What is one of the best parts of traveling abroad? It’s the food, of course! Eating different foods native to a country, authentically prepared by locals is special, as it is not the same here in America. Trying these native foods will only widen what you know about a country's cuisine.
I discovered that this is true for Chinese food. Chinese food in China is much more diverse and rich in tastes and spices than I had ever imagined prior to my travels.
Through trying dozens of new dishes in China, my perspective on Chinese food has changed, but for the better! I now have a love of Chinese food that I did not have before, and wish that more dishes in the states had as much flavor as those I tried for the first time in China.
Prior to traveling to China, I was a little worried whether I would really enjoy the food or not. Before my gap year, I had always stuck to certain routines and I was not a very adventurous eater.
I was not sure what types of food I would be trying, but I have always enjoyed eating Chinese food here in Massachusetts ever since I was young. However, I was only used to the steak teriyakis, vegetable lo meins, egg rolls, spring rolls and pork fried rices of American Chinese cuisine.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love these dishes from my local Chinese restaurants! However, I did not realize how much variety of food there actually was to try in China and the cultural differences that I would learn to appreciate during my time abroad.
Chinese Food in China: My First Impressions
Within the first few days in China, I started to get acclimated to Beijing but I did not enjoy everything that I ate at first. At first, I mostly disliked how breakfast in China is nothing like a hot American breakfast because there were no donuts, bagels, or egg sandwiches.
One of the most common breakfast items that I was first introduced to was “baozi”, a steamed bun filled with pork. The first time I ate baozi, I felt strange eating a lot of meat for breakfast. This was simply an adjustment for me, as I then began to eat delicious lunches and dinners.
In my first few days, I fell in love with one of Beijing’s most famous dishes called Peking duck. Some of my friends had told me that we were going to one of the best Peking duck restaurants in Beijing, and they were not wrong!
The Peking duck we dined on was amazing, with thin, crisp skin on the outside and delicious duck meat on the inside, and numerous tasty sauces to complement it all. After I traveled to different cities in China, I began to learn that each place was famous for a particular dish and locals were extremely proud of their food.
New Foods, New Beginnings
As I began trying new foods, such as Guilin mifen (rice noodles) and Shanghai “xiao longbao” (soup dumplings), I started to acquire a taste for these foods that I had never tried before in my life. While I was in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province of China, I learned about the ingredients of an authentic “huo guo” (hot pot), and learned my lesson to wear the apron while doing so! By the end of my trip, I knew that I would miss the diverse range of foods from China once I got home, and realized that there was nothing to be weary about before my trip.
After my time abroad in China, I realized how much more of an open mind I had when it came to eating and trying new foods. I also soon realized that the Chinese food here in America is different from that actually in China.
The Taste of Nostalgia
Attending school in a city, I am fortunate to have a “Chinatown” nearby, which does have some great authentic Chinese food. I still enjoy eating Chinese food here, but at the same time, I miss the tastes from China.
When it comes to food, to taste the best of the best, you must go directly to the source. This is yet another benefit of traveling the world and expanding your appetite to new foods that you perhaps have never tried!
Ready to taste the difference for yourself? Start Planning Your Trip so EdOdyssey can help get you on your way!