First Impressions: A Taste of China
November 9, 2011
The vastness of China’s geography and history echoes through the polyphony of Chinese cuisine. The amazing array of dishes and foods is sufficient to please every palate, whether it’s served on a plate or in a bag!
One can find food stands, fruit markets and small food stores on every corner of every street, and you learn very quickly to never judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the most unappealing restaurant (or food stand) can prove to be surprisingly good. After only two weeks in Beijing I have been introduced to so many delicious dishes that I no longer remember which one is my favorite! It goes without saying that Western culinary culture is quite different, and it does take time getting used to the different spices and smells, but I strongly believe that when living abroad you must embrace the New and try everything, even if it’s still moving…
Some of the typical dishes served at lunch and dinner include “Tudou si”; a salad of thin potato, cucumber and cabbage slices, spiced with cilantro and lemon grass. Tofu dishes are very popular, served both hot and cold, with green peppers or hot chili, in a sweet and sour sauce, with beans and carrots or chopped into small cubes to accompany black gelatin preserved eggs. Vegetables are omnipresent. All different types, and usually served cooked, steamed or fried, in a sticky dark soy sauce, with chili and bits of meat. A lovely dish is “Ganbian doujiao”; steamed vegetables in soy sauce with spicy green beans, or lamb stirred into a vegetable and cumin sauce; “Ziran yangrou”.
Another specialty is the steamed dumpling, “Jiaozi”. It typically consists of a ground meat and/or vegetable filling which includes pork, mutton, beef, chicken, fish, and shrimp, and usually mixed with chopped vegetables. Popular vegetable fillings include cabbage, spring onions, leek, and garlic chives (so make sure you have breath mints handy!). They are wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together and served in a round wooden box to keep them warm with a small plate to mix soy or vinegar sauce with hot chili, and let the dumpling dipping begin!
Would you like some nuts with that?
Something that might seem quite unusual for us foreigners, especially the Europeans, is the frequent use of peanuts mixed in the dishes. What we would eat as a snack is used to accompany meat and other vegetable dishes, but tasty nonetheless!
The soups are just as delicious as they look; full of spices herbs and noodles and for me actually served as an immediate remedy for my cold. Just might want to look out for the little chicken feet.
Beijing is also famous for its Peking duck; a delicacy that one must absolutely try. Here you have to concentrate a little more on your chopstick skills though. The duck is served with small thinly rolled tofu pancakes that you fill with duck and cucumber slices, dipped in a loud soy sauce. Here the more talented manage to eat the mini pancake with perfect style while others, such as myself, opt for a much simpler, hands-on solution.
The food stands are also very popular and you find them sprinkled all over the city, serving food at all hours of the day! From internationally familiar hotdogs, to freshly fried octopus skewers, corn, sweet potatoes, pancakes (generally in the mornings), to live ready-to-be-grilled-silk worms, China will never bore your appetite.
As far as special features are concerned, Chinese food is complete in the requirement of color, smell and taste and the lofty realm of harmony of the five flavors- bitter sweet, sour, pungent and salty will continue testing your stomach and surprise your taste buds.
- Melanie Hirsch- CPG Marketing Intern