Traditional and authentic Chinese food tends to look quite different from the Chinese food that’s served in Chinese food outlets throughout the United States and the rest of the western world. In the same way that you won’t find every one of your favorite Chinese dishes available in China, you won’t find many local delicacies on menus in the west.
There are several Chinese delicacies that perhaps aren’t served outside of China because they’re a little overwhelming for the western palate. But that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious, and definitely worth trying if you’re ever in China!
Check out these ten Chinese delicacies you won’t find here.
10 Fried Bee Pupae
We tend to associate bees with pain and stinging, so the last thing many westerners would think of is eating them. But fried bee pupae is a common dish in certain areas of China, including Southeast Guizhou, Yunnan Province, Zhangjiajie, and Fenghuang Ancient Town.
According to China Highlights, bee pupae are low in fat but high in protein, and in addition to being fried golden, can also be served steams, stir-fried, or cold fried in sauce. You can also get crispy bee pupae cake! That’s not the only insect available on the menu in China, though. You might also find fried spider, centipede, scorpion, and even grasshopper.
9 Wormwood Dumplings
Dumplings are a classic Asian dish you can find in any Chinese restaurant, but we’re yet to find wormwood dumplings outside of China. Being a Nomad reports that these are made every year around the country for Tomb Sweeping Day. They basically consist of pork and a spinach-like ingredient called wormwood.
Wormwood has endless health benefits and has actually been used against malaria in China. It is also used in the alcoholic absinthe. The wormwood itself tastes spicy, but definitely doesn’t have the same effects as absinthe!
8 Stinky Tofu
This dish doesn’t sound that appealing. It also doesn’t look appealing, and as you might have guessed, it doesn’t smell appealing. But the taste is fresh, spicy, and delicious. There are several places in China where you might find stinky tofu, but the most famous is Changsha, which boasts the most famous type with crispy skin.
Still, you can find it in some of the most widely traveled cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guilin. A common snack, this is one that you shouldn’t knock until you’ve tried it!
7 Spicy Frog Stew
Not to be confused with Frogmore stew, the Chinese spicy frog stew is exactly what it sounds like. According to Being a Nomad, this is a Hunan recipe, so it’s incredibly spicy because it’s full of green peppers. The dish also includes fermented red cabbage, giving it a sour taste.
This could almost be considered a chicken soup like dish in China, thanks to its health benefits that are said to ward off the common cold. The fish is full of vitamin C, helps you to detox your body by sweating, and also clears your sinuses.
6 Beggar’s Chicken
Commonly found in the Zhejiang Province of East China, beggar’s chicken is a savory dish that features incredibly tender meat served on a lotus leaf that melts in your mouth. There’s an interesting story behind beggar’s chicken too.
A beggar who once arrived in Hangzhou wanted to cook his chicken, but only had a knife and a fire. So he wrapped the chicken in mud and roasted it whole. When he peeled off the cooked mud, the feathers came off too. Today, beggars chicken is cooked in a similar way, although it’s much more hygienic!
5 Tripe Soup
Not everyone is a fan of tripe. Otherwise known as cow’s stomach, it’s certainly an acquired taste but appears in a popular dish in China called Tripe Soup. This is basically a spicy soup that features noodles mixed in with the tripe. You can also find tripe served in a hotpot throughout the country.
The main issue that most people have with tripe is the texture, but when it’s served, it becomes much softer and not as confronting to eat (which it can be if you’re not used to it!).
4 Barbecued Conch
Found on China’s Xiamen Island, barbecued conch is a delicacy that you probably won’t find in Chinese restaurants throughout the United States. Basically, they pull the actual conch organism out of the shell, slice it up, and then grill it on the barbecue.
Conch is also commonly eaten in the West Indies, especially in Jamaica. You can also find it in the Bahamas, typically served in salads, soups, or fritters. All parts of conch meat are edible, so this is another one you should try when you get the chance!
3 Preserved Egg
Preserved eggs date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and are still a popular delicacy in China today. In many traditional Chinese eateries, the eggs are served with soup, minced pork congee, and tofu. The KFC in China also serves them at breakfast time!
You don’t want to have too many of these since they contain a little lead. Aside from having a complex flavor, the eggs are also said to help cure a hoarse throat and to dispel the effects of alcohol. Maybe they should be the go-to snack on the way back from a night out!
2 Pickled Jellyfish
According to Being a Nomad, pickled jellyfish has a similar flavor to octopus, except it’s much sourer and isn’t as chewy. It’s also described as a “soft jelly sweet/candy where you can feel the tentacles on your tongue.”
Served in a salad, pickled jellyfish is a refreshing delicacy that locals can’t get enough of. It is sometimes served with chili sauce and sesame oil to give it an extra kick and has featured in Chinese cuisine for around 1,700 years. Jellyfish are also served in Japan and Korea.
1 Bamboo Rice
Rich with the fragrance of bamboo, bamboo rice contains two main ingredients: rice and pork. These are cooked together in a section of fresh bamboo, which gives it the desired flavor. Sadly, this isn’t often found in Chinese restaurants in the west, but it is found in many places throughout the country.
According to China Highlights, bamboo rice is often served where there are Dai minority and Yao minority people. That means you’re likely to find it when traveling to Yunnan Province, Guilin, Guizhou Province, and the Ali Mountain area of Taiwan.