Compared to Pork, Chinese (and specifically Sichuan) people historically ate far less beef, lamb and other game. Regions like Northwest China were notable exceptions, where the mountainous and semi-arid terrain produced nomadic herding lifestyles (predominantly sheep and goat) and shared more Muslim influence. Cattle were prized agricultural tools for plowing and labor, making their slaughter a criminal offense for thousands of years.

It wasn’t until the intrusion of Western imperial powers following the First Opium War’s 1842 and 1844 Unequal Treaties—enacted by Britain, U.S. and France—which coerced China into opening trade doors, that a demand for beef and other nontraditional products appeared among Shanghai’s new foreigner class. White missionaries began evangelizing the health benefits of beef, and eventually beef became popular among elitists.

With the increased economic mobility of the 1970s on, meat consumption exploded across all social classes. In this boom, grilled Shaokao Skewers became a staple of city streets far from Xinjiang, its origin. Famous Zigong chef 范吉安/Fan Ji’an’s Shuizhu Niurou, an evolution of the 1930s, transitioned soaked beef from a local zero-waste method of tenderizing old farming cattle to boiled beef, a classy restaurant delicacy.

However, Southern and Eastern regions that historically ate lighter fare (e.g, Guangdong, Jiangnan) still consume far more of their traditional poultry and seafood than pork or beef. Northern regions of China still consume the most beef and lamb. Per a July 2023 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for all its economic growth, China’s meat consumption per capita was still less than 50% that of the U.S. Thus, the number and variety of traditional beef, lamb and game recipes you’ll find below still reflect specific regional tastes (like rabbit-abundant Sichuan’s famous Erjie Tuding), in spite of more general access. In fact, Sichuan is the rabbit-eating capital of the world—including, famously, the head.

All Beef, Lamb & Game