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!
As a European, I didn´t have any idea what kind of food is served in China. I just knew fried noodles or roasted duck at the Chinese restaurant in my hometown, and expected exactly those kind of dishes. But then I came to China and was instantly proved wrong.Everywhere you look, you can find little mobile food stands where you can buy snacks (called 小吃) like noodles, a kind of wrap, or BBQ Sticks. It might a seem a little weird to begin with, as you would probably never eat this stuff back home, but rest assured, it’s one of the freshest foods you can get here, and it’s very cheap. A culinary experience not to be missed if you’re travelling to China.
For example this is kind of a wrap. It´s made out of dough with eggs, spices, scallions and cracker. It is about five RMB (0, 60 Euro) and it’s quite enough for lunch, breakfast or as snack in between. After the preparation, which takes approximately one minute, the so called Jian Bing is folded and handed out in a bag. It looks a bit awkward though, but you definitely need to try it – it´s delicious, you won´t regret it.
You can further taste some Baozi, which is served in little baskets. They are known at some Western Chinese Restaurants, but eating these on the street next to the improvised kitchen is awesome. For whom it´s unknown: Baozi are filled dumplings; cooked or steamed balls of dough. You can choose the filling between pork, beef, lamb, vegetables or even sweet.
There we have a typical little food stand. You should definitely try the tea as well, which you can see in the background. It´s kind of sweet, but very Chinese. Especially in the Western and Southern part of China the tea ceremony is very traditional and frequently practiced. Tea is supposed to be very good for your shēn tǐ. (Body).
Keep in mind there are a lot of other occasions and options which we couldn’t describe here now. However, in general, if you see a stand with Chinese people queuing, you can try the cuisine without any doubt.
I arrived in Qingdao with the spring festival at the same time. It is my first time in China and therefore it was my first spring festival here, and all I can say is that it was amazing!
The Chinese are going crazy during spring festival that means that there are fireworks days and nights. At the beginning I was really scared about it and I was alone in my big two floors apartment and all the fireworks outside were so loud that I couldn’t sleep and with each firework I was standing at my window and admired the beautiful fireworks outside. I live on the 7th floor therefore I had the best view by the way. In the next days I became accustomed to the fireworks and I was not that much scared anymore and was able to have some sleep luckily.
The fireworks here in China are not comparable with the fireworks which we know from Germany!! It’s completely different. The fireworks are totally huge and you can buy different kinds of fireworks on every corner: Mickey Mouse, SpongeBob, dolls and more and more funny and cool fireworks. The spring festival is China’s biggest festival in the whole year; therefore I am very happy that I had the chance to be here during Chinese spring festival and had the opportunity to see such a wonderful festival here in Qingdao. I didn’t know before that when I start my internship in February that such a big festival is waiting for me!!
InternChina also planned a firework for us interns, first we had great dinner at a chinese restaurant and afterwards we made our own firework! Everyone brought some fireworks and we had a great and cold firework night all together!
To be here at spring festival has also another big advantage, after one week working I had one week free due to the spring festival, which was perfect for me!! I took the opportunity and conquered Qingdao. I made a lot of sightseeing and checked out all shopping malls successfullyJ. And last but not least, when you are here during spring festival a lot of different and delicious fruits, coated with sugar are sold, you really have to try it out it’s so tasty!!
I can just recommend you to come here during spring festival and enjoy two awesome weeks!! I can promise that it will be an unforgettable and amazing experience for you!!
…a how-to behave in a Chinese restaurant
We Westerners are used to a quite strict etiquette, especially when dining is concerned (don’t put your elbows on the table, don’t smack, don’t …), so when foreigners go to a Chinese restaurant for the first time, it often seems like there are no rules at all.
I asked my Chinese colleague Xavier if there are any criteria on how to use chopsticks and he immediately created a little guide for us, with all the rules he learned from his grandparents.
Behold, there are quite a few things to remember when using chopsticks!
1) Don’t dig in the food on a plate, just get the piece which you want to eat.
2) Don’t pick one piece, then drop it back on the plate and change to another piece.
3) Don’t let your chopsticks be covered with oil, just try to keep them as clean as possible.
4) Don’t use your chopsticks to make noise (like pretending to be a drummer using the bowls on the table).
5) Don’t wave your chopsticks.
6) Don’t use chopsticks like a fork.
7) Don’t use your chopsticks as toothpicks.
8) Don’t lick or suck on your chopsticks.
9) Don’t put chopsticks vertically in any ricebowl since it resembles the incense sticks for the dead.
Remeber this guideline and you will never have any problems in a Chinese restaurant! 🙂
Food is a very important thing in China. Not without any reason was Confucius casting out his wife because she was a bad chef. Since ancient time many factors have influenced the development of the Chinese kitchen.
