My Perfect Day of Chinese Food Posted by sasha on Oct 21, 2020 in Culture, food
I really like eating Chinese food. How about you? (我真的很喜欢吃中国菜。 你呢？Wǒ zhēn de hěn xǐ huān chī zhōng guó cài. Nǐ ne?). Sampling the local cuisine is definitely one of my favorite things to do when traveling around China, whether it’s some mouth-numbing hot pot (火锅 huǒ guō) down in Sichuan, a hearty dim sum (点心 diǎn xīn) brunch in Guangzhou or those tasty, soup-filled xiao long bao (小笼包 xiǎo lóng bāo) in Shanghai. I think I just drooled a little bit writing that! There are a lot of things I miss about living in China, but the food has got to be number one. I was supposed to make my glorious return to the Middle Kingdom this fall, but you know, global pandemic and all… Instead I’m left daydreaming about my perfect day of Chinese food, which I’d love to share with you in this post!
Breakfast (早餐 zǎo cān)
To be completely honest, I’m not a huge fan of Chinese breakfast. I’ll pass on a bowl of porridge (粥 zhōu) and I’m not that stoked on soybean milk (豆浆 dòu jiāng) either. I’d much rather have a bagel and a cup of coffee. That being said, there’s one Chinese breakfast dish that I constantly dream about – the almighty jianbing (煎饼 jiān bǐng).
The name directly translates as “fried pancake,” which is pretty accurate. It’s also described as a Chinese crepe, as it’s prepared in a very similar fashion. First, the cook places batter on the grill and spreads it out in a circle. Then they crack and scramble an egg. Here’s a helpful hint – be sure to tell them “Please give me two eggs” (请给我两个鸡蛋 qǐng gěi wǒ liǎng gè jī dàn). You can thank me later.
The cook lets the egg cook a bit then flips the whole thing to cook the other side. Next up, they add a few varieties of chili sauce (辣椒酱 là jiāo jiàng) before topping it with green onion (大葱 dà cōng) and coriander (香菜 xiāng cài). Finally, they add a crispy fried cracker known as baocui (薄脆 báo cuì) to give it a nice crunch.
On street corners and in markets all over China, vendors whip up jianbing for the hungry masses in the morning. It’s quick and easy to eat on the go, and it usually costs less than $1. I can’t even tell you how many jianbing I ate on my way to work or Chinese class. I love a good bacon, egg & cheese sandwich for breakfast, but I’d trade one of those for a jianbing any day of the week!
Watch a master jianbing cook at work in this short video.
Lunch (午餐 wǔ cān)
My perfect day of Chinese food continues with lunch. The options are endless when it comes to the mid-day meal. You really can’t go wrong with a bowl of noodles (面条 miàn tiáo) or a plate of Kung Pao chicken (宫保鸡丁 gōng bǎo jī dīng) on some rice. Both are solid options, but for my perfect day of feasting on Chinese food I’m going with a hefty plate of dumplings (饺子 jiǎo zi).
My love for Chinese dumplings has been well-documented here on the blog. In fact, I even wrote a love letter to dumplings. These little bundles of joy make for a filling and tasty lunch that’s hard to beat. If I had to pick one dish to eat for lunch for the rest of my life, it would be dumplings. Sorry, sandwiches. I love you, too, but dumplings stole my heart.
There are countless varieties to choose from when it comes to dumplings. You can have them boiled (煮的 zhǔ de) or fried (炸的 zhà de) – both delicious in their own right. As far as fillings go, the classic is pork and green onion (猪肉大葱 zhū ròu dà cōng). I also love vegetarian versions like mushroom and leek (香菇韭菜 xiāng gū jiǔ cài).
To best enjoy your dumplings, mix up a little bowl of soy sauce (酱油 jiàng yóu), vinegar (醋 cù), and chili (辣椒酱 là jiāo) and then dip away to your heart’s content. It doesn’t get much better than that!
A dumpling cooking class from my Beijing days.
Dinner (晚餐 wǎn cān)
So far, it’s been pretty easy coming up with my perfect day of Chinese food. Things get a little more complicated come dinner time, though. Do I go with an evening of hot pot? It’s always a fun meal, ordering up a bunch of meat, seafood, and veggies then tossing them in the boiling pot of goodness. Or perhaps I go with a big family-style dinner of Yunnan food (云南菜 yún nán cài)? After all, I had some pretty epic dinners when we lived there.
After a bit of consideration, though, I would definitely go to one of my old faves in Beijing. We always called the place “Meat Table” because they dumped meat on the table to assemble the kebabs, but the actual name is “Halal Lanzhou Old Horse Noodles” (清真兰州老马拉面 qīng zhēn lán zhōu lǎo mǎ lā miàn). Meat Table is a better name, isn’t it?
I probably ate at this place over 100 times when I lived in Beijing, and for good reason. It was always a satisfying, delicious meal here, usually accompanied by several 大瓶s of 啤酒. My perfect meal here starts with a plate of scrambled eggs and tomatoes (西红柿炒鸡蛋 xī hóng shì chǎo jī dàn) along with some grilled naan (烤馕 kǎo náng) to dip in it.
Ideally I would be sharing with a bunch of 朋友s, so we could order some twice-cooked beef (回锅牛肉 huí guō niú ròu) as well as spicy diced chicken (辣子鸡丁 là zǐ jī dīng). If we’re feeling real hungry, we could even go for the “big plate of chicken” (大盘鸡 dà pán jī). Of course, we would also have to grab several sticks of lamb kebabs (羊肉串儿 yáng ròu chuàn er) to round out the meal.
I really wish I could buy a plane ticket to China right now just to actually live out my perfect day of Chinese food. One of these days I’ll get to do it, and it will be glorious!