Living abroad through a WorldTeach program comes with the opportunity to experience new cultures and, of course, try new food! Madeleine Reeve is a WorldTeach China volunteer who has enjoyed exploring new culinary options in her new home. Read on to learn about Madeleine’s experience trying new food in China!
So I know this is probably a topic everyone wants to hear about. Yes, the food here is pretty good. But like everywhere else, it depends where you go. It doesn’t always depend on what you pay, though. Food here is generally very cheap. If I spend 100 kuai on a meal ($16) it better be amazing, and it’s probably Western food. A decent meal out you’ll drop 10-30 kuai ($1.50- $5) and usually I aim for 20 kuai or less. And yes, this cheap food can be delicious.
If you know anything about Hunan food, you’re aware that it’s known for being really spicy. In China, it’s part of a style called Xiang cuisine (湘菜 xiang cai). Because Hunan is an agricultural region, the ingredients are pretty fresh, and well varied. Besides the spiciness, it’s also known for being oily. The spiciness of the food usually comes from all the hot peppers they put into their food, so if you’re not a spice champion you can eat as many or as few peppers as you’d like. Despite all the hype about how intense the heat is, I’ve yet to have a dish here that I can’t handle, and I’m not the best with spice. I’ve probably upped my tolerance though–food at my school’s canteen can make you sweat. I’ve seen students take out the peppers, so I don’t feel guilty when I choose not to eat all of them. However, I’ve definitely noticed the oiliness of the food, and it can be kind of a turn off. I generally leave the food at the bottom of the bowl/dish alone because it is just swimming in oil. This is a personal thing though. Usually the other people I eat with will take care of the rest!
For breakfast, it’s pretty common to eat noodles (米粉 mi fen) or steamed buns (包子 bao zi). The noodles can be spicy or not. The buns can be sweet with red bean inside, savory with meat inside, or have nothing at all in them. Generally I don’t bother with breakfast because I have class at 8 am most days, and the school canteen finishes breakfast at 7:30–I have little desire to wake up even earlier when I’m generally not hungry when I wake up.
Anyway, here’s what I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for… pictures!
This only scratches the surface… As a growing city, you can find Western food without too much struggle, and don’t even get me started on street food… There will definitely have to be more posts about food, later. Also, I’m realizing I don’t take that many pictures of food… I should get better at that. In general, the food is pretty darn delicious, cheap, and good portion sizes. It can be pretty spicy but it’s not unbearable. The oil does get to me sometimes though. There’s a lot of guessing involved when I go to a restaurant because I can’t read most of the menu. So it’s also an adventure seeing what I ordered versus what I thought I ordered. Of course I try to talk to the waiter to get what I want but it’s never guaranteed. Oh well!
-Madeleine Reeve, WorldTeach China Hunan 2013-2014