A Foreigner’s Guide To Food In China

Feb 27, 2016 | Blog

Foreigners' Guide to Chinese Food | Chinese Summer Camp Blog

Throughout China’s long history, food has always played a central role in Chinese culture. This is because food has a special meaning for Chinese people as it is a chance to share happy and important times together. Not only this but the “waste not, want not” ethos means that a surprising range of plants and animals, as well as every part of these plants or animals, are used. This has created remarkably diverse dishes throughout China’s regions. For Westerners the experience of eating in China is multifaceted: it can be delicious, surprising, or even sometimes horrifying and overwhelming!

So where can you try the most fabulous Chinese dishes? How can you ensure you get what you want? Thanks to the ever-expanding app world we may just have the answer. Here is the low-down of two important apps you should definitely think about using in China:


App 1. 大众点评

Now here’s an app that will certainly help if you are new in town. Dianping/点评 has to be one of the most extensive and comprehensive directories of restaurants in China.

So how does it work?

This mobile app is not only user-friendly but it also uses your phone’s GPS function to highlight recommended eateries in the area. It also shows you restaurants’ contact information and provides maps to help you find them. What could be simpler?

Although the app is Chinese-only do not panic! The app’s bright and colorful icons and simple interface make it simple enough to use even if you’re illiterate in Mandarin. Those with some understanding of those confusing Chinese characters (well done you), will be able to use the ‘search by cuisine’ function – Sichuan, Yunnan, Cantonese 都可以!

It also shows a star rating for the restaurant, helping you to avoid a dining disaster. The app is free to use on just about any system and automatically switches to a localized network as you travel around the country.

So wherever you are in China be sure to check this app out and you will be dining in style in no time at all!


App 2. 我有饭

This app is slightly different as it not only provides information on delicious cuisine but provides an interesting dining experience. Here’s why…

When Come Dine with Me first aired in the UK in 2005, it revealed a whole new dining experience. Suddenly it was possible for the ‘average Joe’ to share his culinary creations with other foodies all over the country. So, as well as allowing a variety of people to host an evening that involved making their ‘tried and tested version of a slap-up meal and providing (at times questionable) entertainment, this show raised some interesting sociological questions. Predominantly it called into question whether four or five perfect strangers can meet and get along if food is involved. So what happens when you add a mobile app into the mix so as to put this theory into practice?

So how does it work?

28-year-old entrepreneur Zhang Feng’s app has merged a Come Dine with Me experience and the importance of food culture. His app allows foodies to open their homes to host a meal and meet new friends. So if while browsing the app, you like the look of the food someone’s planning to rustle up, you could end up being invited to their home for a meal.

Feng has also thought about health and safety standards when creating this app. Most of the hosts have an open kitchen setup. Guests can actually see the food being made directly in front of them which definitely adds to the whole experience whilst making sure the kitchen is clean! There is also a review system; if the hosts/you receive poor reviews then they/you can no longer be a host! The hosts can also invite anywhere between 4 and 8 guests for the meal, and prices range from 100 to 1000 yuan per person. The prices are decided by the hosts themselves. Feng has taken the idea of Come Dine with Me one step further. There is no cash prize involved, no TV set, just foodies from all over the world uniting over food!

How do I pronounce some of China’s best dishes?

For some tourists, the lack of pinyin on some menus at Chinese restaurants can stir up frustration especially when hungry! Make sure you learn how to say some dishes to help you get started. Here are some examples of famous Chinese dishes:

Sweet and Sour Pork: 糖醋里脊 / Táng cù lǐjí

Kung Pao Chicken: 宫保鸡丁/ Gōng bǎo jī dīng

Ma Po Tofu: 麻婆豆腐 / Má pó dòufu

Dumplings: 饺子 / Jiǎozi

Peking Roasted Duck: 北京烤鸭 / Běijīng kǎoyā

Spring Rolls: 春卷 / Chūnjuǎn

To all you foodies out there – Happy eating!

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