10 Things You Need to Know About Eating In China
I made a quick trip to China recently, cruising through six cities in 10 days: Hong Kong, Kowloon, Wuxi, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. It sounds like a whirlwind tour, but one of my businesses takes me to China on a fairly regular basis and I’ve discovered that less is sometimes more.
If you’re planning a trip, here’s some stuff that will come in handy:
- I have many restaurateur friends in China, and the scene there amazes me every time I go. The food is fucking amazing! Stop thinking won ton soup and fried rice. The food is top notch. Sure, if you’re not careful you could wind up eating some fried intestine, fish stomach or possibly something that was killed on the street… but at least it’ll be fresh and chances are it’ll be really fucking good. Don’t be a baby. Whatever it is, eat it.
- Don’t be afraid to try the street food. See #1 above. I’ve been to China multiple times and never once been food sick. Realize there’s more than a billion people and the food turn over is good. If you see a pork loin sitting out in 90°F weather, chances are it’ll be OK. The smell is another thing, but that’s not what I am writing about.
- The chefs are just as passionate about food and quality in China as they are in North America. The difference is China likes big, extravagant, over the top food and service. If you want the best, they got it. Think of the oysters you like to eat in the U.S. and multiply the size by four. That’s what they like. It’ll take you about 10 chews to get that sucker down.
- If China could buy all the lobster in North America, it would. That’s how much the Chinese love it. I spent time with the top Canadian seafood buyer in China. His company wanted to buy every lobster produced by our country in one shot. Luckily, our people wanted to save some for us Canadians and told him to chill out. They still buy a lot of Lobster.
- Eat a duck shawarma if you can find it! I was walking down the street in Beijing past a little food stand and this thing was loaded with duck rotating on a spit, like donair or shawarma meat. If I ever saw that in North America I would shit myself. This thing was soooo good, but I don’t think I could ever find that stand again. If you do stumble across gems like this, even if you’re already stuffed, buy it and eat it.
- Chinese looooooooove their duck. So do I. If you don’t like duck and you are going to China, start a regimented program and learn to like it. Duck to the Chinese is like hamburger to Americans. I don’t even know how they keep up with duck production, because they eat a shit ton of it.
- Chinese like tall buildings with restaurants on, like, the 93rd floor. Do yourself a favour, find one of these restaurants and get a table. Buy a bottle of Champagne and enjoy it, because you’re not going to have an experience like this again. Enjoy the view and get drunk.
- You will have the chance to eat bugs. Really big ones. I may have said try everything, but I’m not sure with this one. Street vendors grill or fry up larva, spiders, centipedes and various weird things. I think it’s mostly to shock the tourists. I could be wrong, but I never saw any Chinese people chowing down on these things. I know I didn’t.
- Chinese people like their vegetables – vegetables you may never have seen before. And they’re OK with making fun of foreigners or “gweilo”. One day at a market I decided to taste some leafy greens that were new to me. There was this old lady and I could tell she was making fun of me. I asked my friend what she was saying, and he said she thought I looked like a cow; those greens were meant to be cooked!
- Each city has a specialty food item. Find that specialty. Whether it is a Shanghai dumpling, a hand stretched noodle in Canton, whatever. Make it your mission to find out what it is and try it, even if you have to skip a visit to that temple you wanted to see. Food this amazing shouldn’t be missed.