A difference between East and West is the Western concept of a full-course meal with appetizers, entrees and side dishes. Theoretically, steamed rice is the core dish in Chinese cuisine and all other dishes are side dishes. Chinese dim sum, served from carts, are small side dishes yet do not accompany an entree. Use a variety of these side dishes for an Eastern-themed meal or to complement your Western dinner menu.
Egg rolls make a delicious deep-fried side dish and are included in the Chinese dim sum tradition of small side dishes. Spring rolls, a rather different variety of egg rolls, can be prepared as fresh spring rolls or deep-fried. When deep-fried, the outer shell is crispy, light and flakier than egg rolls.
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There are many types of dumplings in Chinese cuisine, depending on the filling and how they are cooked. A side dish of wonton, a type of Mandarin dumpling deep-fried or found in clear broth, is a tasty side dish. Wontons can be stuffed with seafood, pork or chicken. Traditional dumplings are standard fare in Chinese dim sum. Generally, they are steamed but pot-sticker dumplings are pan-fried.
Chinese fried rice is a tasty side dish in Eastern cuisine, whether cooked with egg, shrimp, chicken or pork. Clay pot rice, consisting of chili, shallots, garlic and chicken, combine both steam and deep-fry preparation common to hot-pot recipes of Eastern cuisine. Sticky rice lotus wraps are a visually appealing dim sum dish consisting of sticky rice, black mushrooms and Chinese sausage wrapped in individual lotus leaves.
Noodles, second to rice in Chinese importance, can be made from rice itself. A dish of spicy pan-fried rice vermicelli noodles is quick to put together, as are many other types of noodle dishes such as Szechuan noodles, thick noodles (cho mein) and Cantonese noodles with fish balls.
Chinese green beans are a delicious vegetable side dish prepared with nuts such as almonds. Szechuan string beans with minced pork are another popular Chinese vegetable dish. Chinese mustard greens are a variation of greens similar to Western greens such as wilted lettuce, but the hint of mustard lends the distinct flavor. Stir-fried baby bak choy with cashews is a quick yet tasty complement to any type of dinner menu. Chinese broccoli dishes are versatile and can be served in a variety of ways. Sauces that complement this vegetable dish are curry, Szechuan or garlic and sesame stir-fry.
Many meat side dishes are found in the dim sum tradition. Chinese barbecue spare-ribs is a favorite dish. Dim sum barbecue pork buns, Chinese scallion pancakes with duck or steamed pork and shrimp balls can add dimension to main dishes.