Chinese food has been popular all around the globe. But what I have thought was Chinese food while back in Germany, cannot be compared to what real Chinese food in China looks and tastes like.
I have come to love many local dishes since I moved to Bozhou, Anhui. But even before moving here I enjoyed trying new dishes. Street foods can be adventurous at times but always worth trying! There are a few Chinese dishes; however, I never thought I will like to eat one day. Some of them come with odd names; some of them just don’t look that delicious…
Here are four dishes I have come to like over the years.
Preserved Eggs (pidan 皮蛋)
The first time I have ever sawn preserved eggs during a dinner in Beijing, I didn’t dare to try them. The eggs were almost black and looked like rotten once. It took a few years of living in China and trying more and more dishes that I have never seen before, to get the courage to try these eggs.
It turned out these eggs were eatable, even tasty. Who would have known? They not rotten, they are uncooked and covered in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.
Many traditional Chinese restaurants serve dishes made with preserved eggs. Soup cooked with preserved eggs and mustard leaves, minced pork congee with preserved egg (which can be found in KFC in China during breakfast time), and braised preserved eggs with tofu are the most popular ways of eating preserved eggs, called pidan doufu 皮蛋豆腐, which has become one of my favourite dishes.
Chicken feet (fengzhua 风爪)
Everyone has heard that Chinese eat chicken feet. But only when coming to China you realise how popular they actually are. Not only can you find them in any supermarket conveniently sold vacuum-packed as a snack, but also nearly every restaurant in China offers some kind of dish with chicken feet (also every time you order a whole chicken, you will always get its feet as well).
There’s not much meat in chicken feet. Since it’s mostly skin and tendons, it has a texture that’s quite different from your usual chicken filet. It’s often soaked in vinegar and fried or steamed.
They are worth trying, and if you get used to the structure once, some dishes are not that bad either.
Cold Skin Noodles (Liangpi 凉皮)
Liangpi or literally “cold skin noodles” is a noodle-like dish made from wheat or rice flour.
It is actually a specialty originating from the Shaanxi province, but it has now spread to many other places in China, in particular the northern and central regions.
When I first saw them being sold on the street, I wasn’t very convinced. Being used to normal noodles made from eggs, these rice flour noodles looked suspicious to me.
But my friends convinced me to try and I have never looked back. I love the traditional variation with cucumber and a sauce made of salt, vinegar, hot chili oil and sesame paste.
Crayfish (xiaolongxia 小龙虾)
These little freshwater crayfish, also known in Chinese as xiaolongxia or little lobsters , look a bit scary at first, but they taste amazing.
They are usually cooked with heavy seasoning and enjoyed with beer on a hot summer evening.
This seasoning can be a combination of herbs that include spices such as cinnamon, star anise, dried tangerine peel, Sichuan pepper, galang al and fennel among others. These spices are normally used in Chinese cuisineto flavor meat, and they are supposed to warm the stomach, countering the “chill” of seafood.
It is a lot of fun to sit together and eat Chinese crayfish. And trust me there is no need for politeness over crayfish. Digging in with your hands is the way to go.
There are still a lot of Chinese dishes I have yet to get used to. But China offers such a great variety of different food that it’s impossible to not find something you like to eat. But I always recommend everyone coming to China: Try something new! Even if at first glance it doesn’t look like something you are used to. You never know, you really might love it!
Have you ever tried some new Chinese dish which you thought would be horrible and it turned out to be delicious?
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