The Art of Food: Creating the Taste of Home in China

The Art of Food: Creating the Taste of Home in China
Jun 03, 2015 By GosiaSlavova

Chinese food is an art form popular all over the world, however, my perspective on Chinese food and food culture changed when I moved abroad to China.

A Foreign Take on Chinese Food

Before coming to China I had my favorite Chinese restaurants across Europe- from Amsterdam to Sofia. All were exotic, marked by two red lanterns at the gate. However, the restaurants in Europe offered the alternative silverware options to chopsticks and added local food to the menu like French fries, milk products, chicken drumsticks. They also altered dishes to local tastes and used cabbage or cucumber instead of young bamboo leaves.

In China, my experience with chopsticks helped me ease into the eating culture, sitting with my local colleagues and enjoying meals. But products like milk, cheese, salty items were totally missing from the Chinese table.

Missing Ingredients

In southern China, people like sweet foods, and northern Chinese prefer salty foods. I, however, have a strong European Mediterranean palate and searched for vain for salty items in my new south China home. Everything, even bread and sausages, came with a pinch of sugar.

Shanghai is a good place to find real Western food, but I could not always go to Shanghai from my Jiangsu province town. Cheese, cream, olive oil, and salty bread were simply missing from my first months’ table.

Finding the Taste of Home

But later, little by little, I found substitutes, like how Chinese restaurants in Europe use substitutes to scrap together meals. Soon, my salty bread became the baozi I obtained from the local traditional market called “Old Street.”

Cheese as I like it – Greek feta, was nowhere to find, so I asked any traveling friends to bring it to me from Europe. I learned how to produce sour milk, not the sweet vanilla yoghurt provided at local shops, but rather like the kind available in Japan, using a device obtained from Taobao.  Meat is still sometimes an issue. The meat is not as sweet when I prepare it myself, yet I can never rely on what is available at the market. There, most of the sausages are sweet.

However, food is also prepared different in China and in the West. In the West, meals are fried, boiled, and baked. In China meals are steamed, fried, and boiled. Baking is rather exotic.

I finally found some kind of grill that I use as an oven. Some of my Chinese colleagues came to observe it and were rather surprised at how I use it make food. They were also surprised when I showed them that I use a rice cooker to boil wheat or oats. What strange foreign methods!

However, in the end, food is a good bridge between cultures, and differences in taste and technique always makes for a good conversation. How do you recreate familiar dishes while living in China?

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Keywords: cooking in China food in China


All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.



I believe that every person who comes to a different country need to adjust and find new dishes and products to like. I also love Cheese and milk products and in my country and in China it took me a while to enjoy different things like baozi or mala tang. It was interesting to read this and to relate to your experiences with food in China.

Jun 09, 2015 12:13 Report Abuse



What a damn waste of a minute reading this.

Jun 05, 2015 16:31 Report Abuse



Some Chinese food is nice, most isnt fit for a dog i find. Great soups though.

Jun 04, 2015 01:36 Report Abuse



I am lucky on that one, within walking distance from my apartment I have Taste, Metro, Ole and a few dozens of smaller import shops. However I used to live in a third tier city and had Sunday expeditions trying to grab anything imported that I could.

Jun 03, 2015 19:12 Report Abuse



Why was my comment deleted?

Jun 03, 2015 14:20 Report Abuse



they are illiterate, intolerant, biased, superficial, paranoid, and have no sense of humor

Jun 03, 2015 15:54 Report Abuse



Echinacities has been taken over by the CCP. Any negative comments about China will be immediately deleted. This website is now only for rubbish articles about nothing and "top ten" lists. A forum without the right to an opinion is not a forum - it's a load of rubbish.

Jun 03, 2015 17:35 Report Abuse



Dirty CCP

Jun 04, 2015 01:35 Report Abuse



I am coming from the South , there still have a lot of dishes u should try

Jun 03, 2015 13:58 Report Abuse



in the south of China I found nothing I could stomach, except a few veggies. The Northeast had good meat dishes, mutton, street beef barbecue, sweet and sour pork

Jun 03, 2015 08:56 Report Abuse



Never been to the northwest but had a student from there who said the desert as amazing

Jun 03, 2015 13:15 Report Abuse



Same here, plus there's more wheat based stuff like the flatbreads in the north, the south is rice, rice and more rice

Jun 11, 2015 06:50 Report Abuse