As you may know, in China food is one of the most important things! Indeed, sharing a meal is a social opportunity that is loved across China. However, reading a Chinese menu can seem intimidating.
At InternChina we love food too – check out this blog in order to know more about how we help you to explore Chinese cuisine. If you have never tried Chinese food before, don’t worry, you’ll definitely experience this soon enough!
And fear not, this article is here to hopefully help you understand a Chinese menu, so you can order yourself and impress your Chinese colleagues and friends!
The Chinese language may appear to be the most difficult language in the world at first, as we are not used to the Chinese characters. But don’t be intimidated! This ancient language is following a certain logic – as soon as you understand the logic, you’ll be able to read a Chinese menu without a doubt!
To avoid giving you a long history lesson, let’s just say that originally all Chinese characters were created using pictures, and were developed into the calligraphic style that we see today through several different steps.
History of Chinese Characters
Let me show you the evolution of the Chinese character for “horse” – if you don’t want to order this kind of dish, just look for it in a Chinese menu!
Now that you can understand how the Chinese characters work, just use your imagination and it will be way easier to read a menu! Let me show you some examples of the main ingredients you’ll find in a Chinese menu.
Meat on the Menu
These are basically the most common kinds of meat you’ll find on a menu in China. While horse meat isn’t that popular, in some places donkey meat is! Therefore, for donkey meat dishes you will have the character for horse, and one other symbol that looks similar to the tall ears of the donkey! So a donkey is a horse with tall ears, easy to remember- right? Can you find two more very similar characters? When you understand that the Chinese language is logic, it seems less and less hard, right?
After most of those characters in a Chinese menu you’ll see “肉-rou” that means “meat”.
Vegetables on the Menu
Obviously, the Chinese language can’t always be explained by pictures, but you can still see the logic behind the characters.
Let’s look at “potato” as an example. “Tu” means “earth“, and “dou” means “bean“. A potato is a bean that comes from the earth – easy!
Another interesting story can be found with “tomato.” Tomatoes weren’t originally found in China, they were imported. So in the Chinese name for tomato we have: “Xi” meaning “West“, “Hong” meaning “Red“, and “Shi” meaning “Persimmons“. Can you guess why? Because a tomato looks like a “red-persimmon imported from the West”! Clever, right?
“Bai” means “white” and “Cai” means vegetable, so the white vegetable is also know as the delicious Chinese cabbage! The easiest way to remember a Chinese character is to make a story from the shape of the character, or ask your Chinese friends to explain the character to you!
These are the main characters you’ll see in the dishes, so you’ll see if you are going to eat soup or some noodles.
Just one thing to remember about rice, restaurants commonly use “米饭” or just “饭” – character FAN– for rice. And a funny tip about “egg”- “dan” means egg, but in Chinese you’ll always call it a “Chicken egg”.
For the soup “tang” can you see the three dots on the left hand-side ? Looks like drops of water, right? Exactly! That’s the way of describing an object or dish with water inside, so now you all know that there is water in the soup now!
Our Favourite Dishes
Now that we’ve showed you the main characters you’ll see in a Chinese menu, let’s give you some more tips and the names of our favourite dishes!
These might take some more imagination to remember, as it won’t be as easy as the characters for various animals which were very close to the actual picture of the animal. However, these cards will be super useful while reading a Chinese menu. And, you can also show them in the restaurants if you can’t find them on the Chinese menu!
Don’t hesitate to choose those dishes if you see them on a Chinese menu, they’re delicious!
You can find the two first ones in every Halal restaurant, also known in Chinese as “Lanzhou Lamian, “and you can recognise these restaurants by the characters on the outside door: ‘兰州拉面‘. And the other dishes are found in any typical Chinese restaurant!
- XiHongshi Chao Jidan: Egg and tomato with rice.
- Jidan Chao Dao Xiao Mian: Fried egg, vegetables and cut noodles (this might be little spicy in some places!)
