Everything about China and it's culture

Everything about China and it's culture

  • Category Archives Chinese Food
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    食功夫 Chinese Food from sun haipeng on Vimeo.

  • 8 local Chinese food recommendations for newcomers

    I have a lot of friends back in New York who’ve never been to China, but if they were coming here and I gave them any one of the food recommendations Global Times has so (un)helpfully listed for "foreign visitors," they’d cock an eyebrow, mutter something impolite and go ask someone else. Honestly, kung pao chicken? Wontons? DUMPLINGS?! The whole point of recommending something is to give someone the chance to try something they haven’t before. Rather than just rip to shreds this laughable article, however, I’ve had a quick brainstorming session with other China hands and come up with eight better recommendations.

    This list assumes that your friend just came to China from foreign lands, where there are Chinese restaurants (I mean, where aren’t there nowadays?), but they don’t normally come in contact with communities as huge as the one in Flushings, Queens or San Francisco CT. They’ve tried fried rice, they get egg drop soup with every delivery and – since it was the craze for quite a while – they at least know what a xiaolongbao (or soup dumpling, as they’ll call them) is.



    1. Jian Bing (煎饼)

    Ah, the delicious Chinese breakfast crepe, hot and crispy and fresh off the grill. Take your friend to your local jian bing purveyor and – if they’re a heartier lad (or laddess) – ask for two eggs, yes spice, yes to the sauce, crispy dough or fried dough and watch your friend gasp in awe when the total comes out to 2.50RMB (or cheaper if you’re not in Shanghai city center).


    From Flickr user benchilada


    2. Duck Egg and Pork Porridge (pi dan shou rou zhou 皮蛋瘦肉粥)

    While we’re on the subject of breakfast foods – this is always a crowd pleaser. While you can get this in Chinatowns all over the world, it’s surprising how few non-Chinese people have tried it. We bet it has something to do with the color of the duck eggs. Don’t let them get away with it here. If they really need convincing, wait until the morning after you guys have had a rough night out – it’s a surprisingly great hangover food.

    Photo by Gary Soup


    3. Lan Zhou La Mian (兰州拉面)

    The praises we could sing of Lan Zhou La Mian, the pulled noodles in a clear beef broth that no one who visits any Eastern port in China should go without trying. Just remember to remind your friend that, while there’s beef in the noodles, there won’t be a lot and you’re mainly eating the dish for the noodles – supple, chewy and fresh – themselves. Also have them try the dao xiao mian (knife cut noodles) at some point in time; they’re my personal favorite. Expect to pay only 4 to 6RMB for a bowl.


    Photo by liquoredonlife


    4. Panfried pork dumplings (sheng jian bao 生煎包)

    Going back to breakfast foods, while xiaolongbao has made in roads into other parts of the world, the shengjianbao has yet to find a foothold in any but the most Chinese of Chinatowns. Maybe the apparatuses for cooking them are just harder to set up or something. I don’t know about that. What I do know is: when I introduced a new-to-China friend to his first Styrofoam container of shengjianbao, he throatily declared that this was all he would eat the rest of the time here. Luckily, that lasted til dinner, when I presented him with a plate of…


  • Beijing Duck

    The Quanjude Restaurant, the largest roast duck restaurant in Beijing if not in the world, opened for business in 1979. Located near Hepingmen Gate (Peace Gate), it has a floor space of 15,000 square meters divided into 41 dining halls, including one, which can serve 600 customers simultaneously. The dining halls reserved for overseas guests can accommodate a total of 2,000 diners, and include a hall where all-duck banquets in which all the dishes are made from parts of the duck can be served to 600 people. Filled to capacity, Quanjude Restaurant can serve as many as 5,000 meals a day.

