By now we all know the mantra that, when you’re travelling, you should do all you can to eat “local”. It’s not only cheaper and easier to source (after all Thai food in Thailand is just…food), it’s almost always of a far superior quality that knock-offs of already substandard fast food chains.
But while this may be easy in some countries (basically the whole of South East Asia is a foodie’s dream), China and its multitude of cuisines is a challenging prospect. We asked some long-term china residents to give us the low-down on dishes they will miss when they head back to the UK. Hold on to your chopsticks…
Image courtesy of Thomas sauzedde on Flickr
9 foods to try in China that you (probably) won’t find at your local takeaway
We’ll start with a simple one – street BBQ. Meat is skewered, covered in spices and then flame grilled and sold to busy commuters and hungry beer drinkers. We’re definitely OK with this one.
Biang Biang Mian
Noodle dish described by our source as “like a really wet lasagne”. But don’t let that put you off (what do you mean it already has), these hand pulled noodles are often served in a hot and sour sauce with veg, tofu and topped with lamb, pork and any number of delicious meats.
This dish is starting to pop up all over the UK, but it’s still obscure (and delicious) enough to earn a place on this list. A pot is brought to the table, often with two or more types of broth, and heated from underneath so hungry diners can cook their meat and veg in the delicious stock. Essentially it’s a hot pot that’s great for parties. Which is a sentence that may never have been written before.
Image courtesy of Alpha on flickr
Ji Dan Bing
An eggy pancake, popular as a breakfast or snack food. It’s made with eggs, flour, oil and salt and often filled with a chilli sauce, spring onions and lettuce, wrapped and eaten like a burrito. Mmmm eggy salty breakfast burrito. Sorry where were we?
This translates as “fish-flavoured shredded pork”. Yeah. The fish flavour is actually a combination of spices which are often found in Sìchuān food including garlic, onions ginger, sugar, salt, bean paste and soy sauce – no actual fish present!
Also known as “stinky tofu” the name of this dish simply means “fermented tofu”. OK we’re starting to think we shouldn’t translate the names. According to our source “it smells disgusting but is actually really good”. Ringing endorsement there.
Image courtesy of Gary Stevens on flickr
Re Gan Mian
A dry noodle dish and the speciality of the central city of Wuhan. Noodles are cooked, dried and then cooked again for a distinctive chewy texture which is not at all unpleasant. The dish is often eaten for breakfast, but beware, the topping of soy, sesame and garlic will make you a rather pungent offering for the rest of the day.
This one is a bit of a cheat as there are many different varieties of this tasty dish which is popular at New Year. Always worth a try wherever you are as the flavour changes from place to place – from sweet in Guangdong, spicy in Hubei to more “European” style smoked varieties in the North East.
Image courtesy of David Boté Estrada on flickr
When our source described this as “like a slightly alcoholic rice pudding” we just had to find out more. The rice itself is fermented and is served in a sweet syrup which was originally made popular as a by-product of the rice wine making process. It’s like if French vineyard owners dipped into the grape vats, scooped out the slightly alcoholic contents, put it in a bowl and ate it for breakfast. Why has this never been done?
Hungry? Even after the fermented Tofu? Good on you. Check out cheap flights to China with China Southern and getting writing your own list. Please send it to us though – we get hungry too.