. I am personally a dumpling fan and I love tofu, the firm one is my favourite. I don’t mind chillies either and I think you just need to practice your chilli consumption 😊. A most enjoyable article Mabel – I hear it is stinking hot down there again – so I’m guessing you haven’t put away the shorts and singlets yet 😎. Lyne ( my wife) and I, are heading back to Melbourne in May, so hopefully it will be cool/cold then. 👍

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    • I am sure there are plenty of Chinese restaurants up there in Queensland 😂 More dumplings for you then, Andy. Never enough dumplings and a good helping of chilli oil and perhaps sambal with your dumplings. You can have my chilli share 😂 It is hot once again here in Melbourne. Enjoying this one last gasp of summer in shorts and singlets. It feels amazing. So lovely to hear you and Lyne are coming back to Melbourne again. Maybe the humidity will follow you and if so, I thank you in advance 😀

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  22. If I ever visited Malaysia (no real desire to visit China, though both daughters are TCM practitioners and it is ‘my medicine’ as well), it would be mainly to eat my way through as many of the states as possible (starting and perhaps ending with dumplings!). I so love creative cooking, and cook mostly Asian food, myself. And while I do enjoy ‘some’ spice, I can’t eat really spicy stuff like I did when I was younger. On another note, a Chinese mixed race woman who cooks at a local farmers market remarked to me once when I didn’t feel like eating rice that Americans don’t eat rice for some reason. And she was truly baffled. While it’s true I don’t digest grains well at times (and thus abstain), I love the smell, texture and varieties of all forms of rice. Yet rigidity in any diet seems foolish when one is seeking nourishment. Best to listen to the body 😉 Aloha, Mabel. Another great offering with fabulous photos, as always! ❤

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    • I hope you get to visit Malaysia some day, Bela. There is already so much to eat in one state, so if you do actually eat your way through many states, my hat is off to you 😀

      That is great you cook mostly Asian food. Some dishes can be hard to cook. Interesting to know some non-Asians don’t digest rice grains very well (also interesting how westerners digest grains like oats fairly well). You are so right in that a good, well-rounded diet is needed for nourishment. Here’s to more tasty and balanced meals for you ❤

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  23. A wonderfully written and highly informative post, Mabel! I love chinese cuisine though like you I have trouble with chilis which my stomach just doesn’t seem to be able to handle. When a friend of mine who is Chinese (Shanghai) made her wonderful hotpot when I came to visit, I had to pass the one holding chilis and stick to the “boring” just water filled hotpot. 😉
    I never knew that rice was considered to be just for the emperor’s use back then, how very interesting. I do know though that this was also the case with dragon well green tea which I totally love. And how great to know that I’m a fool for liking chicken breast. 😉 LOL!
    What I like best when it comes to chinese cuisine is that most of it is prepared in a way that keeps most nutrients like with steaming. I love those steamed dumplings with red bean filling. 😉
    Thanks so much for reminding me of this important part in chinese culture, Mabel! Happy weekend! And happy eating! 😉 ❤

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    • That makes two of us who can’t really handle chillis lol. I am sure your friend’s hot pot was delicious, and the just-water filled one wasn’t bad at all. Plain tasting dishes ain’t that bad and can be healthy 😉

      Ah, you know dragon well green tea/Longjing tea. It’s very popular among some Chinese communities. I like drinking tea but these days tea doesn’t go down well with me so I try not to have it. As for chicken breast, like you I will continue to like and eat it 😀

      So true Chinese cuisines aims to preserve nutrients. All the more reason to eat Chinese food. Happy cooking and eating to you too ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I’ve been eating a lot of ramen these days. Those dumplings look delicious. I talked about this post with my husband. He reminded me that Chinese cooking hardly ever used dairy products. I eliminated dairy products from my diet about a year ago. He suggested we find our Chinese cookbook and start using it more often.

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    • I hope you have been enjoying your ramen. Your husband is very observant, and in Chinese cooking you really don’t find much dairy. Off the top of my head, coconut milk and butter are used slightly in some Chinese dishes (usually in Chinese curry dishes). Hope the two of you share more tasty Chinese dishes together.

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  25. Great post! Interestingly, while reading this, I am eating a fried rice dish that was purchased from a Vietnamese restaurant in town. So I’m glad I have it. Your photos made me hungry.

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    • What a coincidence you were eating fried rice. Hope it was a good fried rice dish. Some Vietnamese restaurants do great crispy noodles and maybe that restaurant serves that 😀

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  26. Beautifully penned, Mabel! Again another post well researched and well written. Personally I LOVE fried rice and wanton noodles. Just thinking about them makes my mouth water. You gave a lot of information I had no idea about so for that alone, I really thank you. The facts you include in your posts are fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing with us your ancestry. I really enjoyed reading this. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

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  27. Funny coincidence that we are both writing about cuisine at the moment. As always, an interesting post about the history of the cuisine. I am not so good with spicy food either, and wasn’t exposed to it as a child, so there could be something in that. Also two of my kids are like you and could eat instant noodles for breakfast. I wonder about the raw food subject. It is harder to digest for some people and maybe it is good for some but not all. It is fresher but if you can’t digest it properly, what good is eating it raw. I prefer it veges with a bit of crunch whilst my mother in law likes them mushy. She is 91 this year and is very good health so it has worked for her.
    Another coincidence, my Malaysian Australian friend was teaching me how to eat Chicken feet the other day. A bit of an art that I didn’t know – spitting out the bones. And she agreed that the breast is less preferable to the legs or thighs.
    Is Aussie Fried Rice authentic? I can’ t answer that one. Maybe we need to make a poll and take a vote? Lol!

