Here we’ve put together 27 famous Chinese appetizers worth trying at your nearby resto and at home as easy-to-prepare recipes!
Chinese cuisine has always been more than enticing our senses and filling our stomachs, as their dishes also connote meanings of luck, prosperity, and longevity of life.
Their delicacies also reflect the sense of community ingrained in Chinese culture and countries that China has influenced.
Like all cuisines, Chinese dishes are wide-ranging, from main courses to desserts and side dishes that are equally eye-catching.
However, as meal preparations go, appetizers will always be the starter for patrons before feasting on the centerpieces of the banquet.
After all, the goal of appetizers is to further entice the person before being served a much bigger meal.
In this case, appetizers from China range from Dim Sum, soups, cold dishes, salads, and other varieties that are not often intended to make you feel full but can still get you craving for more.
My favorite Chinese appetizers from this list are the Mantou, Cheung Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls), and Dànhuātāng (Egg Drop Soup).
#27 is particularly an uncommon sight, owing to the careful and time-consuming preparation required for this dish.
Let’s get started!
Chinese Spring Rolls are often small yet filled with many ingredients, ranging from shredded pork, chopped shrimps, cabbages, mushrooms, and carrots—all packed in a spring roll wrapper often made from flour.
As an appetizer, Chinese spring rolls are best served hot and bite-sized, which is a perfect teaser for the equally delicious dishes to come.
You’re probably familiar with hot Chinese steamed buns with various fillings such as pork and vegetables.
However, these steamed buns, locally known as Baozi, are also served as appetizers.
Nonetheless, whether as an appetizer before the main course or a street snack, these steamed buns are a treat for kids and elders alike!
Like the Baozi, Mantou is also a popular steamed bun, particularly in Northern China.
However, this does not have any fillings as it is only steamed, with ingredients typical to bread, including wheat flour, egg, water, and other leavening agents.
While Mantou is served plain, colorful and flavored variations of these also exist, exemplifying the creativity of Chinese people in their cuisine.
Jiaozi or Chinese Dumplings consist of fillings closely sealed in dough and are often cooked through steaming or deep-frying.
Best dipped in black vinegar, soy sauce, or sesame oil, these bite-sized treats will give a lasting impression on your palate, even before the main course!
5. Siu Mai
Siu Mai is another popular dim sum dish that is part of the traditional Cantonese cuisine.
Another popular form of Chinese dumplings, the Siu Mai is much smaller than dumplings, with meat appearing more on top than enclosed in dough.
As an appetizer, Siu Mai is delicious enough to tease your palate and small enough not to make you feel full before being served with your preferred main dish.
These traditional Chinese Potstickers, known locally as Guōtiē, have a unique texture and appearance as one side of it is steamed, and the other side is pan-fried.
Biting these potstickers, you can feel the combination of crispiness and softness while savoring the flavorful pork fillings inside each piece of these.
7. Crab Rangoon
Crab Rangoon is a popular appetizer dish served in Chinese-American restaurants and is arguably inspired by fried wontons that are part of Cantonese cuisine.
This dish blends the creaminess of the cheese, the saltiness of crab meat, and the crispiness of the fried wonton wrap.
A unique dim sum dish inspired by Chinese cuisine, Crab Rangoons are great appetizer treats worthy of inclusion in your future banquets and potlucks.
Bite-sized meatballs are always one of the go-to appetizers in every banquet and party gathering.
However, this Chinese pork meatball dish adopts the recipe of Char Siew or Cantonese barbecued pork, particularly with the inclusion of the Chinese classic five-spice powders – star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks.
This makes these otherwise common appetizer staples distinctively Asian, bringing a more oriental taste!
Here’s a unique spin to the usual meatballs we know and love using a certified Asian ingredient—rice.
Yes, these Chinese Pearl Balls have meat and vegetable fillings wrapped in steamed Glutinous rice that have a sweet taste.
Fish balls are a staple in China and other Asian countries as street food, but these can also be great appetizers, which is the case for the Hong Kong Curry Fish Balls.
Preparing this can be easy if you have the ingredients, including oriental condiments and pastes, such as rice wine, shacha sauce, and chu hou sauce.
Nonetheless, these curry fish balls are satisfying enough to leave you hanging for the next course!
As the name suggests, this chicken appetizer meal has been made with an alcoholic beverage.
In this case, this dish is made by steaming deboned chicken legs and letting them soak in brine mixed with Shaoxing cooking wine in the fridge for a day.
Careful preparation is required for this dish, as the wine can bring a sharp flavor to the chicken.
Otherwise, this Shaoxing Drunken Chicken dish is a great and unique appetizer treat!
Cheung Fun, also known as Rice Noodle Rolls, is another distinctively Chinese appetizer dish that you might want to try!
This dish calls for rolls of steamed rice noodles made from rice flour, tapioca flour, starch, salt, oil, and water.
Depending on your preference, you might want your noodle roll plain or with fillings such as shrimp and barbecued pork.
The classic Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken is known as a street food among Chinese folk.
This recipe consists of shredded chicken that has been “beaten” with a cleaver knife to shreds—hence the name “Bang Bang” and sliced cucumbers.
