One of the most amazing things about Chinese culture is the food. With a vast array of flavours, fresh ingredients, and 8 different cuisines to choose from, there is a plethora of new and exciting foods to try on every street corner, and it’s extremely well priced. After spending the summer months in pricy Europe, we were over the moon to be somewhere where we could splash out on food and not go over our frugal daily budget of £30 per day. Yippee!
On a hot and sweaty slog up the Yellow Mountains in the Anhui Province, we were incredibly lucky to share the ascent with a friendly Chinese student, who’s major was English. She started talking to us in a perfect Home Counties accent. After 5 hours of walking and talking, we were invited to visit Changsha the home of her University for some dinner and an evening tour of the city.
Less than a week later, we made our way to the city and met up with Maybe, our Yellow Mountain friend. When we asked why her English name was Maybe, she embarrassingly said that she had heard the song ‘Call me maybe?’ some time ago and thought that it was a girls name! We thought this was pretty hilarious and quite endearing, so now she is known to us and all foreigners as Maybe. We were taken out for some local food at one of the best places in town, our new friend ordered far more dishes than we could possibly finish and insisted on paying the bill. Usually when we go to local restaurants we struggle to read what’s on the menu (because it’s in Chinese) and end up ordering similar things using google translate, ie noodles or fried rice, so this was a really exciting prospect for us having a local order everything! Maybe was really excited too and wanted us to try all her favourite foods and popular Chinese dishes, so we ended trying lots of new foods that evening. These are all the bits that we tried....
Frog stew - it actually tastes a lot like chicken! We would recommend ordering.
Fried Duck feet in chilli sauce - Mark loved these, but Ali wasn’t so keen what with the small bones in the feet. It’s just like a crunchy fried crisp really, served with chillies and spring onion.
Melon with radish - this didn’t taste sweet at all, it was more of a savoury salad dish. Very nice!
Wide noodles with cured vegetable paste - a really simple dish but delicious! The vegetable paste was as rich as a cured meat and it was incredibly tasty.
Lotus root slices - this had a lovely crunchy texture as it was only lightly cooked.
Fried squid with chilli - we liked how they had scored the squid for extra texture.
Egg and tomato - apparently a Chinese classic dish, this combination is like bread and butter to us. I can’t believe we didn’t know about it! This is one of the first things Chinese youngsters get taught how to cook at school.
As if this wasn’t enough food, after leaving the restaurant we were taken to explore the hutong, local alleyways, that run through the city where Maybe was in search of some speciality desserts for us to try. Full to the brim but wanting to try more, we munched our way through these sweet treats....
Fried flour balls in syrup - these were deliciously sweet dough balls and come served on a stick
Pineapple and salted peach soaked in leaves - this was quite a strange pudding because the fruit was heavily salted and the leaves gave it a strange flavour. Not sure we would go for this one again!
Stinky fruit (durian) - vendors chop us this giant tropical fruit on the streets and package in small trays. We had never heard of this but the fruit is actually delicious and not as stinky as it sounds.
Sexy tea - this is really popular in Changsha and is milk tea or green tea with nuts and cream. Not sure why it’s called sexy tea though! This is a really delicious hot drink.
After all of this food, we were ready to explode! With thanks to our incredibly generous host Maybe, we were able to try all of these new foods in just one day. We hope to inspire you to try some new foods on your travels, even if it is a bit weird go for it because you might be pleasantly surprised.
What we didn’t try was stinky tofu, because to be perfectly honest it smells like crap and apparently doesn’t taste much better! Maybe next time stinky tofu....
Are there any amazing foods you've tried in China? We would love to hear your stories and sample some on our next visit.
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