The highlight of living in China’s capital was feasting on the scrumptious food! Italy may have amazing selections of pastas, France may have aromatic bread, the Netherlands may have amazing variety of cheese, but China has nothing in comparison. Chinese food is Chinese food is Chinese food is Chinese food. Simple and plain.
Canteen life (or as we would say in the States, the cafeteria) is completely different than in America. Here at Tsinghua, you will not find thin slices of rubbery pizza, tiny hamburgers with fake cheese, or even a salad bar. You will go to the Zijing canteen to feast on a piping hot bowl of peanut noodles, or dumplings.
In China, food is sometimes like ordering food blind. I have no idea what a station is selling (unless I become really fluent in Chinese, or else, I end up reading words translated to “small dish” in Chinese), so, going to check on each station is usually how I have found food.
Other than canteen food, there are a few dishes you need to try if you ever come to China!
1. Peking duck. Peking duck is Beijing Kaoya （北京烤鸭）. It absolutely a necessary when traveling to the capital of China. For some, it is the highlight of a food trek throughout Asia. Most restaurants serve Peking duck by carving the whole animal in front you, since it has been cooked. The skin is crispy and thick, salty and savory, and inside is piping hot silky tenderness. The duck is usually gamey in taste and served with a pancake-like dough, onion and cucumber.
2. Jianbing Jianbing（煎饼）is the optimal breakfast meal for me. It is essentially an egg crepe. Typically eaten for breakfast, jianbing is also famous food throughout the day because it is cheap, affordable, and delicious. Usually it is a dough made of wheat or buckwheat, topped with the swirl of an egg, and fried wonton with some veggies like lettuce as the last ingredient. It’s the kind of food that is closest to “home” in Beijing.
3. Jaozi (is simply a dumpling. Before coming to Tsinghua I used to live in an apartment directly across from Beijing’s most famous dumpling restaurants, Baoyuan dumplings. Constantly frequented by foreigners and locals, Boayuan dumplings are the alpha of Beijing dumplings that come in many different colors like green, purple, or red. In Beijing dumpling are produced all around in restaurants. My favorite type of jaozi are minced lamb with scallions and cilantro. Amazing!
Other than the few I’ve mentioned above, China is filled with tasty foods. And thankfully, if you ever become tired of local cuisine, there are many restaurants that cater towards western palates include Pyros, Lush, and Q-Mex. All these restaurants sell Western style food and/or Tex-Mex. Of course, the food I truly miss the most are fresh vegetables and fruits. Most vegetables are food in a thick sauce with eaten with rice. I have realized I began to truly is the taste of a fresh salad with arugula and radishes, topped with olive oil or the occasional blue cheese dressing. As much as I love Chinese food, sometimes I would love to eat Western foods like salad, pasta, and even my favorite, key lime pie.