Chinese Food Menu - A Mini Guide


You'll be handed a menu when you go to a Chinese resterant. Some items are self-explain, and some are puzzling unless you've known them. Here we list the popular items on a typicl Chinese menu, hoping it may help you have a better Chinese food experence.

Like those menus in many other types of resterants, a Chinese food menu contains several to a dozen categories of food, the common ones are:
- appetizers
- soup
- desserts
- beverage
- main dishes

The main dishes normally are:
- poultrypork and beef
- lamb
- seafood
- vegitables
- rice and noodle

There is also maybe a house special section depending on the individual restarant.

Chinese cooking is a field that creative ideas are constantly developed and tested. What we listed here may vary from what you experienced from a specific restarant.

Common Appetizers On a Chinese Food Menu

Egg Rolls
A very popular deep-fried appetizer in the western that is filled with pork or/and shrimp as well as various vegetables, such as cabbage, celery, bean sprouts and carot.

Spring Rolls
It is called Shrimps Noodle Roll, Vegetarian Egg Roll in some places. It is acturaly a lighter version of egg rolls, can be deep-fried or steamed. The fillings are up to the hands that make it.

Home Made Pot Stickers
That's one of the items that may be a sign if a local restarant is a good one or not. Pot Stickers are fried Chinese dumpings.

Deep Fried Wontons
Wonton wrappers filled with ground pork and a variety of vegetables and seasonings before deep-frying.  

Crab Rangoons
Some restarants may call it crab puffs, crab pillows, crab cheese wontons, cheese wontons or crab meat cheese. A carb Ragoon is a Chinese wonton wrapper stuffed with a combination of cream cheese, lightly flaked crab meat / imitation crab meat, with scallions and/or garlic. It is made into a triangular or flower shape, then deep fried in vegetable oil.


Egg Drop Soup
A classic dish -  flavored chicken broth or stock topped with silken threads of egg. It usually includes a green onion garnish, and sometimes frozen peas are added to the stock. 

Hot and Sour Soup
Regional variations of this soup are found throughout China.  All contain bean curd, Chinese black mushrooms and usually pork, but the remaining ingredients can vary. I think it tastes best when chicken stock is added.   

Wonton Soup
The word wonton translates into "swallowing a cloud" and in this dish the wontons floating in the soup do resemble tiny clouds.  The wontons are filled with a mixture of meat (usually pork) and seasonings and boiled, and then added to a stock. 

Main Dishes 

Ants Climbing Trees (Ants Creeping on Trees, Ants Climbing a Hill, Ma Yi Shang Shu)
Don't let the name throw you.  This is a very flavorful, albeit spicy, Szechuan dish in which marinated pork is cooked in a spicy sauce and served over cellophane (bean thread) noodles.  

Bang Bang Ji (Hot Chicken Salad) 
Chicken breasts are cut into matchstick sized pieces and served on a sheet of green bean paste. Made with hot chili oil.

Beef in Oyster Sauce
The savory flavor of oyster sauce works well with beef. In this recipe beef is thinly sliced and then marinated with several ingredients that generally include sherry, soy sauce, cornstarch and perhaps sugar. The beef is stir-fried or deep-fried and then a "gravy" or sauce that includes oyster sauce is added. 

Beef with Broccoli
Marinated beef is stir-fried and then mixed with stir-fried vegetables - the whole is covered with a thickish brown sauce or gravy that may include oyster sauce. 

Beggar's Chicken
Stuffed chicken is wrapped in a dough and baked.

Cheng Du Chicken (Chili Chicken Cubes)
A classic Szechuan dish. Cubed chicken breasts are marinated and deep-fried; the sauce includes hot bean sauce, freshly ground Szechuan pepper, sugar, and vinegar.

Chow Fun
Rice Noodles.

Chow Mein (Fried noodles)
In this dish the noodles and vegetables are stir-fried separately and added back together at the end of the cooking process.  The noodles can be soft or crispy depending on how long they are cooked in oil.  Also, chow mein can be made with either thick or thin noodles. There is a gravy, either added to the noodles while they are stir-frying or at the final stage of cooking. Chicken is a popular meat to use in chow; shrimp or pork are used as well. 

Crispy Skin Duck (Xang Su Ya)
An interesting dish - the duck is steamed, while the skin is deep-fried.

Dou Ban Yu
Fish in Hot Sauce.

Dry Garlic Spareribs
Spareribs are simmered twice - the second time in a flavorful sauce that includes brown sugar and dry mustard.

Fried Rice
Cold, previously cooked rice is combined with scrambled egg and other ingredients to add texture and flavor.  Restaurants offer a number of fried rice dishes, from beef, chicken or shrimp to mushroom or popular dishes such as Yangchow Fried Rice. 

General Tsao's Chicken
Chicken cubes coated in cornstarch and deep-fried, cooked with a sauce that includes hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce and chili peppers.

Ginger Beef
Thin strips of beef are marinated in ginger juice, covered in a batter, deep-fried and coated with a sweet sauce.  Restaurants often deep-fry the beef twice to make it extra crispy. Authentic ginger beef will be dryer and less sweet than the popular restaurant dish.  

Kung Pao Chicken (Kung Pao Chi Ting)
Deep-fried diced chicken and roasted peanuts; a spicy dish made with chili peppers.

Kung Pao Ming Har
A similar dish, made with shrimp instead of chicken.

Lemon Chicken (Ling Mung Gai)
Batter-coated, deep-fried chicken with lemon.

Lo Mein
Tossed Noodles - unlike chow mein, where the noodles are stir-fried separately, the noodles are tossed and blended with the stir-fry mixture.  They have more of a sauce than chow mein noodles.


Ma Po Tou Fu (Marpoo Dofu)
Spicy pork with aromatic bean curd.

Moo Goo Gai Pan
Stir-fried chicken and mushrooms.

Mu Shu Pork (Moo Shu Pork, Moo Shi Pork)
Stir-fried marinated pork mixed with bits of scrambled egg, tree ears and lily buds.   Normally served with mandarin pancakes. The dish is supposed to represent a colorful forest, with the pancakes forming the ground or base. 

Princess Chicken, Empress Chicken
Another interesting dish - chicken wings stuffed with mushrooms and bamboo shoots (ham is sometimes included).

Salt and Pepper Squid
Squid rings are coated with a salt and pepper mixture and deep-fried. Salt and toasted Szechuan peppercorns are always found in the salt and pepper mix; toasted black peppercorns and chili flakes may be added. In restaurants, the dish is frequently finished by stir-frying the squid with onion and a mix of bell peppers and hot red chili peppers. 

Sweet and Sour Pork (Wu Lo Yuk, Ku Lu Jou)
Marinated pork deep-fried in batter (some versions use less batter than others), with a sweet and sour sauce.  

Twice Cooked Pork (Hui Guo Rou, Hui kuo jou)
From Szechuan - boiled pork is then stir-fried with vegetables and a spicy sauce that includes chili paste.

Yangchow Fried Rice
This is a very colorful fried rice dish, made with shrimp or prawns and ham or barbecued pork. Chicken is sometimes added as well.  Vegetables include peas, green onions and perhaps carrots for color. 


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