When in China don’t hesitate to dine out, as you can find decent, affordable restaurants. Avoid the tourist packed places and choose, instead, a local, welcoming restaurant. These can be easily recognized by the hanging lanterns outside the place.
There are two good ways to choose the restaurant: by other people’s recommendation or by how busy they are.
Prepare yourself with patience, as menus are only in Chinese and the staff doesn’t speak English, so you need to do some research before. You should no a word or two in Mandarin or Putonghua, as it is called or have a conversation manual with you. Don’t worry about booking in advance, unless you are a group of many. Avoid being set in a separate room, so you can have a full sense of the atmosphere in a Chinese restaurant. Besides, a side room does cost extra. You can go for this option, however, if you feel that the main room is too smoky. Still, this doesn’t happen much any more.
The staff is well organized and each has its responsibilities: taking your coat, pouring tea, delivering utensils or waiting to take your order. You just need to relax and have a peak at the others, what they are ordering and enjoying.
For the beginning, try the safe options, but don’t be afraid to experiment something new. Don’t forget about the balance Chinese food is all about: meat and vegetables, colour, taste and texture.
The most important ingredient of Chinese food is the talking. This is why eating out is so enjoyable in China. Start talking about the food, if nothing else comes to your mind. Each dish hides behind interesting and intriguing stories. You can write down the name of a dish you are interested in and find out later any facts that are worth paying attention to. This is also a very good way to learn some Chinese and more about the Chinese food.
Photo credit: paper or plastic? on Flickr