Eating and Drinking, Beijing
The Y files, where Y stands for "yummy!".
Peking duck is, according to some, the dish that represents the city the most. I'm not really a fan of duck (or fowl) but I went to China with as much of an open mind as I could when it comes to food (due to food allergies) and I wanted to give the duck a try.
Now, from what I read in a guidebook (whose name I can't remember right now), the duck is slaughtered after about 60 days then seasoned with a layer of syrup before it's hung and roasted in an oven. By pumping air thru the duck, the skin is separated from the fat. This way of preparing the duck gives it its lean, crispy flavor.
When ordering duck, you'll most likely get some steamed pancakes, scallions, carrots and cucumber (in our case) and a sweet bean sauce. The way to eat the duck, as I saw other patrons, is to wrap a piece of duck (dipped in the sauce if you prefer it) and vegetables in the pancake and eat it as if it was, well, a wrap.
I liked the texture and the flavor of the duck with the sauce and other ingredients, as we had it on a restaurant on Xinjiekou Beidajie (but I can't remember the name, which is why I wrote this tip here instead) and I would order the dish again.
The Y files, where Y stands for "yummy!".
Dumplings, another thing I simply had to eat while in China. Now, these dumplings were different than the ones I'm used to.
The ones I had in China are called jiaozi and are a thin piece of dough filled with pork, vegetables, fish, you name it - and then boiled, steamed or fried. They were so delicious that I had them 3 times =)
While waiting for our train to Badaling, we were walking around and found this KFC. We stopped by and had something to eat when one of us (VT globe_trekker) ordered hot orange juice. I tried it and it tasted like watered down orange soda.
There are several rules if you are invited for a formal lunch or dinner at on of your business partner institutes, which you should try to obey:
1) the highest ranking person will sit at the center place of the table - usually the chair, where you face towards the door. He / she will chose this chair first and the others will not sit down until asked to do so. He will tell the other memebers of the party where to sit and will place the second and third highest ranking member of the opposite party (foreign visitors etc.) next to him.
2) Clean your hands with the hot towels, which are served. Even if you have a cold: don't blow your nose in public or during lunch / dinner
3) The first toast will be spoken by the head of the table. It is then expected that you toast back sometime thereafter. Say some nice friendly sentences and then lift your glass. Don't drink beer or whine without toasting. It is not commom - like in Europe - that everyone just sips on his beer. Either all drink together or you sip your tea or juice.
4) If a new dish is served on the table it will always be tried first by the head of the table. Then he will turn the glass-tray for others to eat. Sometimes he will offer the first bite to his highest ranking guest.
5) Often, rices or noodles are only served in the end and only on demand. Try to eat slowly because at official banquetts there will be a lot to come. Soup is the last course and indicates that the meal will be finished soon
6) Keep the conversation pleasant. Heavy political topics, cultural misunderstandings or worrysome business issues are not a good topic during lunch or dinner.
7) The Chinese cuisine is really the most excellent I have ever tasted. Even if you are unsure: taste everything, mostly you will really like it and will miss out if you dont give it a try.
8) Chpstick-DONTs: dont hold them in a closed fist, dont lick their tips, dont be picky and look for the best piece of meat on the plate, dont use them to shov dishware around,
If you are new to the drinking culture here, here are some good tips that most people not aware of. They might sound very simple, but it is consider important in the local culture especially for those who wants to get business deal done over the dinner table.
Kan Pei = Bottoms Up
Peng Pei = Cheers (a sip or two)
If you mean Cheers, don't simply say Kan Pei and take a sip or two. This will not be taken easily by locals as it is seen as being not sincere having saying one thing and doing the other.
This is especially true to the older generation Chinese but NOT with the younger generation in their 30's or 20's who are more open and westernised.
Chinese are generous people, we like to offer dinner/lunch to friends when we have foreign friends.
Don't insist too much to take the bill if your friends offered to pay, do the same thing in reture when your freinds visit your country !
Chinese has the habit to order sometimes much more than what they can finish, apart from the habit(good or bad), this is the way to show the warmth and sincerity .
This is the culture diversity , I know it could make you feel uncomfortable when you see some of the dish are half finished at the end of the dinner/lunch.
Try to remind your local friends not order too much, feel comfortable if they order anyway . This is not wasting food purpusely .
I leaned something from the embarrassment in the past , now I am expert in front of menu.
Many travelers to China don't really know whether they should leave a tip or not as is the custom in most other parts of the world.
Well China is one of the exceptional countries on the world, where tipping is NOT the norm. Actually most people do not even grasp the concept of tipping and will give you your money back, or run after you with your change if you already left the establishment.
Of course if you go to a more upscale (western) restaurant and you are very satisfied with the food/service you can leave a tip and the staff will be able to grasp the concept.
In most 4-5* hotels a service charge of 15% is added to the bill.
So please remember when you are traveling to China: DO NOT TIP (as you will eventually spoil it for the people who live here...)
