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What Chinese People Eat for Lunch — The Top 10 Meals in China

Chinese cuisine has a long history and is loved not only domestically, but also worldwide. In China, the variety of dishes from different regions and their different tastes are mouth-watering. This article will take stock of the top 10 most delicious dishes in China.

What Chinese People Eat for Lunch

Chinese Lunch Special

Covered Rice

Covered Rice

Gaifan (pronounced "guy-fan" not "gay-fan"), which translates as covered rice, is a collective name for a one-person meal consisting of a portion of rice (generally quite a large portion to fill you up throughout the day), and a serving of a meat or vegetable dish of your choice.

These tend to cost from 10 yuan upwards in the bigger cities and a little less in smaller cities, but the price will depend on whether you're having a meal that consists predominantly of vegetables or tofu, which are cheaper, or a more expensive meat dish.

Oodles of Noodles

Oodles of Noodles

Noodles are eaten for lunch throughout the country. Because of the different methods of preparation, differing geography and variety of ingredients, they come in different types throughout the country. In the north, people tend to eat wheat noodles, whereas southerners generally eat rice noodles.

Noodles are often chosen as a lunch meal because they are quick, but especially in winter, they are warm and filling. Popular noodles are beef noodles, or Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles.

Steamed Buns and Dumplings

Steamed Buns and Dumplings

Baozi (/baow-dzuh/) and jiaozi (/jyaow-zhuh/) are steamed stuffed buns and steamed dumplings, and mostly found in the North of the country, but popular throughout the country.

Office workers can get them either at places like 7/11, where they're inexpensive and probably the quickest lunch you can get, but the better renditions come from stalls where they're being freshly prepared and steamed outside. You'll recognize these by the dumpling steamers made of bamboo. One of those should set you back a maximum of 7–8 yuan and usually has about 9–12 dumplings inside them.

Hot Spicy Soup

Hot Spicy Soup


For those on the move, jianbing (/jyen-bing/) is not only a breakfast food but also a solid and fast lunch (albeit carb-heavy, definitely not diet friendly). This traditional Northern dish is most certainly one of Beijing's top foods, costing approximately only 6 yuan.

The jianbing is a pancake made of both egg and mung bean batter, folded with a spicy sauce, scallions, and a crispy sheet of dough, and cooked on a hot plate in front of you on a cart. You'll find the carts selling them around subway stations. If you opt to include sausage or other additions you might have to pay a little more. Make sure you specify whether you want it spicy or not.

Chinese Burgers

Originating in the center of the country and mostly known for being a Xi'an dish, roujiamo (/roh-jyaa-mor/) are a type of burger often eaten alongside soup or noodles at lunch time. They come in lamb and pork varieties depending on where you get them, as China has a few regions where Muslims are predominant.

In Xi'an's Muslim quarter, for example, you'd get them stuffed with lamb meat, but in the rest of Shaanxi they are commonly filled with pork.

A Shared Meal

Shared Meal

If you are out with friends or guests, lunch will generally consist of ordering many dishes from a menu (often with a lazy susan), with everyone getting their own bowl of rice and sharing the dishes.

These type of restaurants are a little nicer for lunch and not usually the go-to for office workers, but frequented when guests are in town or on special occasions. Prices range widely depending on the restaurant.

Canteen Food

Canteen Food

Many Chinese offices will have a canteen, which is like in a school. Pick a dish or three to go onto your stainless steel tray, choose between rice, pancakes, or buns (or all, if you want), and pay at the counter. This is most office workers' fastest option for lunch, and the Chinese word for this translates as fast food. Meals come in at around 10–20 yuan, depending on what you choose from the buffet.

It's also possible to order this style of food for take-away, in which case it is often presented in a cardboard/plastic box or tray. The idea is the same, though.

Hand-Held Pancake

Originating in Taiwan, the hand-held pancake may remind you of a rolled crepe in a bag, albeit savory, and is similar to the jianbing, Beijing's favorite pancake listed under number 5. Best for on the go, the shouzhuabing (/show-jwaa-bing/) pancake won't set you back more than 15 yuan unless you're getting ripped off.

Hot Pot

Hot Pot

Hot pot can be eaten for lunch or dinner, but is such a big part of China's food culture (especially in China's colder provinces during the winter months) that it's worth a mention here too. Colleagues often spend lunch times huddled around a pot of spicy boiling broth (with the option to have it non-spicy, of course).

Hot pot is also perfect for vegetarians as you can choose exactly what to put it in. Just order your ingredients, put them in the boiling broth, and wait for them to be cooked. These meals can cost a little more than some of the other options (upwards of 50 yuan per person) but are totally worth every yuan.


Chinese food culture is vast and profound, and the above ten dishes are just one of them. These dishes are not only popular at home, but also have won a high reputation and word of mouth abroad. Each dish has its own unique preparation process and special taste, reflecting the food culture and traditions of different regions of China.

In addition to the top 10 dishes mentioned above, there are many other delicacies worth trying in China, such as Xiaolongbao in Jiangnan, vinegar fish from West Lake in Zhejiang, shrimp from Longjing, Minnan snacks from Fujian, pancakes and fruits from Shandong, and so on. Each dish has its own unique charm and historical background that is worth tasting and knowing.

The tradition and culture of Chinese cuisine can be passed down from generation to generation thousands of years ago, and has become one of the most popular and recognized food cultures in the world. With the continuous improvement of China's international status and the continuous improvement of people's living standards, Chinese cuisine is gradually going to the world, and more and more people have shown strong interest and enthusiasm for Chinese cuisine.

In short, China's food culture is very colorful, and the top ten dishes are just one of the representatives. We should cherish and inherit these food cultures, let more people understand and fall in love with Chinese cuisine, and promote cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries and the cultural diversity of mankind.


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