I knew before coming to China that ‘American Chinese food’ was going to be different from what is actually eaten in China. During my first day or two, I learned that not only is it different, but it’s just a really inaccurate representation of Chinese food.
(One thing to keep in mind when talking about Chinese food is that it’s very regional. In the same way that people from the South of the US eat very differently from the people living in the Northeast.)
Before I start, here’s 5 fun facts about food in China:
1. China is huge on food delivery. Everything you could ever want can and will be delivered to your front door. Similar to Uber Eats, China has a few different delivery services. They’re fast, cheap, and easy.
2. Shanghainese food isn’t actually spicy. Really spicy Chinese food comes from SiChuan (aka Szechuan).
3. While dairy is something that most Chinese people eat, yogurt is huge here. Milk and cheese are imported and are decently expensive. Yogurt on the other hand is cheap and everywhere. You also drink yogurt with a straw here!
4. Almost every fast food restaurant serves chicken wings. They’re wildly popular, even McDonalds has them.
5. Hotdogs are confusingly popular. When I asked one of my Chinese coworkers about it, he said that they believe that’s what westerners eat, so they eat them with everything. Many burgers are actually served with hotdogs on top.
Being a vegetarian has posed some problems. Most of the “vegetarian” dishes actually have meat in them, so I’ve gotten really good at saying that I don’t eat meat. I can say it in Mandarin at least 4 different ways, so hopefully at some point the waiters will understand me (it doesn’t always happen though). I’ve begun to figure out what to order though! There’s a really great dish with eggs and tomatoes that I eat frequently! Veggie dumplings are also a good go-to. If I really need help, my Chinese coworkers are always more than willing to help me order!
The drinks here are also super extra (both in ingredients and price). You can’t ever just get a tea or a coffee (well, you can, but that ruins this whole paragraph). It’s always a coffee with brown sugar and bubbles and milk and pudding and something else. Some of my friends love always get a passion fruit green tea with passion fruit seeds, coconut jellies, and bubbles from the bubble tea place. It’s a lot of stuff in one drink!
Well, that’s all for now! I’m sure I’ll update you all on my eating adventures another day.