What Chinese Food is Really Like!

chinese foodAs an American, I am accustomed to lots of delicious fake Chinese food. Always fried to perfection, somehow made shinier than a new car, and finally packaged in iconic Chinese takeaway boxes. American Chinese cuisine is very satisfying. It is often even prepared by Chinese-Americans, who were born in China, which leaves us thinking that it must be authentic...sort of.

For my first dinner in Beijing, my homestay grandmother gave me an egg on top of some sort of bread, and something else too. Armed with nihao 你好 and xiexie 谢谢 (hello and thank you), I was in no position to ask what any of it was, or understand when it was explained to me. I just sort of had to accept that some things would remain a mystery until I had built up more Chinese to ask more questions! When I was finally in the company of some people who spoke both English and Chinese, I was rather disappointed to find out that a lot of what I was eating did not even have a name in English. Which made me wonder what food I had been eating all of these years in America. As I ate more and more, I tastes began to change and I found I liked certain things I did not eat previously, and still disliked others!

Homestay FamilyDavid from CSA introduced me to a few new types of food and brought me to a place where I could sample what are by far the best dumplings I have ever eaten. I even went back to the same place 5 different times within two weeks! It was located close to my school, Beijing Mandarin Academy, and was referred to as a "hole in the wall restaurant", basically a local place and a bit rough around the edges. Close by was another "hole in the wall" which served Xi'an food. I do not like regular Hamburgers, but so called “Chinese Hamburgers” 肉夹馍 served here (which are completely different) are delicious. A bun filled with stewed pork, spicy sauce and lots of extras, what's not to love! Chinese delivery is a staple for many Americans, so I always wondered if it was possible to get Chinese delivery in China? Yes it is! There are delivery bikes everywhere and they seem to delivery every hour of the day and night. Although I didn't think that it would be too easy to order with such limited Mandarin but I gave it shot anyway! I experienced a whole new kind of Chinese delivery though on CSA's Great Wall Camping trip, we had Chinese takeaway delivered to your campsite on the Great Wall. That's pretty impressive, after hiking for several hours to reach the stunningly beautiful campsite, it seemed even more amazing and something that you won't get in America.

Austin on Great Wall

There is no General Tsao's Chicken, fortune cookies or iconic Chinese takeaway boxes that you know and love from back home, but actual Chinese food has so much more to offer. It is a diverse cuisine that you can't get bored of. I certainly ate western food in China, but when I did have Pizza, Pasta, or chocolate, it was really because I missed the comfort of home and not because I was sick of Chinese food. And I can assure you, after you eat a western meal made by the Chinese, you will be ready to stick to the more local cuisine for your next meal.

Written by Austin Bliss, CSA Summer Student 2014


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