- Feng Wei Qie Zi : Fried aubergines.
- Tang Cu li Ji: Sweet and sour pork.
- Gan bian Da tou Cai : “Big head vegetable!” This will be some delicious Chinese cabbage and spicy sauce.
- Gong Bao Ji Ding : Chicken, peanuts and veggies, with a sweet and spicy sauce.
Please Don’t Forget!
Here some tips, that may save you one day – who knows!
- If a character has 月 on the left-hand side it is likely to be some sort of guts/intestines/belly/insides, i.e. run in the opposite direction!
- Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Then always avoid meals with this character “肉“, as this is “rou“, which means “meat.”
- Allergic to peanuts? This is the character you need to avoid : “花生“, pronounced “huasheng.”
- If you can’t eat spicy food, avoid this red one! “La” “辣” means spicy.
There is different kind of spicy food that our interns in Chengdu will be pleased to try! When you see those characters : 麻辣 be ready to experience some tingling and numbing sensation.
Don’t hesitate to ask our staff members on place to help you out with the pronunciation, or if you need any help ordering your food!
Did this help to convince you that living in China isn’t that difficult? Well then, you just need to apply now!
It’s Sunday in Qingdao and the winter months are here, which means only one thing, coffee shops!
Take your book, your laptop, your friends with you and head to the old town where Huangxian Lu lies filled with many niche cafes, museums, crafts and micro breweries.
As an avid supporter (some may say dependent) of the caffeinated drink, I have made it my duty to try a new coffee shop every Sunday.
By Chinese standards this street is ‘hipster’, many young Chinese will dress up for the occasion and ultimately a photo shoot in the colourfully decorated street. Take some time to browse the little shops dotted in between the cafés which sell bits of art décor as well as (you guessed it) old vinyls!
Below are just a few cafes I have stumbled upon, but go and explore yourself and discover your own favourite spot!
The Cat Café.
Address: 48 Daxue Rd
Yes, there are cats! And lots of them too! The coffee and chocolate cake are not bad either. Very cosy set-up with many feline friends to cuddle up too. A great place to go if you’re missing your pet back at home!
The Giraffe Café.
Address: On the Corner of Huangxian Lu/Daxue Lu
The giraffe-patterned pole outside gives it it’s status and has been the subject of many Instagram Posts. Very sweet décor inside, clean and the coffee is good!
The Witch Café.
Next to the Giraffe coffee lies a café filled with lamps, European-style paintings and old-fashioned furniture. The 4 small rooms, 2 up, 2 down decorated with pumpkins and Halloween references, gives the café a charismatic vibe. With free wifi and friendly staff, it is a great place to sit down and work.
The Old Cinema Café.
Address: 14 Huangxian Lu
A little bit bigger than the other cafes which makes it great for social study groups. Otherwise, just take a coffee and enjoy watching the silent films.
There are more than coffee shops around!
The Residence of Lao She.
Address: 12 Huangxian Lu
Lao She, a famous author lived on this street where he wrote some of China’s most famous literature, such as Camel Xiangzi. His house has been opened as a quaint museum and I would recommend having a look (It’s free ;))! The residents of Qingdao are very proud!
YOWO – The Leather Shop.
Address: 35 Huangxian Lu
This is a very cute workshop, where you can learn how to work with leather and make homemade gifts for yourself or family. Really interesting experience especially if you are one for design and crafts.
Strong Ale Works – Brewery.
Address: 12 Daxue Lu
This micro brewery is friendly, cozy, has a lovely ambiance, and most of all, beers are, though not exactly cheap by Chinese standards, amazing! A beer-lover’s must-see!
While eating street food here, you might think that eating the street food in China is a bad idea and say, “Never will I eat that!” However, I can tell you that soon you’ll be saying “Daily!”
Spit it Out, This Isn’t Food!
At least that is what the small Western voice in your head is saying, annoying you while you are chewing on things that you never would have dreamed of eating before coming to China.