    The art of roasting ducks evolved from techniques used to prepare sucking pigs. For more than a century, specialized chefs have developed the idea that the skin of the duck should be so soft and crisp that it melts in the mouth. In applying the traditional method of preparation, the chefs at Quanjude pay particular attention to the quality of the duck, the auxiliary ingredients and the type of wood burned in the oven. Special farms supply plump Beijing ducks weighing an average of 2.5 kilograms each. The two famous Beijing condiment shops, Liubiju and Tianyuan, supply the dark tangy bean sauce spread on the pancakes. The fragrant sesame oil and refined sugar are also specially selected. Finally, only the wood of fruit trees such as date, peach and pear are used in the roasting process to give the meat its unique fragrance.


  • Peking duck a favorite amongst athletes

    Both Xinhua and Channel News Asia have run stories about the Beijing delicacy Peking duck as a favorite amongst athletes staying in the Olympic Village. A spokeswoman for the Olympic Village reported at a press conference that the supply of the duck dish was doubled from 300 birds per day to 600 to satisfy the demand of the 10,000 or so athletes living the village.

    Husband of Australian gold medalist for the 100m individual butterfly, Libby Trickett even says that his wife attributes her swimming success to consuming Peking duck for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This would make sense to those who have had Peking duck in Beijing as scientifically oil floats.

  • 10″ Love Pizza for Your Valentines Day

    The Italians are famous for their invention of romance and pizza. The Chinese are famous for expertly copying the Italians. And now along with Dolce and Prada, romance and pizza have been copied in time for Valentine’s Day. Perusing the delivery menu of Deli Roma Pizza, you will be delighted to discover the 10" Love Pizza–heart-shaped and extra cheesy for 98 RMB (buy-one-get-one-free, in case you don’t like sharing, also comes with chicken wings and 1.25 L of Pepsi or 7up).

    So if you can’t get a dinner reservation at Jean George, Sense or M, give Deli Roma a call. Grab a bottle of the best 1998 Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon, a pirated DVD (Shanghaiist recommends "The Painted Veil") and enjoy a memorable evening with that special someone… even if that special someone is you. Alone. (By the way, in above said movie, he dies of cholera and she is left all alone at the end, single mother to bastard brat.)

  • Produce on Wheels

    Expensive city guides for Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing mention some of the most famous big open air produce markets, and to be sure you should go to these places if you’ve the time and inclination. They’re fun to see and make for an interesting experience for tourists and the curious alike. But if you really want to buy fresh vegetables in China’s cities, you needn’t go to any of these places or any great distance. You do need to get up early though.

    Every day farmers and migrant workers come in to China’s cities from the countryside. Some of them have big motorized bicycle carts, some of them use horses, mules or even the occasional donkey, and some of them even have rickety old trucks or vans. What they all have is piles and piles of produce.  They come with the dawn, and they usually have a particular bit of street they go to every day to set up their scales and do business.

    Every morning the urban Chinese head out early to meet them and buy their vegetables for the day. Unlike Americans, who love our refrigerators and prefer to go to the grocery store to buy vegetables naught but once a week, the Chinese like their vegetables fresh fresh fresh, and prefer to buy them a day at a time. Besides which, energy sucking refrigerators are something of a luxury item in China. So you’ll see Chinese urbanites laden with grocery sacks full of cabbage, peppers, onions etc, heading back home from the vegetable cart at 8:00 every morning.


  • 100 Year-old Eggs

    Most westerners expect to find sweet and sour pork, green tea and sesame chicken on the standard Chinese menu, but what they might be surprised to see are the “100 year-old eggs.”  Also referred to as the 1000-year-old egg or a preserved egg, the typical century old egg is usually no more than three or four months old and can be found at almost any restaurant or grocery store in most Chinese cities. 

    A century egg may look like a normal egg at first glance, but it is actually quite different.  When the shell of a preserved egg is removed, the “white” of the egg is dark brown in color and has a similar texture to a boiled egg; the yoke is no longer yellow, but an array of green, blue and black.  The egg can be eaten as a quick snack, or it can be cut into slices and served along side other dishes as part of the entire meal.  The “white” of the egg has very little taste, but the yoke has a "rich, pungent and almost cheese-like" flavor.  The egg can also be cut into cubes and cooked to make a type of rice porridge; this dish is so popular in parts of China that even McDonalds has started to carry their own variation of it. 


