In China, almost everywhere except the most interior parts of the continent, you’ll find fish bone-in, head-on, small and large, weeknights and lunches, more or less often depending on geographic region. Perhaps it started with the many river systems crisscrossing the country, including two of the world’s longest—the Changjiang (Yangzi or “Yangtze” River) and Huanghe (Yellow River)—and the extensive borderline with the Pacific Ocean. Whatever the case, among the geographic regions that do consume fish regularly, Western foreigners are often surprised to find that boneless fish and fish filets are not the norm.

Fresh shellfish was once more specific to coastal or river cities, but these days can be bought by anyone, the same as in the U.S. Among the historical coastal regions with storied cuisines, like Jiangnan and Guangdong, there is a longstanding tradition of intricate, high-end seafood preparation.

So while you may think of a whole steamed fish as China’s greatest gift to seafood, Chinese gastronomy is highly diverse. Contemporary China is way more enamored of heavily-seasoned braised crawfish, considered the official food of summer, and eaten by the literal tons. And while China has a native species of crawfish, the one beloved today is the Louisiana crawfish, which, according to Goldthread, was brought to China via Japan in the 1930s.

Below you’ll find our favorite fish and seafood dishes—spanning all kinds of partial and whole fish preparation—from Shortcut Suancaiyu to Whole Doubanyu. For shellfish, we love classics like Dry-Braised Shrimp (Ganshaoxia) as well as improvising with a Mala Crawfish Boil!

All Fish & Seafood