Sadly, you won’t see me eating a scorpion on a stick. If I dared to eat that, I would be grinning in the camera saying “yes, I am a badass!”
I also don’t want to tell you about what you should or shouldn’t try, but I will give advice to help prepare you for the wonders of Chinese street food- especially in Qingdao.
One of the best “pancakes” (jiānbǐng) in Qingdao in process
First Things First
If you want a nice tidy kitchen, then you better stay at home where you will not have to look at messy street food stalls- but you also will miss some of the best food out there. I had my first encounter with street food on the street right behind the University.
Variety of Food
The difference between Chinese and Western street food, that I have seen, is obviously the variety and amount of food offered.
On one stand you will find a type of pancake, “jiānbǐng” (煎饼), which can be filled with vegetables, crispy wonton or meat.
The always grinning guy from the other stand will give you some spicy chicken meat in a tasty sauce on potatoes, and with an even broader grin he will ask if you want an egg with it.
You will also find the so called Chinese hamburger, or “rou jia mo” (肉夹馍), so called because they both have meat and bread! You will find a guy using a scraper, normally used for plaster, to create flatbread. You will see another guy, with his mouth covered by a mask, mixing the cold ingredients you choose by yourself, such as peanuts, noodles, peppers, ginger, salad, tofu, seaweed and so on, in a bowl, and he will then give you your food directly in a plastic bag.
You will have the agile couple trying to break a record in preparing your meal as fast as possible. Him, hammering around like a lunatic on his iron hot plate, her, throwing the ingredients for fried noodles directly in front of his constantly moving spatula. You will find a competing couple selling chicken kebab with rice. Their arms and hands, heads, legs, knees and toes will be covered, to prevent them getting brown skin from the sun, while you will stand there, wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, sweating.
But If you are hungry after a long day of travelling or sightseeing, no need to worry. Qingdao can help you out with BBQ on the streets, so search for what you want, sit down and wait for your meal to be prepared over charcoal fire.
Long story short, it is crazy the variety you have with street food, and you can go every day and eat something different. And the best thing is, as far as I got to know, it is the same everywhere! The people and ingredients may vary but the system is the same.
One of the best things to add, street food is there for you night and day!
What Street Food to Eat
So, what should you pay attention to?
First, you should apply one rule to all the food you eat, if you eat it and it tastes bad or unusual in a way, then follow your inner voice- spit it out! This may sound hard but believe me, if you don’t want to know what “la duzi” is, follow this advice! You wouldn’t eat bad food at home, so don’t do it in China.
Don’t hesitate to push your way to the front- “active-queuing” is a very popular sport in China! Be prepared to stand your ground and be firm, or you may lose your spot to an old lady who took advantage of the space you left.
When you find yourself standing in front of a vendor, you’ll be asked, “What? How much? Spicy?” You will have a hard time answering in English, but if you have an index-finger attached to your arm you will get what you want with pointing. Nodding and shaking your head is also optional!
Last but not least, for your own health follow some simple rules; go to the stalls that have people queuing up, and to those who are there every day. You can be sure their food is good!
One of the most notable differences between Chinese and Western cuisine is breakfast. When most westerners think of breakfast, images of toast, cereal, pastries, eggs, bacon, orange juice and coffee come to mind. In China, breakfast is a whole different ball game. A major difference in Chinese cuisine is the lack of dairy. Milk, cheese, butter and yogurt are not staples in Chinese cuisine and often aren’t readily available in smaller markets and grocery stores. So many Western breakfast staples aren’t eaten often here. Chinese breakfast is usually savory and people don’t shy away from stronger flavors such as preserved eggs, pickles, and spicy oil to eat first thing in the morning. Many people go out for breakfast and grab a quick bite to eat on the way to work or school. Street vendors will open up early to sell their goods to passing commuters – always at a very cheap price!
Below I’ve listed some of the most common breakfast foods in our cities. This, however, is only a sampling of what options are out there – especially for the more adventurous eaters. So get your taste buds ready, and before you know it you will be a Chinese breakfast convert!
