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What is Authentic Chinese Food?

Updated on March 27, 2016

What do you Know About Authentic Chinese Food?

In America, Chinese food is the most popular ethnic cuisine, with Mexican food coming in second place. However, what passes as "Chinese food" in the States, can be a far cry from the meals that people in the Republic of China enjoy. What does authentic Chinese food entail and how different is the cuisine we eat in the United States?

To begin with, most American Chinese food is heavily battered and fried. Vegetables are more or less condiments, rather than the primary basis for some dishes. And, the American Chinese food that you get when you order take-out, does not embrace the many regional differences found throughout the vast empire of China.

In China, there are 8 distinct Chinese cuisines, which correspond to the regions from which they originate. You can enjoy authentic Chinese food from any one of these areas:







Hunan, and

Anhui .

Sichuan is the type of authentic Chinese food with which you may be most familiar. It includes dishes like Kung Pao Chicken and Twice Cooked Pork. Spicy, garlicky flavors are used in the cooking process, which can include frying and braising.

Check out Amy Jane's Hub, Eating out in China, for more information about how dishes in each of these regions are prepared.

What is real Chinese Food?
What is real Chinese Food? | Source
Snake soup is authentic Chinese food
Snake soup is authentic Chinese food | Source

What are the differences between Authentic Chinese Food and "Chinese Food" in other cultures?

When I think of Chinese cuisine, morsels of chicken, beef or pork come to mind. My experience with what I thought was authentic Chinese food is drenched in heavy sauces, dangerously spicy red peppers, and loads of white rice on the side. Oh, and don't forget the soy sauce. A nice fortune cookie at the end completes the meal.

In China, people are much more adventurous with the types of food they will ingest. Roasted Piglet anyone? That might taste pretty good, but I think its safe to say that a bite of Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish will never pass my lips.

A popular snack in the Tibetan region is yak blood cubes. This is made by draining blood from a yak, boiling it until it solidifies, and then pouring hot butter and sugar over cut cubes of the blood. Yummy.

Even with respect to more standard fare, authentic Chinese food is served "complete." Chicken will have the head, beak and feet still attached. Fish heads and tails are not removed.

One question you may have is whether authentic Chinese food includes cats and dogs. The short answer is that, in some regions, yes. But there is ongoing debate as to how widespread the practice is. Exotic foods are not uncommon at all in China. Videos of cat and dog meat markets can be found, originating in the province of Guangdong/Canton, next to Hong Kong. Among reasons offered for this taste for "pets," are the fact that east Asian people did not develop a close companionship relationship with cats, as did Europeans and Americans. Dogs, too, are viewed as livestock, along with the rest of the animals on the farm.

Other famous dishes include live monkey brains. A famous scene from one of the Indiana Jones movies shows the shock on the Americans' faces when presented with this delicacy.

Authentic Chinese food also includes scorpions, rats, fried grasshoppers, grubs, and snake. Chances are, you can't get this stuff in a little white box from the restaurant around the corner in your hometown!

Authentic Chinese Food
Authentic Chinese Food | Source

Noodles form a Foundation for Authentic Chinese Food

Despite the focus on the various types of protein that are found in authentic Chinese food, in actuality, meals are largely comprised of noodles or other starches like rice.

Long noodles signify a long life. Soup is included at the beginning of a meal, and also at the end in southern China regions. There are even some slightly sweet soups that are served to complete the meal.

How to Eat With Chopsticks

Enjoy Authentic Chinese Food with Chopsticks

Chopsticks, generally made of bamboo, are used in China, instead of western silverware during meals. This is because a fork and knife are considered violent. It is more peaceful to eat Chinese food with chopsticks.

Eating rice can be more difficult with chopsticks than with larger morsels of food. It is considered appropriate and polite in Chinese culture to pick up the rice bowl next to your mouth so that bites of rice do not fall to the table or floor.

Fortune cookies for the fortunate
Fortune cookies for the fortunate | Source

Want a Chinese Fortune Cookie?

Contrary to their name, Chinese fortune cookies did not originate in China and thus, they are not an authentic Chinese food. In fact, Chinese people generally do not eat dessert following a meal. Some believe that Americans created the treat, while others say that it was originally created at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. The cookies are loosely based on a Chinese mooncake legend in which the date of a planned uprising was folded inside the cakes.

