Most travelers agree that sampling food is among the highlights of any trip to a foreign country. However, eating ingredients your body isn’t used to can turn an exciting culinary journey into a dietary nightmare. Therefore, it’s always best to read up on the traditional dishes that you’ll come across on menus during your trip.
Asia, of course, is renowned for its cuisine—the familiar and the meals that may appear as a challenge to sample. If you’re planning a trip to China soon, read on to make sure you only eat the best in this country filled with amazing culinary experiences.
1. Expect a lot of rice and noodles
Rice and noodles are major staples in Chinese cuisine, although this doesn’t mean you’re going to eat bland food. Depending on the amount of added ingredients, such as beans, meat, vegetables, eggs, there are endless variations of rice dishes to try.
The same goes for noodles, which are often served in a soup. Don’t worry if you prefer gluten-free food, as rice noodles are widely available too.
2. Try authentic flavors
Fast-food outlets, like McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut, are available in Chinese cities and are also popular with the locals. However, unless you’re desperate, it’s worth sampling your way through the number of traditional dishes China boasts. There’s an extensive range of flavorful dishes from each of China’s 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, and 56 ethnic groups.
Blogger Nomadic Matt describes how he was “amazed by the diversity of ingredients and flavors” in the country. When traveling abroad, don’t waste your time on food you can get at home.
3. Watch out for unhygienic standards
The big buckets used to ladle out water for flushing in squat toilets in China might also be used for washing a restaurant’s dirty plates. So, watch out.
If you eat at any food stall, you take somewhat of a risk in terms of hygiene. However, a lot of them are fine and offer delicious food on-the-go. Trust your instinct and stick to places which appear to take care about cleaning procedures.
4. Take a cooking class
Trying authentic Chinese dishes and flavors is one thing, but being able to master a dish or two yourself is a great learning experience. You’ll find out more about the approach to cooking, methods, and techniques. Most importantly, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family when you go home and prepare an authentic Chinese meal for them. If your trip to China includes time in Shanghai, sign up at one of the city’s best cooking classes to learn how to cook some savory Cantonese food.
5. Enjoy eating with company
In western countries, we typically have our own plate of food. In China, however, each person has a bowl of rice and eats the rest of their meal directly from shared plates set in the center of the table.
This type of communal eating is a great way of getting involved in Chinese culture and being among the locals. It could make it difficult, however, if you’re dining alone, as menus are designed with the idea that you’ll have more than one dish. Therefore, see it an excuse to eat with a group of people and make new friends.
It’s also the best way to try more than just the familiar Chinese dishes. Some highlights include yu xiang rou si (shredded pork doused in hot garlic sauce with sauteed vegetables), xiao long bao (dumplings served in soup), and liang pi, a cold noodle dish that’s more delicious than it sounds. By the end of your trip, you’ll have exposed your taste buds to a completely new culinary experience.
Have you been to China and sampled its variety of dishes? Let us know your impressions.