1.) Green Pepper Shredded Pork (Qing Jiao Rou Si 青椒肉丝)
In China, there are many delicious kinds of Gai Fan [盖饭] (Chinese value meal that includes rice), and this one is a classic. It’s simple and delicious. Here a Gai Fan usually costs 10元 (Less than $2). Along with some spices, the name says what’s in it. There are many variations of Shredded Pork, and I also like eating the Potato Shredded Pork [土豆肉丝] and the the Ginger Shredded Pork [仔姜肉丝]. But be warned: the Ginger Shredded Pork includes an epic amount of ginger. Before coming to China I was not accustomed to pounding so much ginger, but I’ve read it’s got beneficial health affects so I’ve learned to enjoy it.
2.) Wan Za Mian [豌杂面] Yellow Split Pea Mixed Noodles (Vegetarian option: Wan Dou Mian 豌豆面)
This is a noodle dish that is local to Chong Qing, but I’ve found it in Cheng Du as well. It’s my absolute favorite kind of noodle here (小面), because the mix of flavors are spectacular. Depending on the restaurant this one can be really spicy, as the soup is saturated with spicy peppers [辣椒]. The split peas are just yellow beans and green vegetables are hidden underneath everything (typically a local type of spinach called empty center vegetable [空心菜]). On top is a nice layer of ground pork, and the soup is full of different spices. I add a fried egg [煎蛋] for an extra 2元 (approximately 33¢).
3.) Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs (Tang Cu Pai Gu 糖醋排骨)
I know that Sweet and Sour Pork [糖醋里脊] is a staple of Americanized Chinese food, but I had never heard of or eaten the spare ribs version before coming to China. And these ribs are some of the best things I’ve eaten here. They are prepared with a sweet and sour sauce that consists of vinegar, water, soy sauce and sugar.
4.) Home Style Tofu (Jia Chang Dou Fu 家常豆腐)
This hot Tofu dish comes vegetarian sometimes and includes pork others. Both are delicious! But if you don’t want meat just ask them not to put any. There are some great tofu dishes in China, but this classic one always comes out good for me. It consists of tofu dipped in egg and stir fried with an assortment of vegetables (green/red peppers and a black fungus called Mu Er [木耳]). I’ve had variations where the chef throws in carrots or onions as well. If you’re looking for variety, there’s another vegetarian tofu dish that I like called Crispy Skin Tofu [脆皮豆腐煲].
5.) The Chinese Hamburger (Rou Jia Mo 肉夹馍）
This was one of my favorite kinds of street food when I was living in HeNan. It’s cheap and delicious. The reason it’s so delectable is that the meat is stewed for hours in a soup containing over 20 spices and seasonings, so it moistens the bread and falls apart in your mouth. They add some peppers and garlic and sandwich it in between a crispy bun. It’s hard to find in Chong Qing, and I really miss it!
6.) Rou Mo Qie Zi 肉末茄子 Ground Meat Eggplant (Vegetarian Option: Chao Kao Qie Zi 炒烤茄子 Stir-Fried Eggplant)
Aside from tofu and pork, China is also famous for its eggplant dishes. This one is a classic and usually comes out alright. It’s just eggplant, ground meat, and assorted spices stir-fried in a large pan at high heat.
7.) Lamb Soup (Yang Rou Tang 羊肉汤)
Chinese people commonly tell me that eating lamb has a variety of health benefits, and many believe that it can make you feel warmer in the winter time and help you lose weight. Lamb Soup consists of lamb (surprise!), shredded liver, chopped chives, sometimes a kind of rice noodle, and various spices. The soup is made by boiling lamb bone, and can be salty sometimes. Typically you are given a kind of fried bread that you can shred up with your fingers and dip into the soup.
8.) Salted Fried Pork (Yan Jian Rou 盐煎肉)
Absolutely one of my favorite cheap dishes here in Chong Qing, this plate includes salted pork, yellow onions, green onions, peppers, sometimes cauliflower, garlic, and a black bean that I enjoy eating called Dou Chi [豆豉]. It tastes a bit like “Twice Cooked Pork” [回锅肉], but the meat is not as overwhelmingly fatty.
9.) Dry Fried Green Beans (Gan Bian Si Ji Dou 干煸四季豆)
These green beans are amazing and part of the Gan Bian [干煸] family that I love so much. Sometimes they will put ground pork on top of this dish, so if you want it vegetarian you’ll have to ask!
10.) Lamb Rice Noodles (Yang Rou Mi Xian 羊肉米线)
Bonus Side Dish: Chinese French Fries! (Gan Bian Tu Dou Si 干煸土豆丝)
Crispy, shredded, fried potatoes! Love ordering these along with the dishes listed above. Hope you are able to try the many flavors of China sometime. There are many kinds of cheap, delicious food combinations. Feel free to share your own food discoveries.