The Rarest and Most Expensive Chinese Food Ingredients

The world famous rarest ingredients are truffle, caviar and foie gras. In China, there are some rare ingredients even more expensive than these three. What are they? Here are the ten most expensive Chinese foods.

1. Hericium Erinaceus

 Average Price: fresh: RMB 15 – 30/500g; dry planted one: RMB 150/500g; dry wild one: RMB 350/500g.
 Main Growing Area: Hailin City, Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China.

Hericium Erinaceus, also called Lion’s Mane Mushroom or Monkey Head Mushroom, is a very rare edible mushroom in China. It’s a kind of fleshy fungus that prefers to grow in the trunk or hollow of a hardwood tree in the deep forest.
Fresh and tender, mellow and delicious, Hericium is known as “vegetarian meat”. It contains unsaturated fatty acid, which is good for blood circulation and can reduce cholesterol. In addition, its therapeutic effect on gastric ulcer, gastritis and other digestive tract diseases is remarkable. It can also invigorate the spleen and help digestion. The Hericium we cook is usually a dry one. The dry ones need to be soaked and then steamed or stewed with ginger, scallions and cooking wine before the final cooking step.

2. Bear Claw

 Average Price: RMB 800/500g
 Main Growing Area: Greater and Lesser Khingan Range in Northeast China.
Bear Claw is usually the dried claw of a black bear or a brown bear. Wild bears are protected animals in China, so the edible paws come from domestic bears. However, few people keep bears, which makes bear claw one of the most expensive Chinese food.
Bear Paws contain a lot of fat and protein, as well as a variety of amino acids. It can dehumidify, strengthen the spleen and stomach, and renew sinew and bones. Bear Paws are usually steamed or braised. Put the paw that has been deboned and plucked into the basin with soup, ginger, scallion section, and then steam it, which could maximize its nutrition.

3. Edible Bird’s Nest (EBN)

 Average Price: RMB 200 – 400/one.
 Main Growing Area: South China Sea Islands.

Generally, Edible Bird’s Nest refers to the edible-nest built by swiftlets with saliva and feather. EBN is not directly picked to eat, but needs to be deeply processed. So, it is arguably one of the most expensive Chinese foods.
It has a high nutritional value, rich in protein, sugar and minerals, which are especially good for women’s beauty. Edible Bird’s nest is usually simmered to retain its nutrients. Carefully tear the clean Edible Bird’s Nest into thin strips according to its texture, then put it into a ceramic pot covered with water. Place the pot in a steamer and simmer for 2 hours. Pour rock sugar juice on the cooked Bird’s Nest and mix well. Then you can enjoy it.
Bird's Nest Soup
Bird's Nest Soup
Shark's Fin Soup with Papaya
Shark's Fin Soup with Papaya

4. Shark’s Fin

 Average Price: RMB 350 – 500/500g.
 Main Growing Area: Hong Kong and China’s coastal provinces.

Shark’s Fin is the fine filamentous cartilage in the fin, which is a very expensive sea food. It contains lipid-lowering, anti-arteriosclerosis and anticoagulant ingredients, which can prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases. But 80% of it is protein, and this protein does not contain the essential amino acid – tryptophan, so the shark’s fin nutritional value is not very high. It is suggested to cook Shark’s Fin together with chicken, duck, shrimp, etc., in order to add the nutrition and flavor.

5. Caterpillar Fungus

 Average Price: RMB 150 – 350/g.
 Main Growing Area: Alpine regions of Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces of mainland China and the snow mountain with grasslands. Among them, Nagqu Prefecture in Tibet produces the best quality Caterpillar Fungus.

Caterpillar Fungus, a complex of cordyceps sinensis and the larva of the bat moth, is quite an expensive Chinese food because of its numerous health beneficial effects, such as regulating the immune system, anti-tumor, anti-fatigue, moistening lung and strengthening kidney… As a rare Chinese medicine, it can be soaked in liquor or hot water and then drunk or stewed before eating. But high temperature destroys a lot of its important essence and the effect is significantly reduced. Experts have pointed out that taking raw Caterpillar Fungus is the most medically valuable way of eating it.

