Today, I bring you a post from the lovely Agness of eTramping, who will be giving you (and me!) a crash course in the awesome world of Chinese food.
Have you ever wondered what authentic Chinese food tastes and smells like, and if it would tickle your taste buds or not? Well, the best way to find out is to visit the Land of Dragon and indulge in some local specialties, such as baozi, jiaozi or you tiao. Are you not familiar with these names? Well, you will be after reading this yummy post! However, if you can’t make it to China right now, you can still use your imagination and picture yourself having some local noodles or Beijing duck.
If you ask me to describe Chinese food in 3 words, they would be “unique”, “oriental” and “aromatic”. Chinese local dishes are so unique and full of flavours that you can’t find them anywhere else in the world. They are based on fresh vegetables, meat (mainly fried or grilled beef and pork), noodles or rice depending on your personal preferences.
How many times have you heard that Chinese food is one of the healthiest on this planet? Well, I would not agree with this statement (most of ingredients are deep fried and made with flour which makes the food very stodgy and hard to digest), but if you consume more fruits and veggies and less meat and rice, you will be much healthier and happier.
Herbs and spices – it’s about them. Over the centuries, Chinese have been experimenting with different flavours creating amazing combinations of spices to make the food taste delicious. They mixed spiciness with bitterness, saltiness with sweetness and sourness with mildness, maintaining a balance which you can taste in every single meal.
What I love the most about Chinese cuisine is its diversity. Every single province offers different food which you cannot find anywhere else in China. For example, Chongqing province is famous for its spicy hot pot, Beijing is well known for its Beijing duck and Sichuan province will welcome you with steamed momos.
When in China, there are certain dishes you simply can’t miss. They can be found at local food vendors and restaurants at every corner. The good news is that most of the dishes are very affordable so you can eat as much as you want without worrying about your wallet.
Going to China and not indulging in a few baozi is like going to Paris and not having a croissant for your breakfast. Don’t commit this crime and as soon as you come here, order a basket of steam dumplings with the filling of your choice- mince, fried veggies or seasonal fruits.
Chinese heart their meat. Whether it’s pork, beef or chicken, it’s always on the plate when you order some food. Therefore, most of baozi are stuffed with fried pork and beef, so make sure you pick up the veggie ones if you are a vegetarian, for example.
Baozi, as I mentioned before, are traditional Chinese dumplings, mostly served for breakfast. They have very thick texture and smell amazingly good. They are usually steamed and served in a wooden basket. They taste the best with some soy or chilli sauce. You can get one for RMB0,5 – RMB1 ($0.8 – $0.16).
If you try some baozi and you fall in love them, there are other types of Chinese dumplings to try so don’t stick to them only and be more adventurous with the food. Jiaozi are also Chinese dumplings, but they are firstly steamed and then sometimes fried and they are much smaller (crescent-shaped). Their feeling is the same though– veggies with pork or beef.
Jiaozi are made for special occasions, such as Chinese New Year or National Holiday. At this time, mothers, daughters and grandmothers gather together in the kitchen and spend all night just making as many of them as possible. Jiaozi can be found at food vendors every morning so you don’t need to wait for long to grab a few. They are crunchy and filling and cost less than $1 per a set of 6.
Peking Duck (北京烤鸭)
Rumour has it Beijing duck can be found only in Beijing. That’s not true, but it does taste much better in the capital city than in any other province. The preparation of Beijing duck is time-consuming and a bit more expensive in comparison to other Chinese meals, but once you have a small bite you will not regret spending your money. The duck is so crispy and delicious, always served with Mandarin pancakes, green onions and creamy sauce!
Beijing noodles (北京杂酱面)
Everyone loves noodles in China. Every single Chinese breakfast is based on noodles, but if you think you will quickly get bored with them, I can prove you wrong. China offers a great variety of noodles, from thin and long ones to short and slim ones. They come not only with different shapes and length, but also with different colours, such as yellow, green or even red. Noodles go well with any kind of fried meat and veggies, but noodle soups are the most delicious and nutritious. It takes a few seconds to make it and it has a very aromatic taste of salty nuts and parsley. Have you ever had some aromatic and spicy chicken broth? If so, you can imagine how it tastes. A decent bowl of noodles costs RMB 5- RMB 8 ($ 1 – 1.25) so money shouldn’t be your excuse not to try them!
Although youtiao is one of Chinese breakfast options, you can find them in every local bakery at any time throughout the day. Are you a big fan of donuts? If so, youtiao will be your favourite China treat. They are simply deep fried Chinese bread stick made with yeast (super oily, salty, soft inside and crispy outside). There are only pain youtiao available, but you can dip them in peanut or chocolate butter. So yummy! By the way, can you guess how much it costs? Less than $0.16 per one, so imagine paying $0.36 for your breakfast. Insanely cheap, huh?
Of course, China has much more food to offer than these yummy Chinese meals mentioned above, so try to be adventurous and don’t be afraid of having some:
- grilled chicks (vacuum-packed and ready to eat so everyone can find them in a local shop or supermarket),
- spicy chicken/duck feet (mainly served as a beer snack),
- a couple of snails,
- or delicious and chewy snake meat.
I strongly believe Chinese food will meet up to your expectations and surprise your taste buds nicely.
What was your first experience with Chinese food?
If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her new ebook Add the Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats which sums up two-years of experience in the Land of Dragons, and serves as a guide for anyone interested in working, teaching, living and / or travelling in China.
Agness is a Polish travel blogger who has been travelling and living in different Asian countries since 2011. She is well known for travelling the world for less than $25 per day and she shares her tricks and tips with the readers of her blog called eTramping.com. Moreover, she is a food lover obsessed with Chinese cuisine, yoga passionate, life enthusiast and photography freak.