粥 Zhōu (Congee)
Zhōu (congee) is a popular breakfast dish, which can be eaten all over China, but especially in southern China. Usually made of rice, although there are variations made with cornmeal, millet, sorghum, etc., zhōu is similar to oatmeal or porridge. Zhōu, however, is not sweetened and instead of adding sugar or fruit as a topping, popular toppings include zhàcài (pickled vegetables), salted eggs, soy sauce, and bamboo shoots to name a few. Yóutiáo, (long, deep fried dough) is often served as an accompaniment to zhōu.
馒头 Mántou (Steamed Buns)
Another very popular breakfast food in China is mántou. The classic mántou is white and made from wheat flour, though they come in various shapes and forms. Fresh from the steamer, mántou are soft and pillowy, and make for a great breakfast or midday snack. In northern China, often times mántou will be served with a meal instead of rice, and grilled mántou are one of my favorite street barbecue items.
包子、饺子 Bāozi, Jiǎozi (Steamed Bao, Dumplings)
Dumplings are also a classic Chinese breakfast. Bāozi are large steamed dumplings you can eat straight out of your hand. They are usually filled with minced meat or vegetables, though some have sausage, egg and other goodies inside. Jiǎozi are smaller steamed or boiled dumplings you eat with chopsticks and dip into a vinegar and soy sauce mixture – and of course as much spice as you want.
煎饼 Jiānbǐng (Fried Pancake Wrap)
Jiān bǐng is a common breakfast food that is popular all over China. Similar to a French crepe, jiān bǐng are always made to order, and usually filled with egg, hoisin sauce, chili paste, scallions and báocuì (fried, crispy cracker).
肠粉 Chángfěn (Rice Noodle Roll)
Chángfěn is found in southern China – more specifically in the Guangdong province, and is definitely a staff favorite here in InternChina. For those lucky enough to be in Zhuhai, every morning you will walk past huge trays of steaming metal contraptions, with cooks churning out chángfěn faster than you can blink. Chángfěn is made from rice milk that is mixed with minced pork and egg, then steamed on large metal sheets. The resulting steamed rice noodle is then scraped onto a plate and covered in sweet soy sauce. Chángfěn may not sound appealing, and it definitely doesn’t win a beauty award, but is by far one of the best breakfast foods to be found in China! So if you’re coming to Zhuhai, make sure to give it a try.
And of course, no breakfast is complete without a cup of dòujiāng (豆浆), fresh warm soy milk, to go along with it!
An estimated 33% of the world’s population (give or take) use chopsticks on a daily basis. For the hungry first time user, guzzling down your meal with two small wooden sticks can be a real challenge. Chopsticks might seem tricky to master and somewhat unnecessary for those of us that grew up with a plastic knife and fork in hand, so why have they come to dominate the culinary habits of much of Asia?
Chopsticks are over 5000 years old, long sticks of bamboo were first used to retrieve morsels of food from cooking pots on the fire. Later on, evidence of chopsticks used as table utensils emerged as far back as 500-400 AD. It’s said the spread of popular chopstick use across China was down to population boom and fuel shortages; food was chopped into smaller pieces in an attempt to make the meagre rations go further (thus eliminating the need for knives at the table). Whatever the reason, people in Japan and Korea soon followed the trend not far behind!
The ultimate legend of Chinese culture Confucius (or debatably perhaps his disciple Mengzi) added his own two cents on the matter too, which always helps. Apparently a firm believer that “the honourable and upright man keeps well away from both slaughterhouse and kitchen, and allows no knives on his table.” 有名望的和正直的人要远离屠场和厨房。
FUN FACT: Did you know that Confucius was a vegetarian?
I’m not ashamed to admit that after 3 years in China, I am a total convert. Using chopsticks makes me appreciate my food more. Whatsmore, the sociable side to Chinese dinning, sharing and array of mouth-watering dishes, picking out tasty tit-bits from any dish at will, never gets old.
