What is your favorite Chinese food?
Fried Vermicelli 厦门炒米

Common Misconceptions about Chinese Foods

Flower Tea

  1. No heart-healthy foods - Pork is the number one meat consumed in China by a landslide. It's also quite difficult to find street-level restaurants that won't sneak a bit of bacon fat into vegetable dishes to punch up flavors.

    On the other hand, there are a growing number of venues that have heard desperate pleas from vegetarians and vegans alike, with foods that range from creatively veggie-friendly, to certifiably organic and meat-free.

    Many Buddhist temples and monasteries in China serve daily vegetarian cuisine that is often available to the public, such as Xiamen's Nanputo Temple (南普陀寺) and Zhuyuange Vegetarian Restaurant (竹缘阁) next to Tianzhu Yan Temple. Lycee
  2. Insects and Vermin are Chinese Street Food - Simply not true, even if you're on a mission of indulging in pure shock value.

    While it's still possible to find in some areas -- most notably the Houhai (后海) and Nan luo gu xiang (南锣鼓巷) districts in Beijing -- fans of the bug-on-a-stick will be disappointed to discover most Chinese cities are devoid of these infamous 'delicacies'.

    Increasing awareness amongst the general population about food safety and hygiene standards is putting the pressure on vendors peddling bugs and insects, with many cities organizing efforts to curb unregulated food sales across the country. Grilling - Street Food
  3. Chinese food is loaded with MSG - This misconception is particularly funny, since it's usually being spouted to me by people who eat bags of chips, claiming consuming junk foods is “at least safer than getting tons of MSG in your diet.”

    Unbridled MSG usage has been declining rapidly in China over the last decade, and health-conscientious restaurants in big cities are spearheading the non-MSG food market, such as vegetarian outfit Wu Guan Tang (五观堂) in Shanghai.

    On the other hand, a vast majority of the pre-packed, ready-to-eat foods and condiments available throughout the world, such as ketchup, are actually chock-full of MSG, in one form or another. 
    IMG_0064
  4. Way too salty, and way too oily - I'll admit, there is a relatively high dose of salt and oil in many Chinese foods ... but not all.

    The fiery, flavorful and oily cuisines of Sichuan and Hunan have little to do
    with the much blander, lighter fare in cities like Hangzhou and Guangzhou. The latter two will spare diners from taking in loads of lipids on a daily basis. Zongzi
  5. No bread, just rice? - Like crumbs, this myth needs to be swept aside.

    Although I can personally vouch for the fact that Chinese like their bread on the sweet and spongy side, there's a growing number of bread shops catering to those who want something with a yeasty flavor and chewier texture.  Stuffed breads
  6. 'Stinky Tofu' is disgusting - True culinary adventurists know that a nice, funky chunk of unpasteurized Stilton can hit your palate's pleasure receptors just as hard as Hunan-style mala chou doufu (spicy and numb stinky tofu), to name one regional example of this versatile snack.


    Spicy, vinegary, and with a nice salty bite, this is as good as it gets for anyone who really appreciates a walk on the wild side.

    The dish is available in almost every back street and side alley in central China, and while it's not nearly as expensive as raw cheese, it delivers an equally strong taste and smell sensation. Tofu
  7. Everything is so cheap - Although you could conceivably sustain yourself with a US$5 per day threshold in smaller cities, eating in first-tier Chinese cities is more expensive than what you might think.

    While a hearty bowl of re gan mian (hot dry noodles) in Wuhan -- the capital city of Hubei Province in central China -- will set you back less than a dollar, a bowl of similar noodles will run you three to four bucks in Shanghai.

    Major cities are also in no shortage of world-class restaurant (in terms of food as well as bills). Shrimp
  8. Dog is a common dish in China - Although there is truth to the fact that dog is consumed in some parts of China, mainly in the north; it's quickly falling out of favor, especially in light of the recent public outcry over inhumane treatment of man's best friend.

    Since more people are becoming turned off by the idea, fewer venues will offer it. With scarcity, comes value, which also means canine meat is a poor choice for vendors in general.

    Travelers can rest assured that the vast majority of restaurants in China will simply let sleeping dogs lie.
    Eating with your dog in China

 

Some great ideas to enjoy Chinese Food:

 

Adapted from What's on Xiamen

Photo Credit:  Julie Cecchini

Comments

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Hassan Ovski

That has cleared up some things I wasn't sure about! Thanks :)

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