The WildChina Twitter Live Q+A question series is a collection of five questions either posed or inspired by WildChina’s Twitter Live Q+A session on Wednesday, November 11. If you have questions about China Travel, follow @WildChina on Twitter and tweet us your query. We are always happy to help!
This question was inspired by a series of posts by @qimomar4 regarding the unsavory effects of unsanitary food in China.
Chinese cuisine in China is – for the most part – delicious, cheap and accessible. Oftentimes, the tastiest meals and best culinary delights can be found in no-name, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. However, there is a fine line between eating establishments that are charmingly basic, and those that are simply dirty. How, then, does a traveler discern between a delicous “homestyle” meal and an unsanitary one before his stomach (unfortunately) does?
In order to eat well and cheaply in China while avoiding sickness, follow these three simple rules:
1) Avoid street food. It’s tempting because of the novelty and excitement that comes with such an experience. Besides, boasting of your adventures with fried scorpions and that strange meat on a stick always provides for a good story once you have returned home. But, be warned: as a tourist in China, your stomach is most likely not accustomed to the lower level of hygiene here; in fact, even long-term residents of China often are made sick by roadside vendors’ goods as well. If you must try everything at Beijing’s Wangfujing snack street, or pick up treats on a corner in a remote village, carry plenty of your preferred stomach medications with you.
2) Check: is your Hot Pot hot? Hot Pot is one of the most enjoyable dining experiences in China, as it is interactive, social, and provides infinite culinary possibilities with a bevy of broths, vegetables, and meats. Don’t let the excitement of the hot pot experience distract you from the point of it, though: Hot Pot is made to make your food hot – and thoroughly cooked. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions: is this meat cooked through? Are these vegetables still raw? Is the oil/water/broth in the pot hot enough? Pass on the opportunity if your ingredients don’t seem fresh.
3) Crowded restaurants = clean restaurants. Are you knocking elbows with your neighbors at dinner? Is someone yelling fuwuyuan (waiter) in your ear? Are you still waiting for the chopsticks that you asked for 10 minutes ago? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should be thrilled. While crowded restaurants are sometimes a bothersome aspect of travel and life in China, the swarms of people are telling regarding an eating establishment’s sanitary record. In addition to indicating the popularity of a restaurant, this also means that food turnover is high – nothing is sitting around for long before arriving at diners’ tables. The restaurant across the street may have impeccable decor, but it is not necessarily any cleaner than the small jiaozi (boiled dumpling) joint across the street. Use your discretion when choosing where to dine, and solicit locals’ opinions if/when you can.
Photo credit: To Taiwan and Back Again