So here goes, top facts you should know about different types of chopsticks:
THE CHINESE CHOPSTICK
Typically unfinished wood, slightly rectangular top with a cylindrical blunt end. Doesn’t roll off the table so easily and more surface area means you’ve got a higher chance or transferring those tasty morsels all the way from the middle of the table right to your bowl!
FUN FACT: It’s a faux-pas to tap your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl, as this is what beggars do to attract attention.
THE JAPANESE CHOPSTICK
Traditionally lacquered wood or bamboo, with a rounded top and a pointy end that’s perfect for de-boning fish. They’re a little bit smaller than the Chinese equivalent and you often find red pairs for the ladies and black ones for the gents.
FUN FACT: Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl, it’s reminiscent of incense sticks at a funeral.
THE KOREAN CHOPSTICK
The shortest model of the three, Korean chopsticks are usually stainless steel and flat or rectangular shaped. Potentially more hygienic but it definitely makes it harder to get a grip on your food!
FUN FACT: The king used pure silver chopsticks which would change colour if they came in contact with certain poisons. The people started using metal chopsticks to emulate him.
Anyway, hope this can inspire you to pick up a pair of chopsticks and come to China yourself. Even if you struggle to start with new chopstick inventions are coming up every day, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest ‘Chork’ on the market!
Qingdao is not only famous for its Tsingtao Beer but also for its tasteful Seafood. Trepang, abalone, sea snails, clams, oysters, squid, shrimp, crab dishes…to only name a few. Due to its fresh taste and unique flavors, the Qingdao Seafood is very popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
The Qingdao Seafood calendar
January -March Octopus 八带
February -March Mussel 海虹
March-April Winkle 香螺
March- May & September Crab 螃蟹
April- May Chinese mackerel 鲅鱼
April – June flat lobster 琵琶虾 Scallop 扇贝
May Clam 蛤蜊
June-August Corvine 黄花鱼
July-October Squid 鱿鱼
August- September Shrimp 虾
December- March Oyster 海蛎子 牡蛎
Where to eat
To see (and taste!) what the Qingdao Cuisine has to offer I suggest that you go to one of the little seafood restaurants along the shore or around Laiyang Road.
If you are willing to spend a little more you can also go to Yunxiao Road Gourmet Street, Minjiang Road Gourmet Street , Maidao Seafood Street, or Jiaozhou road BBQ street. The restaurant there are all slightly more expensive but the quality of the seafood is much better.
On the menus, you will find a wide variety of seafood – from spicy Sichuan style to sweet and heavy Shanghai style.
Locals prefer to simply cook their seafood to preserve the original flavor. If you want to eat your seafood the “Qingdaonese” way, just pick up your favorite seafood at a local market and bring it to one of the small restaurants around your neighborhood. Then ask them to cook it for you.
Go ahead and try辣炒蛤蜊 (la chao ga la ) with some draft beer this weekend!
How to order
To order seafood you can say 我想吃海鲜 (wǒ xiǎng chī hǎi xian).
Then go ahead and tell the chef how you want him to prepare your seafood :
白灼baí zhuó （scald）
清蒸qīng zheng （steamed）
辣炒là chǎo (fried & spicy)
Also, tell him how spicy you want your food (in response to the question: 能吃辣吗 néng chī là ma):
微辣 wēi là (a little spicy)
中辣 zhōng là (medium)
If you are not keen on seafood, you may be relieved to hear that you can find food from other regions of China or even foreign countries in Qingdao, too. There is a selection of German, Italian, American, Japanese and Korean restaurants in the city. Prices vary from place to place, of course, but eating out is generally quite inexpensive in China.
Ready for a new adventure? Find out more about your opportunities here!
