EATS! China

The only travel tip I’m going to share about China is to Eat.

Eat everything.

Go in with an open mind and explore.  You will discover flavors familiar and new.  Textures and uses for so many ingredients is beyond impressive.  The diversity of food and choices across the nation leaves a palate more than satisfied with variety – no need to duck into one of the many KFC’s, Dicos or McDonalds in this huge nation – Just have to go around back.  Go behind the buidlings that house the giants and get some stick meat or a cup of noodles from the ladies behind the carts.

Sichuan – Hot Pot.  

I was very excited about this meal.  Think of it as kind of a spicy chinese fondue.  You get a huge pot of hot oil with a shit ton – (Shit Ton is an official Chef Grant Measurement) – of chills and sichuan peppercorns in it and usually a secondary hot pot with a not as spicy broth.  You then order a variety of meats, veggies, tofu, dumplings – all kinds of stuff – to cook in your hot pot.  My first run was not good as I was solo and the menu was only in Chinese…Needless to say, I did not really order what I might have normally ordered. (Point and smile and see what happens…)  The second time was with a group of people I met at the hostel. It was a better experience.  We went to a nicer place for hot pot and were able to order what we wanted. It’s really a fun experience with a group.  Still, I was underwhelmed with the flavors. Not underwhlemed with heat mind you, just the flavors. The last time I tired hot pot though, which was my last meal in China, was perfect.  We went to some little out of the way hole in the wall place in Beijing – ordered enough to feed 5 people when there were three of us and it was awesome. Granted, we had been drinking beer for about 3 hours before dinner but I do not think that made a difference when it came meal enjoyment.

Yunnan – Sweet, Sour & Spice

When I talk about kindness of the people in China, it all comes back to my time in Lijang’s Shuhue area.  I found a cute place to stay called the Maple Leaf Inn that baked fresh banana bread everyday and around the corner was a little local restaurant.  Kind of like where I work in Kansas City with my good friends.  Its a place the locals in town go to eat.  The chef comes out and tickles babies and laughs with people he knows and he will cook for you when he is ready.  It was really cute and the food was the perfect example of Chinese food. When I say that, think about what you may order from a local Chinese restaurant in the States and then make it the best you have ever had.  This was that kind of place.  I ate there every night for dinner and my last dinner, I was invited into the kitchen to learn how to make Sweet and Sour Pork.

I speak no Chinese and he spoke no English but we had a fun lesson.  We cooked, smiled, laughed and made some of the best sweet and sour I’ve ever tasted.  He even took me next door to show me extra projects he is working on – like an enclosed toilet – so people have a good place to use as he would like more business.  It was one of my best days in China and don’t worry, I’ll be sharing the recipe.

Xi’an

If you are in a city with a Muslim quarter, just plan on eating there for every meal.  This is what I did in Xi’an.  As an example, I wandered into a place that looked like they were serving dumplings in a spicy broth.  I asked for one and the woman behind the counter – in perfect English – asked if I would like a large or a small.  She said the large was 30 and the small was 25.  I’m starving and I’m thinking she is talking Yuan, the Chinese currency – so I think the large would be 30 yuan and a small is 25.  (Around 7 Yuan to a dollar.)  I say large please and ask for spicy.  The Large was 12 yuan total. Turns out large and small refer to dumpling count.  The large has 30 dumplings and small is 25 dumplings.  These were some serious dumplings too and I could not manage to eat all 30.

Spicy beef noodles are the real specialty in Xi’an and I can say with full confidence spicy beef noodles was the best meal I had in China.  They were so good I didn’t get a picture – I just ate.  Imainge homemade noodles cooked to a perfect al dente and topped with a beef stew that is slightly spicy, thick consistency and full of fresh vegetables.  Toss this with your noodles and slurp, scoop and shovel the heaven that is Spicy Beef noodles from bowl to mouth.  Amazing.

Beijing 

Second best meal – Peking Duck.  Beijing is a pretty cool city and there are a lot of great sights to see and many many wonderful restaurants that represent the whole of the country but the roasted Peking Duck stole the show. I saved this meal for my last lunch and I am happy I did because I would have eaten duck daily had I started with this as meal one in Beijing.

We had a whole duck for lunch and were presented with, the whole duck, deconstructed.  Breast meat under cripsy skin, neck meat set apart as this is considered the best part of the duck, duck skin with duck fat still attached which you drag through sugar and it simply melts in your mouth. A side of crepe thin pancakes, plum sauce, spring onion and melon – the combination was heavenly.  (Not pictured because I was just too excited to eat…again.)

And the not pictured due to excitement is a good way to think of a trip to China.  It is too good. The food is just too good. Too much of China is delicious.  I spent a year going to New Orleans and eating and I’m not finished in that city. I feel a person could spend a lifetime eating in China and leave this earth thinking, I’m just getting started…

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7 Responses to “EATS! China”

  1. Rob Swenson
    November 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Did you eat a scorpion or sea horse?

    • December 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      If I were in someones house and they handed me a skewer of grilled scorpions, I would give it a shot. Walking down the street looking for a snack, I’m not going to choose scorpion…so no, I didn’t try any. Just took pictures this time.

  2. Rob Swenson
    November 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    The chucken foot hot pot looks unsatisfying. :-(

  3. December 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I was thinking about dinner at Pandolfi’s so I thought I’d jump on your site and see what you’ve been up to. Glad I did. Awesome post, Grant. I spent 3 weeks in China during grad school in Beijing and Shanghai. I agree with your comments about the Muslim quarter — amazing food and more than friendly people happy to test out their English with you. I spent an evening in one place with the chef showing us how to pick up a stack of peanuts with our chop sticks. Harder than you think!

    Love what you’re doing and look forward to hearing more about it when you’re back in KC. Safe travels!

    • December 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Chris – yes, cannot say enough good things about dining in China’s Muslim quarters. Such a perfect travel, food and China experience. See you soon in KC –

  4. Rob Swenson
    December 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    Will you do another blog post on candies of the world? I really enjoyed the Tom-Tom video blog entry from New Zealand. I wonder what local unique candy they sell in China, Mongola, Siberia, etc.

    • December 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Thats a great idea Rob. I’ll see if I have enough content and notes to put something together as there are some nice and unique differences between the countries. Thanks!

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