P.S. of course every rule has its exception: the ONLY exception on the NO TIPPING rule is tourguide(s) and/or drivers of tour busses (that means that you do not tip taxi drivers!).
If you are on a pre-booked tour with a tourguide and a driver and they have not taken you to the well-known tourist traps such as shops where you pay over the top prices for garbage, then you CAN give them a tip. Depending on how good their service was, you can basically tip anything from RMB 10 to RMB 50. Most of the times the guides split the tip with the driver.
When you drink with the Chinese, they would toast their glasses lower than yours to indicate respect. Sometimes, a fight to lower toast glasses would end up equal on the ground! Also, for birthday celebrations, its the host that pays...and oh! There's even seating arrangements too...the host (the one paying) sits facing the door...but i heard it varies from province to province
Outside the touristic areas you can find really cheap and tasty food in small cookshops right beside the street - like Bao Zi (small steamed meat dumplings).
The serving is not quite appealing - but dont't mind! At least free chop sticks are included.
These ones found right outside Bei Wai University.
Chinese beer is much more tastier than ever expected! Another pro: You can get a 0.75 liter bottle for only 4 Yuan!
One of the best brands: Yanjing.
P.S.: Be aware! Alcohol loosens your tongue. You run the risk of authenticating some prejudices. Especially beer drinking girls are not common at all in China. (Me and another girl were almost kicked out of university after a funny evening at the university campus ...)
Of course this doesn't mean that we regret anything :-)
Peking Roast Duck is a famous duck dish from northeastern China. The Chinese specially like Beijing duck for its thin & crispy skin. Most restaurants will make two dishes out of one duck -- one with thin slices of skin with a small layer of fat underneath, and another one with the duck meat.
The history of the Beijing Duck can be traced as far back as the Yuan dynasty (1206 - 1368). By the time of the early 15th century it had become one of the favorite dishes of the imperial Ming family.
Peking Duck, which is served traditionally, consists of the crispy skin, steamed "mu-shi" flour pancakes, slivered spring onions, hoisin & plum sauce.
How to eat the roast duck? Deep a piece of duck skin (already chopped into small pieces) into the hoisin and plum sauce, then place it on a pancake& adds spring onion. The mixture is rolled up and eaten with the fingers.
The duck meat can be eaten the same way as the skin, but you can ask the restaurant to fry the meat. The remaining duck meat is usually chopped up, stir-fried, and eaten wrapped in fresh lettuce.
This duck dish is delicious so if you visit Beijing, you should not miss this traditional and well known Beijing roast duck.
Unfortunately I don't remember the name of resto in Beijing where I eat Beijing duck. The price for the Beijing duck and two other dishes I ate there was about RMB 200.
One of the Chinese restaurants in my town, Surabaya-Indonesia, serves good Beijing Duck. I think the taste is even better than beijing duck which I ate in the restaurant in Beijing
The Chinese resto in Surabaya which serves Beijing duck is the Duck King. This is one of the best Chinese Restaurants in town. So, if you visit Surabaya, you can stop by this resto and try its Beijing Duck. It costs Rp. 135,000 (approx US$ 14) for one duck or Rp. 92,500 (US$ 9.3) for half. If you want the remaining meat to be fried, you should pay extra Rp. 10,000 (US$ 1).
Picture here is from: http://www.chinahighlights.com/
If you are a group of people, you should try the Mongolian Hot Pot (or Fire Pot). It's offered in numberous restaurants - reserve in advance!
The traditional Mongolian Hot Pot includes two different soup broths, in which thinly sliced, bite size pieces of lamb or beef, and vegetables are cooked.
WATCH OUT! The dark side is damned hot!
actually it is one of the places where you can find some decent wine...in fact that's where i found it:) Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center, here's the adress: Liangmaqiao Road 50, Chaoyang District.
I've noticed that chinese people mostly prefer drinking beer if they want to have fun and beer perfectly goes along with any food and it doesnt matter what kind of food it is, from which province..really doesnt matter. After being bit tired of chinese beer (besides beer is not my style and usuallly i prefer wine, more abt it on my HP in wine travellogue) i wanted to try a local wine and at one if the restaurants i found out they recommended Tibetan wine..?? but do they have vineyards in Tibet??:)) obviously my choice was better not to try this one...
if you are very stubburn and still want some wine i would recommend you to go any 4-5* stars western hotel..i'm sure here they will find some for you:)
what can i add more?:)
here is a comment of Guantanamera regarding this courageous culinary experience we shared: "The Yunnanese roots were one of those outlandish yet interesting culinary experiences that one has the chance to indulge in whilst on the road... I wish there had been time to explore the whole menu at that place!" anyway if you want me to give more details..these roots were brown and lavishly ornated with white sugar powder, still have no idea was it supposed to be kind of desert or main dish..we've tried it sometime in the middle...hmm
p.s. sorry i dont remember the name of the restaurant where we gave them a try, but i'm pretty sure you could find them in any menu in any restaurant of Yunnanese cuisine..but thinking more..if i'm not mistaken it was near the lake Qian Hai