On April 30th 2015, China’s ninth and the largest MixC shopping mall had its grand opening in Qingdao. The first MixC opened in 2004 in Shenzhen, South China and since then they have opened other branches around China. MixC developer China Resources means “the great land of China, endowed with abundant natural resources”. China Resources Land Limited is one of the most powerful comprehensive real estate developers. The new shopping mall is located on Hong Kong Middle Road, one of the main routes in Qingdao.
So what makes this particular subdivision of MixC in Qingdao so special? Apart from the fact it contains the world’s 3rd JOYPOLIS indoor theme park (other 2 in Tokyo and Dubai), yes a rollercoaster in the middle of a shopping mall! Inside the huge shopping mall, it also includes the most expensive cinema investment in China (with four kinds of special effects rooms including IMAX and 4D) and an Olympic standard size ice skating rink which is going to host the Skate Asia 2015. There are over 400 popular fashion stores, dining restaurants, cafes and entertainment/leisure facilities in this gigantic plaza.
Qingdao is located in East China, Shandong province. It is a small city compared with other Chinese cities. However, the establishment of MixC luxury shopping mall will hopefully help to develop the city even more than it already has in recent years. “We want to build a good public space for Qingdaonese, where people not only come to shop, but can also have a coffee, watch a movie, or even do nothing at all and just stroll around. It will be a good place for leisure and entertainment in Qingdao.”-Dave Chen (General Manager of Qingdao MixC). Ref: Redstar
For more blogs about whats happening in our cities click here.
Hard plastic chairs which were made to urge the customers to eat fast,a simple setting that might attract only kids and bored teens. These are the characteristics of most McDonald branches in the West, but in China the McDonald’s experience is taking a big turn. Unlike the west, where McDonald’s is regarded as a cheap meal, in China, as there are much cheaper dining options, McDonald’s has attracted mostly middle-class customers. Moreover, as a symbol of American culture, in food, design and dining style, many Chinese enjoy sensing this western-American-‘modern’ ambiance and choose a McDonalds’ meal. This could be said about other fast-food chains as well, for example Pizza Hut.
Like KFC, the spine of its menu is built from the classics. Cheeseburgers, Fries. McNuggets. But come 5PM, when the special dinner options kick in, something happens. Let me introduce you to the “Beef Rice Bowl”.
McDonald’s launched rice dishes last summer as part of their China push, which has seen those open hundreds of restaurants in the country in the past three years. That the amount of these dishes available has dwindled in the short time since seems to indicate that maybe Chinese people aren’t looking for Chinese-style meals when they come to American-style food venues.
A unique feature of Chinese McDonald’s locations is the “McExpress” walk-up window, which sells a small range of drinks and ice cream desserts. Most McExpress windows are attached to restaurants, but in some cases, they can be physically independent, typically in locations such as shopping malls, department stores and subway stations. Most major urban locations offer delivery for an extra fee. Deliveries are usually made by electrically powered scooters, although in several cities where motorcycle bans are in place, a conventional courier bicycle is used. The food is normally carried in a large insulated backpack.
Some things you need to know about 麦当劳:
In China, Chicken McNuggets can come with the barbecue, sweet and sour, honey and hot mustard, or chili garlic sauce. Chinese menus also include crispy Buffalo chicken wings, called McWings. All chicken burgers offered in Chinese McDonald’s use thigh fillet (e.g., Premium Grilled Thigh Fillet Burger, Hot and Spicy Grilled Thigh Fillet Burger), rather than breast meat. The Big ‘n’ Tasty is sold as the Big ‘n’ Beefy in the Chinese market, and is topped with cheese, cucumber, and mildly spicy Thousand Island dressing. Pies come in two standard flavors: pineapple or taro, although special flavors including chocolate and banana have also been offered on a limited basis. There is also a seasonal “Chinese meals” available, including the Grilled Chicken Burger and curly fries, with a horoscope of the twelve zodiac animals of Chinese astrology and traditional red envelope.
Want to enjoy the tasty treats McDonald’s offers or prefer the Chinese local food – Apply here for a great internship and culinary adventure.