I hope you’re not hungry as you start reading this, because if you aren’t now you will be by the end! Every day last week I painstakingly took photos of every meal and it is clear now more than ever that being a food blogger is not in my future. This type of blog is one that I did in Honduras where I have to say the variety was not astounding. In China, it’s quite the opposite, there are always countless options to choose between. Add that to the fact that the names of Chinese dishes are notoriously complicated to understand and I end up just pointing to whatever picture on the menu looks good! (Because of this I sometimes I don’t know exactly what I’m eating so you’ll just have to put up with the best explanations I can come up with!)
I get my breakfast and dinner included in my rent so my host mum cooks it for me and then I eat lunch out with my friends after we finish uni. Meal times run pretty early here as a rule – I eat breakfast sometime between 6.45am and 7.15am, lunch is straight after we get out off class so around 12pm, and dinner can be any time between 4.30pm and 6pm.
A note before we start, anyone that has known me over the past few years, essentially since I cam back from Honduras, will know that I was vegetarian for about 18 months before coming to China. I made the decision not to continue this while in China for two reasons. First of all, for ease. Seeing as I’m living with a host family I thought it would be easier to be able to eat whatever was put in front of me. Second, more selfishly, I wanted to be able to try some of the more outlandish foods here, like pigs ear and donkey meat, both of which I’ve eaten while here!
Breakfast – there’s not actually a picture of this meal because I only decided to do this blog after we’d eaten. Breakfast was chicken nuggets, roast potatoes, ketchup, some kind of greens, fake salami sausage thing, half a sweet potato, rice and a kiwi to finish. Often there is far too much food for me and today I didn’t eat the sweet potato or kiwi and there were tons of nuggets and potatoes.
I always take a flask with coffee granules to class where I fill it up because there’s a hot water machine. A common occurrence in China is drinking hot water which I’ve gotten used to a bit but I’m not a massive fan of so I substitute with coffee!
Lunch – Today I went to one of my favourite places to eat lunch. We eat this wrap pretty much every week (鸡肉卷饼). It consists of a crepe-like wrap with egg cooked into the outside, a spicy sauce of some kind, lots of potatoe noodles, lettuce, breaded chicken fingers, mayo and coriander. I top with chilli oil, sesame sauce and sesame seeds. As you can see it’s a hefty wrap so it really fills you up and they actually give you a plastic glove to eat it with!
Dinner – Dinner was a broth with transparent noodles, some greens (I can never tell the difference between any greens), tofu skin, ducks blood (not as bad as it sounds) and what might have been some kind of offal. I also had a flaky pastry filled with red bean paste, a large bao bun which is fluffy and bread like, and a small bowl of apple slices.
Breakfast – Rice is the usual staple food of all my meals at home and this morning it was accompanied by some sausages, a boiled egg, broccoli and some apple slices.
My stomach was feeling a little unsettled today so I didn’t actually have lunch but had some tea while working in my favourite coffee shop on campus. Once my stomach settled down I tentatively had a portion of chips, a rare western treat for myself and then a sandwich on my way home from uni.
Dinner – I really enjoyed this meal, it was boiled potatoes, greens, red pepper, delicious mince, and some aubergine hidden beneath it all. It was accompanied by a thick savoury crepe and congee which is a popular rice porridge in Asia. It doesn’t really taste of anything but I quite like it.
Breakfast – More sausages today on a different kind of savoury pancake from last night, with lettuce and potato and red pepper topping. I put them all together to make a yummy wrap.
Lunch – My favourite, self service hot pot! You get given your own little pot with a broth – spicy if you want – and get to pick whatever you want from the assorted ingredients. My favourites are pak choi, enoki mushrooms (the long skinny stalks), some noodles and basically any form of tofu I can get my hands on! In the little bowl is a sesame dipping sauce that you get to personalise with peanuts, coriander, chillis, garlic, spring onions and any number of sauces and pastes that are available.
Dinner – Dinner tonight was rice, this nice sausage and broccoli mix, enoki mushrooms and bitter melon (I think, it looked a lot like cucumber but it definitely wasn’t) soaked in Chinese vinegar. Also not pictured were the chicken nuggets that came out after! (And also the rice.)
Breakfast – Some great fried rice that had egg, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and ham mixed through. On the little plate on the side is some kimchi but I’m not sure what’s in the little bowl.
Lunch – For lunch some friends and I went to a restaurant where we pick a few dishes to share between us. In the picture below there is mala tofu (麻辣豆腐) which is a strong favourite of mine.The other dish is 地三鲜 (di san xian), a dish consisting of stir fried potato, aubergine and green pepper that is really popular in the north east of China (and with me!). We also got a plate of sweet and sour pineapple chicken but it took longer than the others to come so missed the picture. You also get a bowl of rice with the meal that you can refill.
Dinner – A bit of a change for dinner today, we had potato, carrot and pork curry with rice with broccoli and ham wrapped enoki mushrooms on the side.
Breakfast – this morning there were fried eggs, these ridiculous looking sausages (that were actually quite nice), rice and a cabbage and red pepper stir fry mix.
Lunch – a new favourite meal of mine is ma la tang (麻辣烫). As you can see from the picture, you get a bowl and a pair of tongs and can go to town on the wide selection of ingredients there are on offer – vegetables, noodles, meat, tofu, eggs and more. You give your bowl in at the till, they weigh it which determines the price and you can decide on your broth flavour, whether you want it spicy or not.
My bowl had some noodles, mushrooms, various types of tofu and beancurd, slices of duck, salami, bak choi and other greens in a spicy broth and topped with cilantro, spring onions and chillis. It’s very warming and going to be great as the weather starts to get much colder!
Dinner – a nice broth with mushrooms, spinach and bitter melon and on the side some dense bao buns and lots of sausage. In what I though was a stroke of inspiration, I split open the buns, added some ketchup and made some sausages sandwiches!
Breakfast – I went hiking this morning so this was an excellent breakfast to get going with. There was a hefty chicken wing, rice with crispy peanuts, boiled greens on the side and a nice salad. In the little bowl there are sugared peanuts – a weird addition but I love them!
Lunch – as I said, I went hiking this morning with my Chinese friend and she took me to eat ma la ban (麻辣拌). It’s similar to ma la tang but without the soup aspect. The contents of my bowl are pretty similar to what I had in my ma la tang but while I usually stay away from the array of mystery meats, I tried a few today after my friend told me which ones were good.
Dinner – dumplings! You can never go wrong. These were filled with meat and eaten with a soy sauce and garlic dip. A classic.
Breakfast – I had a lie in today so breakfast had been left for me but that was fine because it was a salad, with boiled egg and tomatoes (I don’t know what the white stuff was). There were also some chicken strips and sausages.
Dinner – last meal! Rice, of course, cabbage and pork, sweet potato and some buns. Sweet potatoes are my favourite, and they’re lovely and soft here though I got some weird looks the first time I started eating the skin and haven’t done that again. There we go!
This week’s food actually ended up being quite different from some of the things that I usually have to eat, at least for breakfast and dinner. If you found this interesting, let me know and it’s something I might do it again later in the year to show even more of the variety in food here!