The Cantonese kitchen, as one of the four different main styles of Chinese food, is one of the most famous way to eat in China. Happy to live in Zhuhai, where the Cantonese kitchen is well known, I want to introduce some of the best Cantonese dishes and some of the best restaurants offering those.
Dim Sum, a Cantonese term for small hearty dishes, are small bite-sized or individual portions of food which is traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Eating Dim Sum in Zhuhai is usually known as going to drink tea, as tea is typically served with Dim Sum.
Basically there are a lot of different ways to prepare Dim Sum. Rice rolls, lotus leaf rice, turnip cakes, buns, dumplings, stir fried green vegetables, steamed meatballs, spare ribs or spring rolls: the main issue is that it is deserved in small baskets or plates.
One of the best Dim Sum restaurant in Zhuhai is Jin Yue Xuan: 1-3 Floor,B,265 Ri Hua Commercial Square, South Lover Street, Gongbei, ZHUHAI.
Cantonese or Guangdong dishes are characterized by their tender and slightly sweet taste. There’s a lot of seafood, pork and chicken, which is normally deserved with head and feet. Cantonese vegetable dishes are often simply stir fried, plain or with minced garlic. The main point in preparing a Cantonese dish is that it is fresh.
Here is a small list of famous Cantonese restaurants in Zhuhai:
Hengqin Oyster Restaurant (Fuxiang Bay Oyster Farm, Hengqin, Xiangzhou District)
Yuren Matou Restaurant (Wanzai Branch, No.3013, Nanwan Road, Wanzai, Xiangzhou District)
Deyue Boat (Inside Mingting Park, Yeli Island, Qinglü Road, Xiangzhou District)
Deyuefang Restaurant (Inside Mingting Park, Yeli Island, Xiangzhou District)
Shishen Restaurant (Tangjia Branch, Dieshi, Gangwan Avenue, Xiangzhou District)
For those who don’t want to go to a restaurant the several cookshops everywhere on the streets are very recommendable.
Man man chi!
Pictures: 3141 2 Garkueche 3.jpg kunstverein.de, HPIM3236-550.jpg millerfamily.biz, dim sum library,thinkquest.org
When talking about China, what kind of stereotype-images do people usually have? Food! Of course! In our history of over 5000 years, eating is never the second most important issue. There is a proverb in China: Food is the paramount necessity of the people. The Chinese consider food as some kind of sacred existence; therefore it is blasphemy to make food which tastes bad. In that case, Chinese food is considered to be one of the most delicious and the third healthiest food in the world.
Ok, this article is not about giving a history lesson or bragging about food of my motherland, but to give some hints or advice about finding the most yummy food in Qingdao, so let’s get to POINT!
First of all, I want introduce some of our local specialty to you: Clams, Beer and street BBQ!
Qingdao is a coastal city, so seafood is the most important part of our daily dishes. Among them, clam is a Qingdaoers’ favorite.
Stir-fried Clam in Hot Pepper(辣炒蛤蜊), the typical Qingdao-style.
The brewery in Qingdao is inheritance of German Colony, best beer in China and contains only one-third of alcohol compared to Western beer. I’m not a drinker so I don’t know how to describe the tastes of it, best to find out yourself!. 😉
Almost every summer evening, you can see people drinking beer along with Clams in biergarten, sometimes also with BBQ. Our BBQ is kind of like Greek kebab, with stick. So far the street BBQ received the best comments from our Interns and students, and they come for a reason!
There are so many places where you can have this marvelous combination. Meidaer（美达尔）is one of the top ten local restaurants in Qingdao, and it’s also a chain store, so there should be no problems finding. Also, the street BBQs near Qingdao-University are also worth a visit.
Then, some Korean and Japanese restaurants.
As a matter of its QTH, there are plenty Japanese and Korean living in Qingdao, so restaurants of theirs are not rare to see, however the good ones are.
Speaking of Japanese food, the first impression would be Sushi and Sashimi. Actually there are more not only delicious but also artistic dishes in Japanese food. A Japanese Buffet named DoZo(Japanese: Please) Food Galley is a good choice. They provide both traditional Japanese dishes like sashimi , sushi and Tempura, and some creative new dishes, which can offer a whole new experience. There are two here, one in Hisense-Platz and the other in Polar Ocean World.
And for Korean food, it’s not proper to comment without knowing enough of it, what I can say about it is their BBQ are great!
Also, the way of eating is interesting. You need to put the roasted meat in a slice of salad(or other leaf shape vegetables), and then add some specially-made BBQ sauce, paprika and garlic slice on it. Hmm~ So yummy~
And at last, some “old-school-style” Chinese food.
Nowadays, traditional Chinese food has encountered challenges from foreign food and fast-food. So they changed a lot to adopt the new situation, which causes what we eat now to taste quite different from before. So I am gonna introduce some places where you can have the real original Chinese food.