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    • I think it can take a while to build up tolerance to spicy, but maybe after a certain point in our life we are conditioned to not take spicy – just like how we are conditioned to walk and act a certain way as adults.

      That is a good point, that raw food is often fresher. With packaged meat, it could be sitting on the shelf for a while. Amazing to hear how eating raw has worked for your mother. Bacteria germinates around raw a bit more easily.

      It is a coincidence, and very nice of your Malaysian Australian friend to teach you how to eat chicken feet. Yes, you spit out the bones and if you aren’t into spitting, then eating chicken feet might not be for you.

      Haha, maybe I should dedicate an entire blog post to fried rice!

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  28. I don’t ever recall my parents warning us not to eat spicy food ..but then again, we just didn’t have access to spicy food until after university when I was working and earning enough money. So I find it weird given a Chinese background but originally from Malaysia for you.

    I am very glad my mother naturally integrated the ying-yang principle in a superficial way to ensure our meals were balanced…which turned out nutritionally balanced.

    I rarely eat a lot of white rice now because it spikes up my blood sugar. So it’s light Asian noodles….dried or freshly made/steamed.

    Gee, the last time I had instant noodles….was over 35 yrs. ago when I was a student. I like to eat noodles freshly cooked.

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  29. Hi Mabel, I didn’t expect tofu to be on the list but am glad to see it! As for chicken, I could eat it every day and never get tired of it 🙂 Actually chicken is a main reason I’m not a vegetarian – I’d miss it too much! Hugs to you and congrats on another brilliant blog post xx

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    • Tofu is amazing, and so underrated. There are many variations of tofu, so if you don’t like one you can try another and perhaps grow to like it. I too can eat chicken and never get tired of it, and it’s my favourite meat. Thank you for your encouragement, Christy. Hugs across the miles right back at you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Ahh you’ve stirred up an appetite in me with these amazing photos! I’ve eaten everything mentioned here, courtesy of my amazing mother making sure I grew up on a healthy diet of authentic Chinese food lol.

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  31. Growing up with a mother from North China and a father from South, I ate my fair share of rice, noodles, and buns (面食). We definitely ate more pork than any other meat in our household. But these pictures remind me a lot of my childhood.

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  32. Mabel, I made the mistake of reading your post just before dinner and now I am craving Chinese food! 😀 The pictures are mouth-watering and I loved learning about the different elements of Chinese cookery! Your article is very comprehensive and fascinating – the unusual dates and sesame seeds look so vibrant and appetising, with all the health benefits as well! 😀 I really like the vegetarian elements of Chinese dishes (as you can guess I am a vegetarian) but unfortunately there are no good restaurants nearby. Your post gave me the courage to maybe try cooking some myself! 😀

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    • I hope you get to have some good Chinese food very soon, maybe when you travel or have someone cook for you or cook yourself 😀 The dates really do give quite a sweet taste to meal – and I really do like how that shot turned out.

      In Chinese cuisine, there are quite a few vegetarian options. For instance, you can have rice and tofu, and mixed vegetable dishes are common too 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  33. I just love Chinese cuisine but could not tolerate the spicier ones, especially the spicy kind that our Malaysian and Singaporean friends can tolerate. Our Malaysian colleagues used to laugh at us, Filipino folks, for our low tolerance of spicy. What we normally considered spicy was too mild for their taste buds. On the other hand, we were awed by the way our Malaysian colleagues would casually chew red chilli peppers.

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    • I would have thought you could tolerate spicy well, Imelda. I guess that’s what we have in common 😀 Wow, your Malaysian colleagues can chew on red chilli peppers. Amazing. Sometimes if you put a chilli pepper in front of my face, my eyes start to water already 😀

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  34. I’m so hungry reading this, hehe. Great summary of important dishes in the Chinese cuisine. I never ate rice every day before but now with my MIL cooking at home I have rice for lunch and dinner every day. This might be why I can’t seem to shed the pregnancy weight I still have!
    Dumplings are considered a staple too as the outside part is made with flour. It would be weird to eat dumplings with rice, but sometimes there are noodles inside dumpling soups too.

    And what’s that about the spicy killing brain cells?? Haha! Did your parents truly believe that or they didn’t want you to eat spicy for some reason?

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    • Haha, maybe you can tell your MIL you want no rice and noodles and maybe that will help you with your health and fitness!

      I think my parents actually sort of believed spicy kills brain cells 😒 Now that I am grown up and don’t eat spicy, they seem disappointed in me 😂

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  35. Those dishes look so delicious Mabel. I really like the mix of sweet, salty, sour and spicy in Chinese cuisine. Thanks for all the information about Chinese cookery!

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  36. Great lowdown on your cuisine Mabel. The meaning behind eating tofu was very interesting.
    Wishing you a Happy New Year, and yay, it’s my year – the year of the pig. 🙂 x

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  37. Nice post. Chinese food in India is a variation with local flavors. Though many Indians like Chinese food, unsure how this is different from the original, which I heard is alight bland.

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  38. Your pictures made me hungry, Mabel! 🙂 We’ve discovered that Chinese cuisine varies as we travel around Asia. Chinese cuisine, in mainland China, is so diverse from the north to the south. We visited Shanghai, Suzhou & Hangzhou in December. The food was so different from our earlier China trip where we covered the central and southern parts of China. The influences from central Asia were more evident in our recent trip. Chinese cuisine in other Asian countries (with a significant Chinese diaspora) is a mix of the local flavour and Chinese styles of cooking. I believe it appeases local tastes. 🙂 Therefore the answer to your last question is tricky. I love Chinese cuisine, but I’ve found it hard to pin it down to a particular taste. 🙂

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