Food is an integral part of a country’s cultural baggage and therefore of the journey itself. Discovering new flavours, spices, colours is for us a pleasure equivalent to enjoying a beautiful landscape or making a beautiful encounter. So when the country in question (China) is so vast and has such a rich history, the discovery is all the more interesting ;). After two months in China, we obviously didn’t have time to discover all the facets of this thousand-year-old chinese cuisine, but we still enjoyed it.
Here, then, summarized in 10 small commandments, is what we remember from Chinese cuisine.
the 10 commandments of Chinese cuisine
Your food you will share:
If there is one thing we should remember about Chinese cuisine, it is its social aspect. Here, each dish is served in the middle of the table (often round) and is intended to be shared by all guests. This way of eating has totally convinced us! Much more than our European habits where everyone chooses their own dish and eats what they have ordered. It’s still nicer to share in order to taste everything….) It is certainly something that we weill bring back to Switzerland after this trip.
The chopsticks you will tame:
So I might as well tell you that when we arrived in China, we ate much more slowly than in Europe. I hear it’s healthier, so that’s good! But this was not made on purpose… The fault goes to the famous chopsticks 😉 which are not necessarily easy to handle at first. Especially with the noodle soups! But well, we got used to it quickly and now we practically put our heads in our bowl of Chinese noodles and we swallow it in no time at all. Like real chinese people we tell you!)
A lot of noise you will make:
If people who make noise when eating bother you, you better get used to it in China. The first time a Chinese man ate his noodle soup next to us, it still made us smile (with a few small throat scrapings and a small final spit). But you get used to everything as they say and after two months in this country, we couldn’t even hear our Chinese friends even if they were a little noisy. Instead, take the opportunity to make as much noise as possible while eating, in China it is allowed ;-).
You’ll never leave your plate empty:
If you are invited to Chinese homes, avoid finishing your plate if you want to stop eating one day. An empty bowl simply means that you haven’t had enough to eat. It is the height of dishonour for a host not to have satisfied his guests (so you will have a double ration as a result. It should be noted that food in China is in a way the first sign of social belonging. A host will usually cook the best for you and will constantly worry about your plate;). Similar phenomenon to the Chinese restaurant……
People usually order mountains of food to show that they can afford the best and eventually leave half the food. What is for us the ultimate waste is completely banal in China.
A very varied chinese cuisine you will enjoy:
Chinese cuisine is incredibly varied. At the same time it is normal for such a large country with such a history. In the north, around Beijing, you will eat noodles, ravioli, Peking duck with a wide variety of vegetables always cooked in oil and garlic.
The further you go towards the centre and then west, the spicier your food will be. Or should I say spicy… with the famous Sichuan pepper which has the effect of putting your tongue to sleep!
I swear, it’s like being at the dentist after ;-).
You will also gradually eat more rice as it is mainly grown in the southwest of the country. Even if we eat it all over China. We really liked all these vegetables that we don’t find too much at home like bamboo shoots, soya, lotus root; all cooked with a lot of ginger. In the south, in the Canton region, you will see that it is possible to eat anything and everything…
In our region, we say that “in the pig, everything is good”. Here, the adage applies to all animals and in general, everything that is edible is eaten. In fact, our coucheurfing host in Canton has concocted chicken kidneys, duck blood, chicken feet, grilled silkworms… and that’s just a glimpse of what’s being eaten in this region. Fortunately, there are dim-sum (a kind of sweet or salty steamed pastry) which are more digestible for us poor Europeans.
The cheese you’ll forget, the tofu you’ll adopt:
To our great misfortune, most Chinese people can’t stand cheese. Often they don’t even know it…. In fact, they are lactose-intolerant and therefore prefer Tofu, a kind of fermented soybean-based pâté. Well, let’s face it, tofu is totally bland and it will never replace cheese. That is not the purpose….
But it has the advantage of being very cheap, healthy, full of protein and can be cooked in 10,000 different ways. When properly prepared, a Tofu dish can turn into an incredible taste experience. I hope to be able to take advantage of this trip to learn how to cook tofu properly for our return 😉
Of tea you will drink :
In China, forget about coffee (which is often overpriced) and get used to hot tea. It took us a little time because, frankly, when it’s already 35 degrees at 7am, we didn’t really want a good cup of boiling tea. But since it is clearly the most popular drink in China, we have to get used to it. Usually, the Chinese consume a large quantity of green tea.
They always have their own little bottle to make infusions on he way and drink all day long. But even if green tea is by far the most widely consumed, there is an incredible diversity of teas in China, some of which are very expensive. The best way to try many is to relax in one of the many tea houses you will find all over the country. We spent several afternoons in these houses and it was always very nice.
We had already told you about it when we told you about our first impressions in China, this country is not really English-speaking and even less French-speaking. And since there are not always images of dishes on the restaurant menu, it is sometimes necessary to manage with the means on board to order.
We’ve already mimicked chicken, used our “point it” picture book a lot, chosen randomly from the menu or by pointing to other tables, drawn vegetables… and it’s always been a lot of fun.
For example, the famous “Hot-pot” whas alwys been a crazy experience.
It is a Chinese fondue where a multitude of ingredients are cooked in more or less spicy broths. Each time it’s the same problem… we find ourselves in front of a gigantic Chinese menu where we have to tick the ingredients we want for the “hot pot”. So we always find ourselves walking around the restaurant tables to find inspiration and ask Chinese customers to help us out. A laugh is guaranteed!
In the alleys you will go:
It’s no secret, in Asia it’s in the streets that you have to eat! And China is no exception. Street food is delicious, varied and extremely cheap. Count between 1€ and 3€ per person for a meal. So don’t be afraid (we’ve never gotten sick because of the food in China) and just enjoy it!)
These few Chinese specialities you will taste :
So that’s it for the Chinese food, which delighted us for two months. We really loved its richness, its diversity, the vegetables that were brand new to us, the spices, the Chinese noodles…
On the other hand, we didn’t appreciate the fact that everything was cooked with a lot of oil. But it was still necessary to find a small negative point that did not tarnish the magnificent picture of Chinese cuisine. And despite all this oil, we haven’t gained a gram… Even if they lost a few kilos…. But this is probably more due to the many hours of trekking than to the local gastronomy… 😉
And you, already tested Chinese cuisine, do you have a favourite dish?