6. Matsutake

 Average Price: Fresh: RMB 200 – 450/500g; Dry: RMB 1,500 – 2,000/500g.
 Main Growing Area: Shangri-La and Chuxiong in Yunnan Province, southwest China; Yanbian in Jilin Province, northeast China.

Matsutake is a kind of expensive edible mushroom, which is known as the “King of Fungi”. It only survives in virgin forests without pollution or human intervention.  Nobody has yet successfully planted it. It takes 5-6 years for a Matsutake to grow but it only stays fresh for at most 48 hours after being picked. That makes it an expensive Chinese food.
Matsutake is rich in protein, a variety of amino acids and unique cancer-fighting substances – Matsutake alcohol that can kill cancer cells directly and inhibit the growth and division of cancer cells. Steaming and making soup are the simplest ways to make Matsutake. Keep the temperature within 90 °C (194 °F) to preserve the nutrition and freshness of Matsutake.
Matsutake Soup with Bamboo Fungus
Matsutake Soup with Bamboo Fungus
Millet Congee with Liaoning Sea Cucumber
Millet Congee with Liaoning Sea Cucumber

7. Liaoning Sea Cucumber

 Average Price: Fresh: RMB 350/500g; Dry: RMB 2,600/500g.
 Main Growing Area: Lvshun, Dalian, Liaoning Province.

Liaoning Sea Cucumber ranks first of the “the Eight Treasured Seafood". This Sea Cucumber species grows very slowly, taking about five years, which is one of the reasons it’s an expensive Chinese food.
Sea Cucumber is a kind of tonic highly valued in Chinese medicine, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. With soft meat, the Sea Cucumber is a typical high-protein and low-fat food, which is rich in amino acids and arginine. It has a very significant effect on kidney deficiency of lumbar acid in adult males. Postpartum women and post-operative patients can also recover their physical strength in the shortest time by eating braised Sea Cucumber with porridge.

8. Morel Mushroom

 Average Price: Fresh: RMB 60 – 120/500g; Dry: RMB 800 – 1,000/500g.
 Main Growing Area: Gansu and Sichuan Provinces.

Morel Mushroom, also known as Morchella Esculenta, is a kind of edible fungus and is also among the world recognized rare food and medicine bacteria. Rich in a variety of essential amino acids, morel also contains anti-tumor polysaccharides, antibacterial and antiviral active components which can enhance the body immunity and inhibit tumor. The best cooking method is to simmer Morel Mushroom with chicken or ribs to ensure their delicious taste and high nutritional value.
Morel Mushrooms
Morel Mushrooms
Meat Stew with Ginseng
Meat Stew with Ginseng

9. Ginseng

 Average Price: RMB 35/one.
 Main Growing Area: Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve, Northeast China.

Ginseng is a rare and expensive Chinese medicine. The older Ginseng grows, the better its quality and medicine effect. Generally, it takes around 6 years for Ginseng to grow to adult size. With such long growing period and limited growing areas, Ginseng deserves to be an expensive Chinese food. Ginseng has cosmetic effects, but its value mainly reflects in medicine values. Its fleshy root is a famous strong tonic, which is applicable to adjust blood pressure, restore heart function, neurasthenia, physical weakness and other symptoms. Ginseng can be used to brew wine, cook soup, especially chicken soup. In addition, Ginseng can also be eaten raw.

10. Crab

 Average Price: RMB 30/one.
 Main Growing Area: Tai Lake and Yangcheng Lake.

China has a history of eating crab for more than 5,000 years. Crab’s meat is delicious and rich in protein and trace elements, but less fat and carbohydrate. The crab roe is the most favorite part for many Chinese. But it’s rich in cholesterol; accordingly, the patients of coronary heart disease, hypertensive and hyperlipidemia should eat less!
Steaming is the most common and simplest way to cook crabs at home. Be sure to clean the crab with a brush before cooking it. When eating, the eight legs of the crab need to be cut off with scissors, including the two large pincers. When cooled, the meat and shell will be separated automatically, which is convenient for eating and drinking. Crab meat flavored with a salad sauce of oil, vinegar, and light soy sauce, is very delicious and fresh. September and October are the best times to eat crab in China. At that time, the crab meat tastes the most delicious and the crab roe is juiciest.
- Last updated on Apr. 21, 2021 -
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