Messages folded inside the hard shell, slightly sweet cookies are generally those of hope, love, fame and fortune. In college, a friend told me that the way to make these "fortunes" more interesting is to add the phrase "in bed," at the end. For example: "The year ahead is promising for bed."

How to Make Shrimp with Vegetables

Have you Ever Tried Authentic Chinese Food?

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Where Can you Find Authentic Chinese Food?

The most authentic Chinese restaurants are probably found in the Republic of China. Only there can you truly experience exotic delights that you won't find on a take-out menu.

You may be a bit wary of the authentic Chinese food dishes presented to you while traveling in China, particularly if you go beyond the larger cities.

But remember that a long noodle in your bowl will mean a long life. So, you may as well go for it!

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I own a pizza shop next to a western Chinese restaurant. Became friends and started eating with them on sundays. Very good , just ate never asked what I was actually eating.

    • profile image

      Candice Harding 

      6 years ago

      Great hub! I tried authentic Chinese food for the first time a few years ago and, trust me, I am never going back. I'm partial to Cantonese, personally. I have truly enjoyed exploring the regional diversity of Chinese cuisine, though I don't think I'll be trying yak blood cubes anytime soon!

      Candice Harding

    • eurozulu profile image

      bradley brown 

      7 years ago from Harrow Middlesex

      Cant see me eating scorpions, rats, fried grasshoppers, grubs, and snake. but i do enjoy Chinese food great hub.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      eating from a toilet has the same tast of chinese food

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool Hub

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image

      cheese shop 

      9 years ago

      great hub. Chinese food is one of the best food you can find!

    • profile image

      Food Cards 

      9 years ago

      Came across your article when re-searching about different Chinese cuisine areas.

      Great read and very informative,

      also came across this ( playing cards designed around Chinese food

    • profile image

      Nepali Food 

      9 years ago

      I love Chinese food, this site really has great information about chinese food and culture. i love it .

    • profile image 

      9 years ago

      I thought I may try to make some pork balls during the weekend, I can't refuse yummy food, though I gain weight after eating a lot!

    • profile image


      9 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hi Steph, Loved the article. Thought you'd like to know, the tag said "Ancient" Chinese Food instead of "Authentic" Chinese Food.

      take care,

    • profile image

      none of ur buisness 

      9 years ago

      this article helped me with a project in college!!!!!! thank u so much

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Some doesn't sound appetizing, but I'd try it anyway.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thank you for this interesting article. I love Chinesse food, how ever living in America does not allow me to try the "real chinesse food" as often as I would like I think the closest i got to Chinesse food was when i visited New York City , San Fransisco & Alhambra Ca. I had the chance to visit this amazing restaurants and to tell you the truth i was pleasently satisfied!. I whish more people from those places in China would migrate and establish their Chinesse Restaurants near our areas THAT would save us from eating "Americanized Chinesse junk" I tully can identified my self with you, For as a Mexican I deal with the same problem since it is very hard to find Authentic Mexican food "THE REAL STUFF" I:ve traveld from East to West just to find "THE" place with the Real Mexican Food (my freakin KITCHEN! too bad I HAVE TO COOK IT) Good thing its the traditional style. nothing beats Original trust me.

    • profile image

      Bo @ Chinese Knot Weddings 

      11 years ago

      The fortune cookies are rarely found in mainland China. They are mostly available in the States.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      hi, i m Tim i had lived in china for the past 3 years +

      i find the differences between western style food as the same way as for chinese back in the states

      how ever dog?

      it is because the Cantonese like all that stuff i live in hefei, that's the capital of anhui

      which is Dominantly soupy and spicy food's

      such as vegetable's pig intestines,liver,fish head soup,as we have no sea, people eat river fish.

      dumplings,crab,prawns,beef,chicken with bones,

      most are cooked with bones accept beef

      also because of region's

      north is garlic flavor, henan province mainly bread/da mo and noodles,

      south is sweet from shanghai,nanjing,guangdong hongkong etc.

