As intrepid world travellers, we're all used to things being different – different languages, different cultures, different bathrooms, and perhaps most prominently, different food. Yet while we may love and adore Chinese food (I know I do), we may also be shocked at how much we miss Western food. Restaurants have popped up across China catering to those looking for a taste of home (pun intended), but non-McDonalds or KFC western food (aka "real" western food – most people rarely eat at either chain back home) doesn't come cheap. At most establishments, a dinner for two will put you back well over 100 RMB, especially if you treat yourself to more than just a main course – a price that even we expats can't pay regularly. What's worse is that Chinese kitchens typically lack features (hello oven!) that are considered absolutely essential for cooking western food.
However, there is hope! While the materials for making western food are also a bit pricier than their Chinese counterparts, a few tips and tricks can make regular tastes of home fit into even a strict budget, whether you are saving up for more travels or beer takes a hefty chunk out of your pay. To find out exactly how inexpensive home cooked western food could be, this novice chef embarked on a quest to cook nothing but western meals for a week. Below is a list of five full days of western food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with meal prices averaging at 6.5 RMB. Granted, most people won't eat nothing but western food for a week (why would you unless its research?), but it is an example of how affordable a trip home through your kitchen can be. Best of all, all of these meals were prepared using only the materials you'll find in a normal Chinese kitchen – wok, soup pot, cutting board, and average kitchen utensils. Thus, whether you only cook once a month or are still deciding if you're going to live in China for one year or ten, you won't have to shell out several hundred to a thousand RMB or more to get a toaster oven, blender, or other kitchen equipment you may rarely use or eventually abandon.
The Menu (meals for one diner and expect leftovers):
Total: 99.8 RMB per person (with leftovers!)
Tips to Make Life Cheaper and Easier:
Fresh produce vendors abound in China. Go for a walk around your neighburhood to find the best one. It may smell a little strange (thanks to the large variety of meat and produce available) but shouldn't stink – that's a warning sign that they might sell bad or borderline produce. Obviously, avoid places with a lot of flies. If you buy meat here, look for cuts that aren't slightly dark and dried along the edges, which means they've been sitting out for a while. Prices are typically similar so find someone friendly to buy from. It’s a great opportunity to practice Chinese (whether you're a beginner or already fluent) and, as an added bonus, they might throw in stuff for free.
Often the place with the best cheese selection is also more expensive when it comes to basics – flour, pasta, milk, etc. If you have several supermarkets near you, you may find that it’s best to get cheese and butter at one, but everything else at another.
They cost anywhere from one to 10 RMB and can be used to toast bread, roast green chilies, heat up pre-made tortillas and crepes, etc.
If you don't want to buy a scale and can't find measuring cups (like me), make your own. A coffee cup 12 centimeters in height and diameter is exactly one cup as listed in recipes. Measure and mark where ¼ cup, 1/3 cup and so forth, would be. Keeping the right ratio between all ingredients is more important than having exactly the right amount, and the cup system is cheaper and easier than weighing everything.
Recipes (one from each meal):
1) Breakfast: Crepes with yogurt and fresh fruit
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
A pinch of salt
Yogurt (preferably the thicker kind)
Strawberries and Bananas, or your favorite fruit cut into pieces
2) Lunch: Grilled vegetable sandwich
Four slices bread (toasted if preferred)
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons finely shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
3) Dinner: Green chile enchiladas
For Pico de Gallo (or Salsa Fresca)
1 red pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 spring cilantro
1 cup warm water
3 cups flour
1/3 cup oil
For Green Chile Sauce:
4-5 green chiles
3 tablespoons butter
2 green onions, diced, or ½ red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups chicken stock
A pinch of cumin powder
Szechuan seasoning or chili powder, to taste
For Enchilada filling:
300 grammes or two cups of meat (Chicken, beef, or pork)
1 green bell pepper
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
There are two ways to finish the enchiladas off. Option number 1: Roll the filling in a warm tortilla, put on a plate, and top with the sauce, pico de gallo and some shredded cheese. Option number 2: Transfer most of the enchilada sauce to a bowl, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the soup pot. Put down a layer of tortilla and then a layer of filling. Pour some enchilada sauce in between and put in the rest of the filling. Top with another layer of tortilla and cover it with the rest of the green chile sauce – it should completely cover the tortillas (make sure all ingredients are warm when you do this). Sprinkle with a layer of cheese and simmer with the cover on for 5 to 10 minutes. Top with pico de gallo and serve!
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Keywords: western food 100 RMB China western food recipes China Week of western food China
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I don't get why so many people on this blog are so gratuitously nasty in their comments. Where are you from anyway? What do you think is so great about your food? Everyone has their own taste in food, and it's obvious the author put a lot of work and thought into this post. Much more than you did into that comment. So stop being a jerk.
Dec 29, 2011 01:20 Report Abuse