Food in China is quite different from what you used to …
Most foreigners are taken by complete surprise when they come to China.
They frequented Chinese restaurants in their home cities on the regular, but when they arrive in China, there’s no beef with broccoli or mushu pork. That’s because Chinese restaurants in the West pander to the American palate.
In China, you’re going to need to let go of your preconceived notions of what Chinese cuisine actually is.
In time, you will find similarities and some items that you recognize from that Chinese restaurant you always order from back home. But when you first arrive, try to go in with an open mind and try as much as possible.
So what’s different?
In your local Chinese restaurant, you’ll find dishes from all over China. In China, you’ll generally only find the dishes that are specific to the region you’re in. In bigger cities, you’ll find restaurants that specialize in other regional cuisines, but for the most part, you’re going to want to go for the stuff of your region.
Try the famous dishes
Finding the famed food for your city or region is a must. You might not like it, but you really should sample it. For example, in Shanghai xiaolong bao (soup dumplings) are absolutely revered. You shouldn’t miss the chance to try them. In Beijing, the roasted duck is beyond compare.
Order hot pot
Hot pot is best enjoyed with a group of friends. There’s a boiling cauldron in the center of the table and you order raw meats and vegetables to cook in it. It’s served with a dipping sauce. Spend some time in China and your Chinese friends will insist you come dine at a hot pot restaurant with them. Don’t say no!
Grab some street foods
Street food in China is cheap and good. It’s best to have a Chinese friend show you around your city since some places can be dirty. Generally, if there are lots of people lined up at one vendor, it’s a good place to go. Try jianbing (Chinese crepes), jiaozi (dumplings), baozi (Chinese bread buns, usually stuffed with pork and vegetables), and chuan’r (Chinese barbecued meat kebabs).
Get a little sweet too
Chinese people aren’t as into sweet things as they are more into salty and spicy stuff, but you’ll still find some sweet stuff to love. Try the dan tat, Chinese egg tarts that are custardy and divine, or grab a stick of bing tanghulu, a skewer of sugar-coated Chinese hawthorns that will make you think of candied apples.
Tasting China is part of the fun so get ready to explore it with your taste buds. You’re bound to find some new favorites!