This post is devoted entirely to the eating experience here in China. It is a constant
challenge and full of surprises (mostly good ones, thankfully).
The first time I stopped for lunch outside of Qingdao was a small hole in the wall mom and pop eatery. Dirty, flies buzzing around, and bits of food on the table and floor. A little apprehensive, I sat down and immediately 10 people came in to stare at me. The owner shooed them away and asked what I wanted. Well my Chinese is so basic it is meaningless. I can say rice, noodles and meat, that’s about it. A menu does no good, as it is entirely in Chinese. I finally told him, ‘whatever you recommend.’ Of course he had no idea what I said either. But he came back with a delicious bowl of noodles, spices and vegetables.
That scenario was to be played out dozens of times on the road to Xi’an. After awhile I began photographing the dishes.
This guy cooked lunch for me one day. I normally avoid roadside food but it looked like this guy just threw stuff together in a wok and cooked it with oil. I figured boiling oil ought to kill any bacteria and parasites so I stopped and out back there were bowls of different types of beans, veggies and meat. I selected a few and he cooked them up with some spices in a few minutes. Accompanied by a cold beer, it was delicious.
This guy had skewers of spiced meat grilling on some coals. Again, I figured if it was freshly cooked it should be OK. He also brought over a bowl of steaming hot noodles. I never could figure out what type of meat it was, though, the word was ‘yourou‘, or something. I translated the word for goat and they seemed to say it was something like that.
Here I am enjoying my grilled whatever it was.
Here is another plate of stuff that was cooked to order in a wok. Just simple ingredients that I picked out and some spices added. Very tasty.
In restaurants at first I really struggled. Can’t read the menu of course, so I had to resort to wandering around and seeing what other people were eating. If I saw something good, I would just point to it and say ‘wo yao’, I want. Sometimes they took me back to the kitchen to see what was there. Then I could point to what I wanted. The chefs and kitchen staff found this very amusing.
Here is a bowl of noodles and veggies I got as well as some slices of meat. The meat was not freshly cooked, though, and I think it got me sick the next day.
This was an interesting one. Inside, they had bins full of veggies and meat on skewers. You just picked the ones you wanted, took them outside to a bowl of heated oil and cooked them for a few minutes. Fondue, Chinese style. Tasted great again.
Another lunch stop in a hole in the wall place. The woman had only one thing on the menu so it was easy. I rolled the dice and said bring it on. A great tasting bowl of noodles, spices, tofu and veggies. These are cheap too. This and a large beer: about $1.
Initially I tried to be fancy and use my guide book and dictionary to oder. But one time I ordered ‘chicken’ and they brought me a plate full of chicken feet, liver, gizzards and other internal parts. it was inedible.
So I began using the phrase, ‘ni tuijian shenme ne?’ ‘What do you recommend?’ This seems to be working, as I have been getting some great dishes.
Here is one where they took me back to a bunch of fish tanks and pointed to a fish. I said fine. Several minutes later this came out, a delicious mixture of spices, veggies and fresh steamed fish.
Here’s another chef recommendation. Thick noodles in broth with more yourou.
Not sure what this was. Little croutons with some meat and veggies. It was not too good. I guess I should have added the garlic.
Sometimes it’s a relief to have something familiar. Normally I avoid American fast food when I am traveling, but in China, I gratefully devoured some good ol’ KFC.