I love food. I always tell people two things about myself when it comes to food: I am hopelessly addicted to sweets and I am not one of those girls who pretends that I don’t love to eat.
So when it comes to living in China, my love for food has deepened to match my curiosity-I want to try as much new food as I can. Living in China has introduced me to a variety of wonderful and sometimes unusual foods from pigs ears, to red bean porridge, to hand pulled noodles, to roasted silk worms.
Here are some of my favorite Chinese dishes:
Ok, so everyone knows about dumplings. But seriously, after a year in China I still can’t get enough of them. They are my comfort food, like the Chinese version of mac-n-cheese. Unfortunately they are not as easy to make as mac-n-cheese. They require a long process of chopping vegetables and meat for the filling, stuffing and folding the dumplings close, and then boiling. They make frozen dumplings, but I refrain from buying them because dumplings, like all good things, are extremely fattening and if I bought them, Lord knows there would be no end to how many nights in a row I would eat them.
The most common filling is pork and cabbage, which is my favorite, but you can have vegetable and egg, seafood, mushroom…anything. You also dip them in dark vinegar, which cuts through the richness of the dumplings.
My second type of Chinese food is a style of cooking food, rather than food itself. Hotpot is extremely popular in China. There are hotpot restaurants everywhere or you can do it yourself at home, but like making dumplings, it’s a little complicated.
For hot pot, if you go to a restaurant the first thing you’ll notice is a large pot in the middle of the table that sits on top of a burner. Often it is divided in the middle, creating two separate sections. You select what kind of broth you want, spicy or normal. If you select both, they put one on each side of the pot. Then you get a large menu with a list of different kinds of vegetables, tofu, meats, noodles….everything. You select what you want and how many portions.
Next you go over to a bar and grab a small bowl. There will be different types of spices and sauces. The most common sauce for hotpot is kind of a sate sauce (peanut sauce). I usually grab that and then layer some spices and chopped green onion on top.
Once the food arrives, you pick up whatever you want and drop it in the pot. The broth is boiling hot (literally) and the food is sliced really thin so it cooks quick. You fish out whatever you want with your chopsticks and dip it in your small bowl of sauce. And repeat a million times.
Supposedly there is a system to this where you eat the all meat first and the vegetables last to help you digest everything, but I just dump it all in together.
You can do hotpot at home with a big cooking pot and a hotplate, or on the stove top. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to do with friends.
Even in a China, a country not known for it’s desserts because in China red bean or just fruit is considered a typical dessert, I still managed to find a sweet that I’m addicted too. You can find European style bakeries here that make sweets (donuts, chocolate croissants etc.) but I’m talking about Chinese sweets.
Last year I arrived a week before Mid-Autumn Festival, (or the Moon Festival) and was immediately introduced to moon cakes. These little cakes are dense and full of all kinds of different fillings. My favorites are the date/nut or red bean ones, but the most traditional is one with hard boiled eggs baked into it so that when you cut it open, you see the egg yolk that represents the beautiful Autumn moon.
If only they made chocolate filled moon cakes, then my love affair with moon cakes would be cemented and I would never fit into my pants. Good thing they only last for a few weeks during the Mid-Autumn Festival!
And that my friends, is a super short list of some of the foods I adore in China.