Sometimes people speak of Chinese cuisine as if it were a monolith. However, China is an enormous country, and the food actually varies quite a lot. One of the better-known Chinese cuisines is Mandarin Chinese cuisine. In this cuisine, presentation is important. Foods are prepared not only to taste delicious but to look beautiful as well. This makes Mandarin cuisine really fun and delicious to enjoy. Here are a few of the key dishes to try at a Mandarin Chinese restaurant.
Peking is the center of Mandarin culture, and dishes prepared there are typically seen as the pinnacle of luxury. This is the case with Peking duck, a luxurious dish made with a whole duck. Air is blown under the duck's skin to ensure the skin comes out crispy. The duck is also glazed with a delicious, orange-flavored sauce. Peking duck is best enjoyed with a group since a single duck can typically serve 4 or more people. Traditionally, you consume the duck by wrapping little bits of the meat in tiny, pancake-like bread. This makes it not only beautiful but fun to eat.
Beggar's chicken is another delicious Mandarin meal to enjoy with a group. It's a whole chicken that has been stuffed with veggies then wrapped in banana leaves. The chicken is steamed under low heat, which ensures it turns out tender and juicy. Years ago, the chicken was prepared in clay ovens, but most restaurants now make it in their conventional ovens. It is sometimes served with various sauces for dipping, and perhaps alongside a simple soup such as hot and sour soup.
Stinky tofu is a dish commonly served by food carts and small shops late at night in Mandarin China. It's intended as a small meal or snack, but some restaurants in the U.S. serve it in larger, entree portions. The tofu is fermented in a special brine, which is what gives it a characteristic odor. Different cooks use different brines, resulting in different flavors. After it is brined, the tofu can be steamed or fried. It's then served with a spicy dipping sauce on the side. The fermented flavor and the spice from the sauce pair together well.
If you visit a Mandarin restaurant, consider trying one of the dishes above. All three are pretty common and well-loved in Mandarin China and beyond, and they're sure to please your palate. Visit a Mandarin Chinese restaurant today.