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Chinese food

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Wangfujing Snack Street

It’s been about a month since I’ve been in China and I can confidently say that China has one of the most diverse food landscapes in the world.

From spicy Sichuan street food to extravagant Beijing duck, the phrase “Chinese food’ doesn’t even begin to cover the vastness of what you can find here. 

Backtrack to three weeks ago, when my roommates and I decided to embrace our inner tourists and go to Wangfujing. I remember once watching Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods on the Travel Chanel and watching him eat Thousand Year Old Eggs, stinky tofu, and scorpions on a stick. “What an incredibly brave man. I’ll probably never do that in my life!” Little did I know that I would one day find myself in Beijing doing just that. 

Of course, the first thing we see when we enter the incredibly narrow and aromatic snack street was squirming scorpions on a stick, right next to the starfish, silk worms, and deep fried lizards. The scorpions were literally squirming to show how fresh they were. “NO WAY. I’M NOT ANDREW ZIMMERN.” I thought. However, one stick had three scorpions and my two roommates had already taken a scorpion for themselves, leaving the last one for me. After seeing their somehow complacent faces upon finishing their grub, I gave in. “What the heck.” I thought. “I’m in Beijing and it’s now or never.” To my relief, the scorpion tasted like very salty potato chips. I had to close my eyes, though. Would I eat it again?  Probably. Would I willingly order it? Probably not. But at least I have a cool story to tell. 

Although I forgot to take a picture that monumental moment of culinary exploration, I did manage to take a picture of myself happily scarfing down some stinky tofu. Stinky tofu was another must-try food Andrew Zimmern had the pleasure of tasting. Like durian fruit (which is one of very few foods I detest), it smelled of death and old feet but instead tasted quite savory and enjoyable. Topped with cilantro, peppers, and peanuts, the tofu was rather tasty. Immediately afterwards I downed two water bottles and five breath mints. The “stinky” part of stinky tofu is no joke. 

It seems that you can never go hungry here. There is food EVERYWHERE. If you’re hungry, the nearest restaurant is probably less than half a block away.

If you’re not in the mood for a sit-down meal, there are always smaller restaurants peddling their snack-sized wraps and kabobs. And for the truly adventurous you can try out the street food.

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Chinese food: the real style

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Chinese food: the real style

There are many different expectations people have when arriving to China, especially when considering traditional food. Common dishes are far from the myths that are commonly heard about eating insects and other small uncommon reptiles. These can be mostly offered for tourists at night markets, such as the busy “Wangfujing Night Market”.

Chinese cuisine mainly relies on rice, noodles, or in the case of Beijing, rounded white bread buns or savoury pancakes to act as side dishes for what is mostly eaten. Meat is cut in small pieces so that it’s easily eaten using chop sticks, it is well-known that cutting is left as a task for the cooks, making the whole process much easier and faster.

 A traditional Chinese lunch or supper at a restaurant will have cold dishes as starters based on raw vegetables all chopped up, followed by cooked vegetables, with meat in some cases, and bowls of plain rice as side dishes.

China is such a big country, that one of the main differences is the way people cook, having different styles among traditional Chinese dishes. Food in Shanghai is lighter than in Beijing, being much more spicy and oily in the capital, while

Sichuan and Yunnan are commonly known for having very spicy food. All very different from each other, some being sour-spices, numb-spices or hot-spices.
One of the tasks of living here is getting used to different flavours, how to eat and usual eating times, however cities such as Beijing or Shanghai still offer a variety of different foreign-style food restaurants.

Cold dish, Lobster with dragonfruit

Cold dish, Lobster with dragonfruit

Wood and porcelain, fine cutlery dinner

Wood and porcelain, fine cutlery dinner

Hunnan style bun, with rose petals filling

Hunnan style bun, with rose petals filling

Tea, the all-day drink, drunk at the beginning of Chinese meals

Tea, the all-day drink, drunk at the beginning of Chinese meals

Stir-fried dish: Bamboo shoots, pork and peppers

Stir-fried dish: Bamboo shoots, pork and peppers

Chinese inspired cake at Spoonful of Sugar: Purple Potato & Pear Cake

Chinese inspired cake at Spoonful of Sugar: Purple Potato & Pear Cake

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