How to navigate a uncanny and smashing universe of Chinese cuisine

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Forget about steep balls, open rolls and honeyed and green chicken. China has so many some-more to offer when it comes to Chinese food.

You’ll knowledge all from a common noodle to a volcanic Chinese hotpot. There are dumplings to die for and some splendidly weird concoctions that mostly (although admittedly not always) spin out to be delicious.

Chinese Hot Pot
Chinese Hot Pot (c) Lucy Woods

So ready your tastebuds and follow my tip tips on how to make a many of your culinary journey in China, and how to equivocate some of a classical mishaps (duck heads anyone?)

Research is key

If we can’t review Chinese or pronounce a language, China can be formidable to navigate, even in large cities like Beijing. There are few signs in English and Google Maps is criminialized here. As a unfamiliar traveller it can also be wily to entrance a internet when out and about, as we need to submit a Chinese mobile series when signing adult for giveaway WiFi.

Therefore it’s a good suspicion to investigate some restaurants from any place we are travelling to, and to symbol their plcae on a earthy map. Most hotels and hostels (in a categorical cities during least) will yield giveaway maps, and they can also advise we on their favourite internal eateries. Guidebooks can also be a useful reference, though usually if they are really adult to date. We found that many of a restaurants in a manual had sealed down, or changed to a opposite location.

Spinach dumplings and pig swell in Xi'an
Spinach dumplings and pig swell in Xi’an (c) Lucy Woods

Also, don’t be fearful to channel your middle path-finder and learn a best restaurants in city for yourself. Look out for places bustling with customers, as a food is expected to be good. If a grill has a speciality, afterwards go for that – in one grill in Xi’an a waitress systematic for us and we were presented with some tasty spinach dumplings and pig swell with steamed buns.

Remember to follow your instincts – if we get a bad feeling, it’s best to spin divided and find somewhere else.


You competence also suffer reading:

  • Top 10 things to see and do in Shanghai
  • China In 10 Minutes – a brief travel/cultural beam book for initial time visitors

The bamboozlement of Chinese menus

Finding a grill is usually one of many hurdles you’ll confront on your culinary quest. Once absolutely seated, you’ll expected be presented with a menu detailing a preference of tasty delicacies – however English translations are few are distant between. There competence be pictures, though they’re mostly bad peculiarity and it’s utterly tough to heed between a image of crispy beef and a towering of tripe.

You have several options: we can simply indicate and wish for a best, nonetheless this is a dauntless choice unless we have a stomach of steel. The improved choice is to ask for a grill speciality – if you’re struggling to communicate, simply indicate during a menu and shrug in a confused manner. Either they will demeanour during we blankly or suggest some dishes for you.

Deep boiled bullfrog with a side of steep heads
Deep boiled bullfrog with a side of steep heads (c) Andrew Moss

You can also try to interpret a menu regulating a nifty Google Translate tool. However a translations are mostly sincerely nonsensical, generally as dishes mostly have names like “The steep has no passionate experience”. In one Sichuan restaurant, we suspicion we were grouping fry steep and low boiled steep – we usually found out after that we had in fact replete on steep heads and low boiled bullfrog.

These mishaps are partial of a fun and we competence even learn a ambience for “virgin urine eggs” (unfortunately literal) or steep intestine pancakes.

Offal is everywhere

Speaking of intestines, you’ll learn flattering fast that offal is a outrageous partial of Chinese cuisine. There’s a observant that Chinese people will eat anything with 4 legs solely a table, and we have to acknowledge there is some law in this. Nothing is squandered and slippery guts are remade into an implausible preference of dishes.

Offal for sale during a Muslim marketplace in Xi'an
Offal for sale during a Muslim marketplace in Xi’an (c) Andrew Moss

Put your prejudices aside and representation during slightest one plate with offal while in China. We suggest a revisit to one of a many “cook-it-yourself” prohibited pot restaurants. Simply conduct to a self-service area, crop a preference of beef and unfeeling skewers, and take your pick. Try a liver or tripe skewers – we can prepare them yourself and a chilli will facade any unwelcome flavours.

Sample a internal specialities

There are 5 graphic flavours in Chinese cooking: sweet, sour, salty, sharp and bitter. These flavours are used in opposite degrees depending on a region, and underline prominently in internal specialities. For instance Beijing cuisine mostly incorporates honeyed elements, and these flavours are distinguished in dishes such as Peking steep and Jingjiang Rousi (slices of pig baked in a honeyed bean salsa served with soya bean wraps).

Peking duck
Peking steep (c) Lucy Woods

Ask around and find out what a locals adore to eat, and try it yourself. If you’re not certain where to start, find out if there are any English-speaking food tours in a region. We chose UnTour in Shanghai and spent 4 stately hours sampling a fantastic preference of Shanghainese cuisine including Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), lamb kebabs, crawfish and even Chinese H2O snake

Fact File

Our favourite food picks:

  • Beijing: Peking duck, Tudou Si (shredded potato).
  • Shanghai: Xiao Long Bao, braised eggplant, grilled oysters.
  • Xi’an: prohibited pot, Yangrou Paomo (flatbread in mutton soup).
Shanghai crawfish
Shanghai crawfish (c) Lucy Woods

Favourite restaurants:

  • Beijing: Xiulan Xiaoguan for Peking steep (very good value for a quality).
  • Shanghai: Linlongfang for Xiao Long Bao and Lele Xinjiang Restaurant for lamb kebabs.
  • Xi’an: Muslim marketplace for Yangrou Paomo.

Download before we travel: Google Translate and MAPS.ME (an choice to Google Maps – usually some restaurants are highlighted on a App).


This essay is formed on my practice of travelling in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. We’d adore to hear about your foodie tips and engaging culinary practice while travelling to other tools of China. Leave a comment

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Posted by on Oct 31 2017. Filed under EXPLORE. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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