On top of that, this dish is mixed with a sauce mixed with peanut butter as the prime ingredient, bringing a salty-nutty flavor to this appetizer meal!
Wonton Soup is an all-time classic appetizer dish that primarily combines juicy wonton dumplings and flavorful soup.
This recipe does not require high-level culinary skills and meticulous preparation, but you should ensure the right balance of flavors to make it enticing as an appetizer dish.
Like the Wonton Soup, this classic Dànhuātāng or Chinese Egg Drop Soup is a popular appetizer dish that brings thin egg “ribbons” to tasty chicken broth.
To achieve this, you should gently pour beaten eggs during the last few minutes of boiling your chicken broth.
This dish is best served hot and in small servings, guaranteeing satisfied cravings for patrons before a full meal.
Mushroom noodle dishes are always a treat!
In this case, this Chinese-style Mushroom Noodle Soup combines mushrooms, noodles, chicken broth, sauces, and veget
Tofu or curdled soy milk is considered a meat substitute and is often used in various dishes – fried, braised, or added to the soup.
For this classic East Asian appetizer dish, you could boil onion broth before adding tofu, scallions, and mushrooms.
This meatless appetizer meal is especially best for those on a vegan diet!
Chicken Lettuce Wraps consist of ground chicken sauteed with garlic, onion, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and scallions.
As the name suggests, small spooned servings of this cooked ground chicken are wrapped in sweet and crispy butter lettuce.
You could either use a spoon and fork or simply hold one of these wraps in your hand for a bite of this part-sweet and salty Chinese dish!
Pickled cabbage, locally named Pào Cài, is a vegan appetizer dish that is primarily a mix of sliced cabbage and carrots that have been fermented in brine.
In this case, the typical Sichuan brine consists of salt, garlic, rice vinegar, and Sichuan peppercorns.
Pào Cài is best served cold, but it also needs to be consumed immediately as the taste of the pickled cabbage can go sour in a matter of days.
Okra, commonly known as ladies’ fingers, is not your typical vegetable, nor is it a common ingredient in dishes that we’re familiar with.
Yet, these green, slimy, slender vegetable pieces can also be great appetizers, best combined with black vinegar, soy sauce, chili, and other spices.
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Potatoes as appetizers and snacks are often associated with fries.
Yet, they are also used in Chinese salads, such as this shredded potato salad that is sauteed and mixed with sauces and spices to achieve a sour and spicy taste!
Wood ear mushrooms are not typical in many regional cuisines, but it is often used in Chinese delicacies.
You don’t need to worry as these mushrooms are edible and can be used in certain meals, such as the Wood Ear Mushroom Salad.
This dish may look odd at first, but the unique taste of the mushroom, combined with the sour and sweet flavors of sauces and spices, makes this a one-of-a-kind appetizer dish for potlucks!
Chinese Tea Leaf Egg is a unique spin on our typical hard-boiled eggs.
After boiling eggs in water, these should be cracked for them to be cooked again in a mixture of black tea leaf, five-spice powders, sugar, and soy sauce.
As the name suggests, these egg appetizer treats to balance the taste of typical eggs with the presence of flavors associated with black tea leaves.
26. Century Egg
Century Eggs are part of the rich history of Chinese cuisine and are associated with the meticulous and often complicated process of preservation that could take weeks to months.
Modernized preservation of the century egg requires chemicals such as edible sodium hydroxide and food-grade zinc.
This aids in achieving a certain kind of appearance and taste associated with this unique appetizer snack.
Century eggs are often eaten sliced and dipped with Sichuan sauce and similar condiments.
However, you can also use century eggs to create this sour and salty salad appetizer alongside silken Tofu!
The bottom line
Chinese cuisine has a rich cultural heritage, existing alongside the general cultural traditions of the Chinese people.
While traces of their cultural heritage are often seen in main dishes and desserts, these can also reflect in these small, bite-sized, and unique-looking appetizers.
These appetizers have been perfected or inspired by the recipes crafted by locals that have been preserved over time.
If you happen to visit a Chinese deli, please try out their fascinating appetizers as well!
- Chinese Spring Rolls
- Baozi (Chinese Steamed Bun With Fillings)
- Mantou (Chinese Steamed Bun)
- Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings)
- Siu Mai
- Guōtiē (Chinese Potstickers)
- Crab Rangoon
- Char Siew-Style Pork Meatballs
- Chinese Pearl Balls
- Hong Kong Curry Fish Balls
- Shaoxing Drunken Chicken
- Cheung Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls)
- Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken
- Chinese Wonton Soup
- Dànhuātāng (Egg Drop Soup)
- Chinese Mushroom Noodle Soup
- Chinese Vegetable Soup With Tofu
- Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Pào Cài (Chinese Pickled Cabbage)
- Cold Tofu Salad
- Okra And Vinegar Salad
- Chinese Shredded Potato Salad
- Yusheng (Prosperity Salad)
- Wood Ear Mushroom Salad
- Chinese Tea Leaf Egg
- Century Egg
- Century Egg Tofu Salad
- Take a look at our Chinese Appetizers list!
- Bring the ingredients to create a new favorite dish.
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