Monday, June 1, 2015

Chinese Diet

Before I left for China, my favorite Chinese food came fresh from Panda Express and consisted of beef and broccoli, teriyaki chicken, and fortune cookies (I freaking love fortune cookies). When I arrived in China I failed to find my favorite Panda comfort foods.

Like Panda, I most of the food is stir-fried, but the way the meat was cooked and prepared was entirely different. Dishes are made from fresh ingredients and with fresh spices or sauces. Also, fortune cookies are unheard of in China.

Adjusting to Chinese food took me a LONG time. One reason for this is that almost everything is stir fried or cooked in a lot of oil (sometimes oil that is reused to cut costs). Another reason is that most meat contains bones and is usually fatty or has the skin on it.  I had a hard time shifting from grilled chicken, salad, hummus and veggies, and sandwiches (I would say I eat a pretty healthy diet) to oily, stir-fried vegetables, fatty meats and empty calorie grains like rice and bread/pastries (I was so surprised by how many pastry stores there are in China). However, you look around and Chinese people are SO thin. It is rare to see an obese Chinese person.

This is what I usually eat on a daily basis--


During the week I usually always have an apple with peanut butter in the office. It's easy and I leave apples and PB in the office

Fruit is very cheap and there are street stands everywhere. This is right outside the backstage of the school. And PB is everywhere--I can't really read the label and don't know what additives are in it, but it tastes fine to me. 

 On the weekends I usually get street food--while many people are hesitant to eat street food, it is usually more fresh and natural than the food inside a restaurant. 
Steamed stuffed buns are my favorite. 

This is my new favorite street food breakfast--stewed pork in a oven cooked pita-type bread with cilantro--you can also add eggs, hot dog or tofu to your sandwich  

 And I always have coffee. Coffee beans are quite expensive here--about $15 for a pack. And they are relatively hard to find. Coffee machines are expensive so the best/cheapest way to make coffee is using a french press or a drip. Most people drink instant coffee which can be found almost anywhere and is relatively inexpensive. 

If I'm traveling I'll grab McDonalds breakfast or have breakfast at the hotel I am staying at. The middle picture is a continental breakfast at a hostel (eggs, toast, fruit and a piece of sausage) and the right picture is a continental breakfast (sweet potatoes, a steamed bun, a hardboiled egg and fried rice) at a nice Chinese hotel. 

For lunch I usually grab something small--like hard boiled tea eggs (below) soaked in soy sauce and tea--or peanut butter with fruit. 

Then I usually have another apple and peanut butter for a snack or fruit--like watermelon, berries or dates. 

Or I might try a weird fermented tofu flavored like beef 

For dinner I might cook something in my crockput--usually seasoned chicken breast and veggies 

Vegetables are very cheap here and you can find them anywhere. 

Or I will grab something quick from the supermarket--usually steamed stuffed buns or this "Chinese salad" which I have been obsessed with recently. 

You pick your vegetables, noodles or tofu of choice (all of which has been pre-cooked--Chinese people rarely eat raw veggies) and then they mix in salt, soy sauce, oil, peanuts and a peanut sauce

It's delicious

I usually eat it with kimchi, which is spicy fermented cabbage

For dessert I will eat a baked sweet potato, ice cream or more fruit

Once or twice a week I will go out to dinner with my colleagues at a Chinese restaurant. In China when you go out to eat, you order a bunch of communal dishes and share them. These are a few of the dishes we might order:

Tomato and egg stir fry--this is delicious--one of my favorite Chinese dishes (I stopped eating it so much after I realized how much sugar was in the recipe) 

Chinese broccoli or Bok choy cooked with garlic, soy sauce/oyster sauce, or ginger

Tofu cooked with soy sauce, chili powder, chilis and various other spices--this is a Sichuan speciality known as map dofu

Eggplant--if you order eggplant it is DELICIOUS. It is cooked in an oyster sauce and usually cooked with ginger, leeks and maybe cilantro. 

Warning: since eggplant is like a sponge, it soaks up all the oil it is cooked with, so it can be pretty unhealthy if stir-fried 

Kung Pao Chicken--this is piece of chicken cooked with oil, vinegar, ginger, 

peppers, chilis, peanuts and sometimes leeks and cilantro. This is a dish that many foreigners like because the chicken does not have any bones in it

Sweet and sour pork--a little bit similar to orange chicken. Made with vinegar and sugar

Cucumbers with garlic and vinegar sauce. This is one of my favorite cold dishes

Chinese Dumplings--these are a must eat (and learn how to make if living in China for a while). 
Dumplings are filled with vegetables, meat or eggs and can be steamed or fried. 

BBQ/lamb skewers--covered in a spicy chili-cumin powder these taste like crack and are extremely addicting. The Sichuan region also adds peppercorn to the spice mix--making it a "numbing" spice

All veggies and meats can be BBQed--and are served on skewers with this spice mix on them. Chinese "BBQ" is significantly different from USA "BBQ". 

Fried rice--a specialty in the city of Yangzhou--you can find fried rice almost anywhere. 

Crispy onion pancakes. These are in every grocery store and even better when made fresh on the street. 

Sweet and sour soup. Many Chinese people have soup at every meal and there are many different types of soup (bone broth soup, egg drop soup...) this is made with broth, vinegar, wine and white pepper

Wheat noodles, in a fried soybean sauce with minced pork. This stuff is good, but it is so filling. Wheat products and noodles are more common in the north (whereas rice is more common in the south)

Steamed sea bass. Anytime you order a fish it comes out like this. The face and eye is the most delicate meat so it is saved for the highest ranking person at the table. Steamed fish can be topped with a variety of spices, cilantro, or a chili concoction. 

Wonton Soup

Stewed pork belly. This was (supposedly) Chairman Mao's favorite dish. I have tried it once--it is basically pork meat layered in fat. 

Hot dogs are everywhere but they do not smell like American hot dogs--I don't think I will ever look at them the same. 

Chicken stir fry (no bones--this was a win)

Curry/Indian food

Korean bibimbap--vegetables, meat, egg and rice with a spicy red sauce 

Most salad here comes with thousand ranch dressing or mayonnaise so I generally avoid salads

Fried vegetables with chilis 

Fried quail eggs

Stewed Chicken feet

Sichuan hot pot--very spicy broth in which you boil/cook vegetables

Egg Tarts--a delicious desert  

Stir fried veggies

Airplane food

Make your own stir fry-- you mix vegetables and meat of you choice and then it is stir fried with a variety of sauces

Stir-fried cauliflower--whatever this is fried in it tastes amazing

Hand made muslim noodles with beef and potatoes 

Hot Pot

Korean BBQ

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