  • The Flavor Spirit

    In many places in the West, Chinese food has earned a bad rap as an unhealthy, low quality cuisine- largely owing to wei jing- which could be translated as The Flavor Spirit: MSG.

    MSG has a very different reputation in China, and throughout much of Asia, than it does in the West.  Although a third of Americans claim MSG makes them ill, medical studies show that only a very small proportion of humans actually have any reaction to it, and these reactions only occur when it is administered in large doses on an empty stomach. In China, MSG is a ubiquitous seasoning without any stigma attached, and it has earned a place in the kitchen of most homes and restaurants right next to the salt and the chili.

    Although MSG was only created in 1908, the bond between Chinese cuisine and MSG goes back farther than that. What is sometimes called “the fifth taste,” (clearly named such by a Western palate unfamiliar with chili)  is actually a group of compounds which include glutamates, like MSG, but also inosinates and guanylates. These “fifth taste” molecules occur during the breakdown of proteins in foods, such as the aging of a rich cheese, and also occur naturally in many ingredients long used in Chinese cuisine; like Yunnan ham, dried scallops, and shiitake mushrooms. For a talented chef, using these ingredients correctly could create the same mysterious fabulous flavor given off by MSG.


  • Eating in Chinese way

    Chinese food has a real international presence. Not many other countries boast restaurants with their national food across every continent, from Aberdeen to Ulan Bator. All the same, a trip to a Chinese restaurant that is actually in China has quite a unique etiquette, which even those who have been to several Chinese restaurants in their home country might not be familiar with.

    Of course, some differences are well known. The custom of ordering lots of dishes to place in the middle of the table and share between the whole group seems to have spread across the globe in Chinese restaurants. Besides, the Chinese are world famous for their use of chopsticks.

    When a Westerner comes to China and uses chopsticks, they might inadvertently be displaying table manners of which their Chinese friends would not approve. For example, it is seen as rude to stick chopsticks upright into a rice bowl. It is too reminiscent of an offering of incense sticks to the dead and thus could cause offence, due to the suggestion that those around the table are also approaching death. Likewise, tapping the bowl with one’s chopsticks is also frowned upon, because this is said to be how beggars behave. It is also a way of protesting at how long the food is taking to arrive in a restaurant, therefore if you do this in somebody’s home, your host might interpret this to mean that you are fed up with waiting.


  • Egg Rolls

    The egg roll is ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants in the West. It also shows up in collections of Chinese recipes.  This delicious food, made by rolling vegetables, meat and noodles in a thin dough shell, dipping it in egg and deep frying it, is one of the most essential parts of Chinese cuisine!

    Or is it? In fact, there’s some debate about where egg rolls actually came from. Some claim that they’re not Chinese at all, but actually Malaysian, Phillipino, or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. One website even claims they have their origins in Calcutta, India.

    Who exactly invented the egg roll may be in some ways an unanswerable question. The point, however, is that while egg roll like foods have been their predecessors are an essential part of South Chinese food – as distinct from North Chinese food – these are not necessarily the egg rolls known in the West. Egg rolls are very different in different parts of South China and Southeast Asia, and the ones served in “Chinese” restaurants in the West may not be Chinese at all. Chinese egg rolls are usually made with a wheat-flour shell. Vietnamese “egg rolls” are better known as spring rolls. These are made with a rice-flour shell and don’t include any egg at all.

    The idea that egg rolls are essentially Chinese is so deeply entrenched in the West that all of these different types of egg rolls appear in Chinese restaurants of every flavor. Hunan restaurants have them; Peking duck restaurants have them; and Sichuan restaurants have them – even though egg rolls are distinctly not a part of any of these types of cuisine. In the end, one is tempted to conclude that egg rolls aren’t Chinese at all, but Western.

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