Hello and welcome to the first instalment of my food blog while I’m out in China.
I’ve been in Beijing for four weeks now and have been blown away already by some of the dishes I’ve had. I’ve only been to Beijing so far, so any assumptions I’m making are based off the people I’ve met here and the restaurants I’ve ate in here.
First of all, no, I haven’t eaten dog (at least I don’t think I have). To be honest, apart from one meal (I’ll get onto this later) I have thoroughly enjoyed every meal I’ve had.
I’m going to start by confirming some differences I’ve noticed between authentic Chinese food and the UK version:
– Chinese people do not eat prawn crackers.
I was shocked as well. I love a prawn cracker back home but apparently most people here haven’t even heard of them.
– They have no idea what ‘curry sauce’ is.
Another nightmare! I love Chinese curry sauce back home but again, it doesn’t exist here.
– Chicken Chow What?
The only ‘Chinese’ dishes that I’ve seen here that are similar to back home is sweet n sour sauce and duck pancakes! As for the rest, it either doesn’t exist or I’m yet to discover it.
– It’s not just Italians who love garlic.
I’ve never eaten so much garlic in my life. Those that know me personally will know I’m in my element. The Chinese lace pretty much every dish with a ton of garlic and chilli and as you can imagine, it’s fantastic. The hero dish for me so far has to be Szechuan Green Beans. They come in a variety of different ways (depending on the restaurant). Green beans have never tasted so good!
– They LOVE peppers .
You can find peppers lurking in pretty much every dish. If you weren’t a fan of them before, you will be after you try them here.
– Being vegetarian/vegan/lactose intolerant/gluten free/allergic to pretty much anything would be kind of impossible here .
There’s meat in everything. Even in veg dishes you will find cubes of fat or meat there for the flavour. Think selecting your own ingredients for a hot pot is safe? Remember everything is cooked in the same oil. As for allergies, firstly I wouldn’t trust things here hadn’t touched nuts etc and secondly, good luck trying to ask them if they have. Learning the language is fast becoming my number one main priority.
– Western food is rare, but some places do it pretty good.
Yes there is Mcdonalds, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dominoes etc and yes I have already tried a few of them. But Red House, for example, in the Wudaoko district does amazing wood burning pizza oven pizzas with generous toppings
Ok so they are some of the main differences I’ve noticed so far. Don’t get me wrong, some days I crave a ‘normal Chinese’ from back home. The simple fact is that you cannot say which is better because they are both so different. They both serve their own purposes. You can get amazing Chinese food back home but, like I’ve said, it’s nothing like the food here. Not all Chinese food is good however…
Lets talk about Hot Pots
This is more of an example of a Korean hot pot than a Beijing Hot Pot but it gives you an idea as to why I don’t like them.
They basically fill up a cauldron full of spicy oil and water and allow you to select which ingredients you want to boil in them. We opted for this selection, not realising it came with baked beans and what looks like super noodles.
It was rank! It’s put me off restaurants hot pots for a while. There is a local hot pot takeaway shop near our accommodation which is good, but I’m still not their biggest fan
Restaurant in the Summer Palace
So we went to the Summer Palace the other day (one of the tourist attractions in Beijing) and had a decent day, despite the smog. Here it is on a nice day…
When you were younger did your parents ever tell you not to eat food in major tourist attractions?
“It will be expensive”
“It won’t be nice, mind”
Well yeah, we were starving and ended up eating in an expensive restaurant (£6 a head – seriously that is expensive here) and it was rank.
Where we were expecting beef, we were served a plate of onions and where we were expecting chicken we were served a plate of tofu!?
No explanation was given. I picked at some rice, paid the bill and went to KFC. As you can expect, I didn’t take a photo of the food since it was awful.
Definition: The literal translation from Chinese to English, often with humorous results.
Here’s some of my favourite ‘Chinglish’ on food menus that I have came across so far:
I’ll be uploading more funny examples as time goes on. One notable addition (I forgot the get a photo) was a dish affectionately named ‘Grim’. Safe to say I didn’t order it.
More updates to follow… For now you can follow me on instagram: @1AlexT