      east and mid like soupy and stewed type of food

      but mostly rice vegetables soup,and meats

      minority base ( Yunnan ) eat bugs and Yak )

      beijing duck is not the same as america

      hefei duck is way better

      reason: marketing !

      on average most chinese food is slightly fried with oil

      chinese use more oil than any person around the world

      as this is the way to cook and prepare chinese food in china

      most western people get confused about japanese,korean,chinese style food which is completely different

      infact korea they consider you very very rich if you eat any amount of meats

      china even poor country people can afford meats

      and for Japanese still quite the same as the states

      northern parts and western parts of china do boil or steam abit more often

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you so much for commenting! It is so eye-opening how much the American "Chinese food" cuisine varies from the real deal. Looking forward to seeing your project!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Nice hub. This is the message I try to deliver to my friends all the time about Chinese food. Well said!

      Sometimes it is just hard to convince them their favorite Chinese restaurants are not even authentic Chinese food. As a Chinese immigrant , I started collecting authentic chinese restaurant information years ago, now I will put everything on a web site with google map and user review. It will be up soon. If you are interested, you can have a look at the ongoing project(in alpha phase now) here:

    • profile image

      Restaurant supplies 

      11 years ago

      Nice Hub Page very informational. Found nice web site for all restaurant equipment at

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      11 years ago from Ohio

      Interesting hub. I can say, I doubt if I've ever had authentic Chinese food. Your description of "whole" Chinese food reminds me of the movie, A Christmas Story, when they had to go have dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

    • Mr Nice profile image

      Mr Nice 

      11 years ago from North America

      Hi Stephhicks68,

      Interesting and very well researched. Have you ever tried Thai food if not I published a hub about Thai recipes have a look.

    • 49er profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      You are right about our version of Chinese food typically being a good deal different from traditional Chinese food. Luckily, I have a friend who spent a good deal of time in Asia and he has a knack for finding really good Chinese and Japanese restaurants. However, the flip side to that is he is very very picky about his food...

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi RGraf, that would be the best way to enjoy authentic Chinese food - with a trusted friend! I haven't had my kids try to use chopsticks yet, but I'm game to try. Maybe we'll get some Chinese food this week! :)

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great article. I had a college friend who was from China make a geniune Chinese meal. It was Great!!!! Though we didn't have some of the more "unusual" fare. I love the food and using chopsticks. My kids and I make it game to see what all we can pick up with them.

    • profile image


      11 years ago


    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you Bernie! I am sure you will have some exotic cuisine indeed! Filipino cuisine? I will hand the baton to you to write a hub about that one! Steph

    • BernieQuimpo profile image


      12 years ago from Philippines

      Steoh -- you've gotten me excited about my projected trip to Xian in October. Looks like it will be a real food adventure especially as I will be visiting my hotelier friend who is a real foodie. Btw, have you ever tried Filipino cuisine. You should try our "balut" sometime.

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Wow, Jason! I'm sure you're correct about Vietnamese cuisine. Frog stomach soup. That would be exciting, indeed!

    • Jason Stanley profile image

      Jason Stanley 

      12 years ago

      We lived in Vietnam and found the same thing - REAL Vietnamese food is amazingly better than anything we can find here in the States. It's a whole new world of delicious delight! With China right next door, and a lot of Chinese in Vietnam, we also found what you said here to be very accurate - the real deal is much better and often quite exciting - frog stomach soup for starters....


    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you vreccc. I'm glad to have done the subject justice! I appreciate your comments, and adding your personal perspective from living in China and trying to make authentic food here in the States. Cheers!

    • vreccc profile image


      12 years ago from Concord, NH


      Very well done. I can tell you researched this. I live in China for eight years and was able to get quite used to 'real' Chinese food. Everything you said is true and correct. My wife is Chinese and will often cook something authentic for us. We make monthly trips down to Boston to Chinatown and buy Jiaozi (dumplings). We don't have good luck making Chinese dumplings here. My wife says it has something to do with the flour here.

      Nice hub!!!

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Amy Jane! I'm glad you discussed the different region cuisines in more detail. My hub was too broad for that.

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      12 years ago from Connecticut

      Steph, this is a great hub, thank you for including a link to mine :)


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