The first one is a mutton soup restaurant “羊香斋” located in No.1 Mai Dao Road. Mutton soup is one of the traditional foods in North China. They offer the best and most traditional mutton soup(which might be a little oily) you can find in Qingdao, along with mutton soup-dumplings(only available at noon, they get sold out very soon) and sesame bread(烧饼)
And the other restaurant provides foods which is more south-China style. The Little Kirin Private Cuisine(小麒麟私房菜), located in No. 175, Hai Kou Road, offers wonderful Clay-Pot soup, the tastes and aroma of which are much more smooth and foreigner-friendly, and south-China dishes such like Sautéed Beef Filet with Hot Green Pepper. They mark their best dishes in red, so it won’t be too hard for you to make an order.
At last, I wish you luck and good appetite in the pursuit of real Delicacy.
Those living in Zhuhai have the great advantage of being within easy reach of two of great weekend-break spots on the Pearl River Delta: Macau and Hong Kong. A few weeks ago we had a guest post about our neighbour Macau and now the lovely Pearl of the Orient, is due for a bit of a polish.
HOW TO GET THERE
Everyone knows you can take the ferries from Jiu Zhou Port in Zhuhai to either the airport port (provided you have a airticket) or the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal at the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, Kowloon.
For those low-ballers amongst us, try the Sky Shuttle helicopter option which takes a smooth 15min to Macau at a even cooler $2,900. For those of you sticking around until or returning in 2016 you’ll be able to use the long awaited Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge (hopefully by 2016 the name will be shorter than the bridge itself).
Take your pick of the labyrinth MTR (subway), double decker trams and buses, pricey taxi’s and when the weather’s not mimicking a sauna, talk a walk. Public transport is made very convenient to use with the Octopus card (see below.)
While VISA is accepted everywhere, in Hong Kong at least, the Octopus card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese) is genuinely testing this notion!
This handy card stores credit for not only all public transport on the island, but extends to paying for goods (McMeals, clothes, books) and services (racecourse bets, car park spaces, movie theaters, photocopies) at various stores and even acts as a school attendance checker and an access control mechanism at some commercial buildings. This ID-less credit token makes life in Hong Kong infinitely easier – especially since some wet markets even accept it!
THE HONG KONG MENU
While the Brits have “tea time”, the Cantonese have “yum cha” (飲茶) which means “drink tea” which ACTUALLY means you’ll be going out to eat “dim sum”.
Possibly the most famous of Hong Kong specialities “dim sum” refers to a style of Cantonese food. It’s traditionally prepared as small bite-sized portions served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.
Dai pai dong refers to the once very popular open air street-food stalls. It literally means “restaurant with a big license plate”, referring to its size of license which is bigger than other licensed street vendors and presently there are all but 28 left in Hong Kong.
Cha chaan teng are found in Hong Kong and some parts of Guangdong. Typicall warm, weak tea is offered upon being seated and sometimes the utensils are washed/rinsed with the tea too. They offer a range of budget meals ranging from western versions of cafe snacks (like the overly sweet version of french toast) to very traditional staples like wonton soup. Both fast food and a la cart menus are available.
RECOMMENDED SOURCES FOR YOUR TRIP
- Not feeling the pull of Honkers yet? Take a look at these very persuasive photos.
- If you couldn’t be bothered to set up an itinerary – try these sample ones
- Ferry times to and from Zhuhai and Macau
- For those going specifically to get a visa extension try our recommended agency
- The MTR website will help you calculate your route and journey time
- Tips on how to shop in Hong Kong like a seasoned pro.
- Must-try foods when you’re in Hong Kong and where to go!
- Survival Cantonese phrases – print them out and take them with!
My name is Tanja, I am from Germany, and I will spend the next six months in Qingdao. I other words, I will probably see a few of you at the beach, where we organize beach volleyball or little trips across the bay to silver or Golden Beach during summer.
What do I like the most about the city? Its Germanness! And I do not just refer to the Tsingtao beer here, which goes back to a German recipe from when Qingdao was a German colony. It might help that I haven’t lived in Germany for a year and a half now (I have travelled South-East Asia and then lived in Sydney/Australia for a year) and therefore are more likely to notice things. But Qingdao is just too cute! I love the tiny little alleys of old town with houses just like old German ones, the apartment blocks with their red roofs, and of course the old train station and the church right next to it. This city of over 8 million people feels like a German small town, and I mean this in every good way.
Pictures will definitely follow, I was just way too busy as there are like a zillion things to do: Dinner with the other interns became a real institution, there was the monthly student’s round table for all interns, their host families and friends (great opportunity to get to know everyone!), our colleague Leo’s house warming party, jogging by the seaside, and then there were two more after work events I will write more about soon. Anyway, this is where I have had my dinner yesterday:
Real German food and beer at the pre-opening dinner of the Paulaner restaurant in the new Kempinski Hotel. It was too foggy to enjoy the view of famous Silver Beach, but that will only serve as an excuse to come back.