Why it’s impossible for you not to like chinese food

I hear it all the time in Argentina by the locals “isn’t chinese food bugs and fish?” Do they really think 1.4 billion people are eating bugs? With thousands of years of history, that bugs are the only thing they can think of? Did they forget who brought the pasta to Italy that they are so much a fan of?

Even many of my friends in the US are confused. They think of fish when they think of chinese food in China. How is that possible? Chinese take-away is popular so I would have thought the first thing would be a variation of that. I knew very little about chinese food before going to China but I definitely didn’t think fish and bugs.

Also sushi is not a thing in China. Wrong country.

The coast of China eats more fish than other parts of China and sometimes rivers throughout the country can provide fish as well. China is enormous though so food is different depending on the region. That’s really no different than how it’s like in USA.

Yu Xiang Rou Si - Pork Slivers
Yu Xiang Rou Si – Pork Slivers

You’ve been to China and still didn’t like the food? This is why that’s impossible…

If you don’t speak chinese, it’s difficult to order food. I understand that. Chances are you hardly touched what chinese food is all about. With 1.4 billion people and being the fourth largest country in the world, it would take a lifetime to order all the different dishes China has to offer.

What’s really magically about China is that every province has its own specialty and sometimes can’t be found anywhere else. The food you eat in Guangdong province will be vastly different from the food you’ll eat in Xinjiang province.

It’s a suspicious claim to make when you’ve hardly discovered their food. It’s the most broad term. Not liking chinese food is basically like saying you don’t like ANY vegetables or meat.

There’s a HUGE variety of dishes in China. Look at the menu in many of the restaurants and you’re handed a book of what they offer. The selection is more than you could possibly imagine in China. Spicy, sweet, buttery, cold, hot, crunchy, deep-fried, nutty, oily, peppery, rich, sour, toasted – you’ve got it all.

The selection is so big that really chinese food can fit anyones tastes. Every time I handed the menu to a local, they took long to order because it was difficult to decide what to get because it was too much.

It’s like someone saying “I don’t like american food.” It’s so general that it doesn’t make sense.

So where do you find the good food?

Stop eating at the hostels.

The hostels in China are super organized. They know how to cater to western tourists. They mostly cater to western tastes with menus like pizza, burgers, fries, etc. That’s not chinese food. Instead, get your hostel to recommend you a local restaurant. Get them to write down a few dishes in chinese. Tell them what kind of food you like. If you eat chicken, vegetables, meat, etc. Get them to even write down the pinyin so you can say it yourself and order again in the future if you liked the dish. Every hostel I’ve stayed in China was helpful about this.

Liang Pi (Cold Noodles) a local dish in Xi'an
Liang Pi (Cold Noodles) a local dish in Xi’an

Get recommendations online.

Art of Backpacking has several articles about chinese foods. Print it out or write it down. Walk into a restaurant and start ordering. Not that hard. If they put hand gestures that they don’t have it, then go to the next one on the list. Many of the foods I list are common throughout China. Sichuan cuisine is the most popular.

See:

Don’t be nervous to walk into random restaurants.

I found that chinese people love it when they have foreigners come into their restaurant. You’re not a burden at all to them. They’ll help you order even if neither of you can speak each others language. Chances are that the local restaurants are going to be MUCH cheaper than the tourist restaurants.

Bunch of different kinds of dishes. All vegetables on the table.
Bunch of different kinds of dishes. All vegetables on the table.
Bao Zi (Steamed Filled Buns). My favorite breakfast.
Bao Zi (Steamed Filled Buns). My favorite breakfast.
Chicken BBQ in China
BBQ Chicken in China. Yeap, even in China.

What do you think? Do you agree?

Michael Tieso

Michael Tieso travels around the world writing, photographing, and filming his adventures. He is the Editor-in-chief of Art of Adventuring.
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