What Chinese Eat for Dinner

What Chinese Eat for Dinner
By Shirley Li
Web Editor

There is an old Chinese saying that a good appetite brings happiness. Dinner is the most important meal of the day for most Chinese. A family sits together to have an enjoyable dinner time after a school/work day. This is the most beautiful moment. Any special feast is also usually held as a dinner, such as family or friends reunion, festive parties, and weddings.

3 Types of Chinese Dinner

1. Daily Meals, Jia Chang Bian Fan (家常便饭) in Chinese

home made dinner

Ordinary home-made meals usually consist of meat dishes and vegetable dishes. Soup may or may not be served. In northern parts of China, the staple food is wheat-based products including noodles, and steamed buns. However, in the southern part of China, rice is the dominant staple.

2. Home-made Dinner

Chinese people like to host dinner at home for family and friends. As a matter of fact, the tastiest dishes are often encountered in the private kitchen. A dinner party at home has many advantages over one at the restaurant. It makes the host and guests more relaxed and there is greater leisure in the repast.

Classic Home-made Dishes

3. A Feast at a Restaurant

In China a feast is usually held between 18:00 and 20:00. Dinner begins with some appetizers to evoke guests’ appetite. Shredded potato or tofu skin, smacked cucumber, sweet dates, spicy chicken feet and pickles are popular ones. The main part of the dinner is large dishes of various meats and vegetables eaten communally. Rice is served in small bowls individually.

The Types of Courses

-The Staples
Rice seems to be an integral part of Chinese cuisine, but actually staple foods such as wheat-based products, steamed buns, dumplings, and various noodles are popular in northern China.

-Main Courses
Main dishes are usually chicken, duck, fish, pork, beef and lamb. Some dishes considered by Chinese to be delicious may be thought unpalatable for consumption by westerners, for example: chicken feet, duck tongues, pig’s trotters, and beef entrails.

Vegetarianism is not very common in China, but there are a lot of vegetarian dishes available. Tofu, made from soybean, has various types like silken tofu, smoked tofu, tofu skin, and tofu strips. Eggs can be steamed, boiled in soup, or fired with vegetables. Mushrooms, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, tomato, potato, cucumber, bamboo shoots and eggplants all appear on Chinese tables usually.


Soup usually makes up the final item in the meal in northern China, including vegetable soup, rib soup, fish soup, and chicken soup. Chicken soup is a favorite in the south, while the northerners prefer duck soup. However, soup is the first dish to come to the table for southerners. They think drinking soup first is good for the stomach and health. Cantonese are very obsessed with soup. A bowl of soup before a meal is a must for everyone.

-Seasonal Fruit Platter
Typical Chinese dinner does not end with dessert, but fruit dishes in season are severed, for example, apples, oranges, peaches, watermelons, and banana.

Pick the best Chinese dishes

Recommended Meat Dishes

  • Gong Bao Chicken
  • Roasted Duck
  • Brown Sauce Pork
  • Sweet and Sour Ribs
  • Roasted Pork
  • Fried Beef Fillet
  • Brown Sauce Mandarin Fish
  • Boiled Fish
  • Fried Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Braised Shrimps

Recommended Vegetarian Dishes

  • Fried Egg Dumplings
  • Fried Cabbage
  • Fried Lettuce
  • Fried Green Bean Sprouts
  • Braised Bamboo Shoots
  • Braised Green Peas
  • Braised Eggplant
  • Mapo Tofu

Chinese Dinner VS Western Dinner

In contrast to western meals where it is customary to have individual servings of the dishes at the beginning of the meal, in a Chinese meal, each individual diner is given their own bowl of rice with a chop plate and a couple of chopsticks, and foods are served on communal plates shared by everyone sitting at the table. Shared chopsticks and spoons are available for hygienic reasons. Warm tea is provided, in contrast to the western custom of icy cold drinks. At a Chinese meal, milk, bread, butter or cheese is not served in dinner unless you require.

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