Sadly, despite my best laid plans, I lost no weight in China. Quite frankly, I probably put some on despite biking and lots of walking. I don’t eat pork and shellfish (only finfish for seafood actually) for religious reasons, so I figured between that and not being so adventurous I would eat less. Not so much because the food was amazing.
My favorite meal was a peanut soup in Xiamen from Huang Ze He Peanut Soup Shop. It was surprisingly good — warm, crunchy and delicious. I went here a few times for breakfast the five days I was in Xiamen.
They serve them with these pork buns (I pulled the pork out).
Dumplings are huge in China, especially in the Shanghai area. Most were pork, so I never got to taste them, but they looked amazing.
Did you know that 5 percent of Panama’s population is Chinese? About 150,000 people. I know this because I sat next to the head of their trade office at dinner one night in Xiamen.
What I couldn’t get enough of was the bowls of noodles. I could (and did) eat these every day. And even better? You can easily get seitan (wheat protein), And tofu is totally common there. Trena told me to adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I’m not sure what the base was. But, I figured this was good enough. I did have some very very good meals at Buddhist vegetarian restaurants in Xiamen.
I had about five business banquets to attend. Those, were really bad for me. Despite the language barrier, most of my dinner companions picked up on what I was and wasn’t eating and would start to tell the waitresses to bring me something else. It was mostly the shellfish I shied away from. I ended up eating a lot of bamboo shoots. A. Lot.
My favorite was when I sat at dinner and saw that they had me listed as ‘Muslim’. Not vegetarian. But, Muslim. At first I thought it was because there was no Chinese translation for vegetarian. But, there is. Not a problem really. But, they also didn’t serve me any wine!! You HAVE to have wine to get through business banquets my friends! I ended up drinking watermelon juice. Not bad. But, not wine.
And, that was a HUGE lesson for me. You drink ALL the time at Chinese banquets. You have a toast at the beginning of the meal. And, then, during the meal, you go around and people come around to you to give smaller personal toasts. I was warned about they clear white shots. But, I didn’t listen. I won’t lie. I spent a lot of mornings in a haze. The regular toast is “Gan Bei” which literally means ‘dry glass’. Dry glass and a sweaty brow I say.
No trip out of the country is complete without one trip to the local McDonalds. It’s always fun to see what they make differently. I’d also like to point out that everyone inside was skinny. Unlike a US McDonalds. And, they clear your table for you.
I actually had breakfast here a lot. I could get an egg McMuffin with no sausage and a hot cup of coffee for less than $5.
It was totally fun for us to go to restaurants and look at the menus. Between the English translations and the photos, there was always a good giggle or gag available.
A few fine examples:
At the first restaurant we ate at after landing in Shanghai, the guys next to us had the special.
Fancy, overpriced Mochi became my favorite treat in Xiamen. I think they are going to be the next cupcake or macaroon. These were $1 US each.
At one place in Xiamen, you picked your noodle / soup topping for about 8 RMB ($1.10) a bowl. There are a lot of things looking at you!