Food and Drink in China
Chinese food is justifiably famous for its diversity and regional variations in cooking styles. Based on the principles of healthy harmony, Chinese dishes are produced with a "balance" of textures, colours and tastes.
Food Guide in Beijing
What can you expect to eat in a real Chinese restaurant in Beijing? Well, for the most part, it's nothing like the Chinese food you've come to expect in your local take-out back home. This is the real deal. However, most menus are completely in Chinese and daunting even for someone who's studied Chinese for many years. To help you out, we've prepared this handy guide for your convenience. You can memorize the pronunciation, or just print out and then cut into pieces to show your waiter.
This is a fun social dish! Similar to fondue, a variety of prepared ingredients such as raw meat, vegetables and tofu are cooked in a burning pot on the table and are eaten after being dipped into sauce. The hot pot is a delicious and hearty choice. Families or groups of friends sit around a table and eat from a steaming pot in the middle, cooking, drinking and chatting.
Peking Duck is a speciality of Northern China. The duck is slowly roasted over an open flame, then when the skin is golden brown and the meat just done, the duck meat is cut by a man specially hired for carving. The meat is placed on a plate with a dish of thinly sliced green onions, fresh cucumbers, dark hoisin sauce, and paper-thin crepes. Visitors will have the chance to try an authentic Peking Duck.
Tap water is not suitable for drinking, and the Chinese themselves drink bottled water. Visitors to China are advised to always have a good supply. Portable water may be provided at a few of the best hotels, and boiled water is sometimes offered in thermos bottles in hotel rooms, but please ask to make sure it is fresh.
Bottled mineral water is sold for around 3 yuan and is widely available in stores, restaurants and street kiosks. Sometimes a bottle or two is provided free in your room by the hotel.
Various nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks are available in China. Tea is by far the most popular drink, and is also a favourite with foreigners.
Gan Bei! (Cheers! "Gan Bei" literally means "dry [the] glass.") Besides beer, the official Chinese alcoholic beverage is Bai Jiu, a high-proof Chinese liquor made from assorted grains. There are varying degrees of Bai Jiu. The Beijing favorite is called Er Guo Tou, which is a whopping 56% alcohol. More expensive are Maotai and Wuliangye.
Table Manners in China
The main difference between Chinese and Western eating habits are that unlike the West, where everyone has their own plate of food, in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares. If a Chinese host is treating you, be prepared for a ton of food. Chinese are very proud of their culture of cuisine and will do their best to show their hospitality.
Sometimes the Chinese hosts use their chopsticks to put food in your bowl or plate. This is a sign of politeness. The appropriate thing to do is to eat whatever you have been offered and say how yummy it is. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can just say a polite thank you and leave the food there.
Inappropriate Table Manners
Don't stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl. Instead, lay them on your dish. The reason for this is that when somebody dies, the shrine to them contains a bowl of sand or rice with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it. So if you stick your chopsticks in the rice bowl, it looks like this shrine and is equivalent to wishing death upon a person at the table!
Make sure the spout of the teapot is not facing anyone
It is impolite to set the teapot down where the spout is facing towards somebody.The spout should always be directed to where nobody is sitting, usually outward from the table.
Don't tap on your bowl with your chopsticks
Beggars tap on their bowls, so this is not polite. Also, when the food is coming too slow in a restaurant, people will tap their bowls. If you are in someone's home, it is like insulting the cook.
For a details introduction to Chinese Food and Cuisine, please click here >