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Today’s article is about the different types of food available in a typical Chinese city. Obviously when traveling to China one of the questions in most people’s minds is what food can I eat there? Therefore I have tried to set out in this article some of the common food available.

Breakfast

you_tiaoThe Chinese have a wide variety of food even for a meal such as breakfast. One of the more common is “you tiao” (油条) which literally translated means ‘oil stick’. A long stick of flour is put in boiling oil and then sold on the street for about two yuan. Another option is “shou jian bing” which can also be bought on the street for about four yuan. This is a simple pancake or wrap with a filling of your choice that can be made in about three minutes. Fillings typically include bacon, eggs, salad items and a variety of sauces. To drink it is very simple to buy a bean curd based drink called “dou jiang” or soymilk which can be bought on the street or in small convenience stores for about two yuan. A typical Chinese street will have a variety of street vendors each selling these items and others that can be picked up both easily and cheaply.

Main meals

baozi - 400There is a wide variety of food available in China, so much so that it is impossible to do it all justice. Instead, I shall just highlight a few here. Often people will eat dumplings, “jiaozi” 饺子 or steamed buns called “baozi” (包子). For Chinese New Year, whole families will get together and collectively roll and knead flour into little balls ready for them to be stuffed with meat or a variety of vegetables. “Zongzi” 粽子 are made during the Dragon Boat Festival which is usually celebrated in April. You have dates placed into a triangle of sticky rice which is held together in a leaf of a special type of bamboo.

Meat

Meat also features heavily in a lot of dishes. Being a Brit in China I get asked a lot why we like ‘bland’ food as a lot of Chinese food will have lots of flavours, spices and sauces to complement the taste. Of course there are lots of Sichuan style places with spicy food for those who love spicy food but there are also dishes that aren’t at all spicy. A popular dish that can be both spicy or not is called “hui guo rou”. This is bacon that has been cooked more than once and is usually served with green peppers. It can usually be bought for about fifteen yuan.

Additionally, you can also find a dish called “tang cu li ji” (糖醋里脊) otherwise known as sweet and sour pork in the West. In a couple of places your author has been in, he has found it sold with green beans called “gan bian dou jiao” (干煸豆角) but the beans are cooked with nutmeg or other flavourings that give them a very distinct taste. Together, these last two dishes sell for about forty yuan although you can buy them separately with the sweet and sour pork being the more expensive of the two.

Below, I have put a few common phrases that will come in handy for anyone wanting to order some food in China.
Chinese-Menu-Booklet-e1392623751218
Wo e 我饿。 I am hungry.
Wo ke 我渴. I am thirsty.
Wo yao yi ge … 我要一个…. I want/need a ….

Mi fan 米饭 rice
Mian tiao 面条 noodles
Jiao zi 饺子 dumplings

Ji rou 肌肉 chicken
Niu rou 牛肉 beef
Yang rou 羊肉 lamb

One of the amazing things about living in China is to be able to try loads of local dishes that are delicious and affordable. However, most small restaurant owners don’t speak English at all so their menus are only available in Chinese. Some restaurants have pictures on their menu but how can you distinguish pork from intestines? Here is a Chinese food menu which includes English, pinyin and the Chinese characters to help you order all that yummy food. You can also download a pocket food menu that you can print out, fold up and carry in your pocket. – Free download here. 

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English First – Shijiazhuang China

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About the Author:

Iain Foreman
Iain Foreman is the Director of Studies at English First in Shijiazhuang.
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