Each region specialises in its own type of cuisine. In Xu Zhou, in the eastern part of South China, it’s spicy hot and dog is seen as a delicacy. Street stalls with dog carcasses with cooked meat on them abound in the city centre. Pick up a few bits and have them for dinner, or breakfast, or whenever.
The Spice of Variety
Yes, the food can seem samey from meal to meal but there are so many novel ways to attain it. Roadside stalls where they cook it in front of your eyes. A hundred different types of restaurant and café establishments. They’re not too big on franchises in this part of China. A café place where you choose what you want from a series of refrigerated shelves, they throw it in some seasoned soup for you and leave you and your chop sticks to do the rest.
The food is ridiculously cheap though, for 10 yuan or less (one pound or 60 US cents) you can get pumpkin soup and dumplings filled with brown rice – a meal so filling you don’t need to eat again till the next day, if you can manage to finish it all.
Weird and Wonderful
The supermarkets have great produce. Weird and wonderful looking fruit, veg and spices, shrink-wrapped meat in presentational boxes. Fake milk, fake honey, fake meat, fake cheese. Snake oil hand cream. Cucumber flavoured crisps. Little Tomato flavoured crisps, fake maltesers.
REAL Snickers bars.
Margarine and butter and cheese are fairly new to China. Breads which look like Western breads but are full of sugar so taste more like cake than bread. Purple ice-cream made from Lavender.
Pastries and cakes which are works of art, they’re mostly whipped cream with very little sponge. Pizzas with what looks like brown crispy leaves on the top. Black shiny bread rolls with what looks like orange grated cheese coming out of it. Red pea tea. Green tea cake. Grapefruit and brown rice tea.
I hear the bigger cities have wider, more western based food choices, but for now (Sept 2012-January 2013), this, for me, is it and I’m enjoying the contrast tremendously.