By Matthew Yglesias
I was in China recently, and any trip to China should come with a post about Chinese food. Or “food,” as the Chinese call it.
This was a working trip with a group of journalists, so for most meals we were doing discussion events at hotel and such and I didn’t necessarily get to explore recommended places to the extent that would have been ideal. We also just didn’t go to the parts of China (in the South and around Sichuan) that have the cuisines that I’ve enjoyed the most here in America. That said, I absolutely loved the following things:
— The shark fin soup at the Chinese restaurant in the Yindu Hotel in Yiwu is delicious, and the brisket they serve there is the best I’ve ever had. It sort of approximates the traditional pairing of matzoh ball soup and brisket for passover, but it’s much better.
— Wonderful spicy noodle soup upstairs at the Number One Food Store in Shanghai.
— There’s a chain of hot pot places called Xiabu Xiabu and Ezra and I went to one outlet in Dalian. The staff didn’t speak any English and the menu was all in Chinese, but we were able to hash out an agreement to be brought 100 yuan worth of food randomly selected by the staff. Some of the stuff they brought was bad, but some was excellent and the overall experience was a blast. Two people could easily feed themselves on less money than that if they actually knew how to order.
— Last but the reverse of least, Roast Fish Legend in Beijing has the best roasted fishes I’ve ever had. You pick a fish, pick a sauce to go with the fish, and pick a vegetables to be served with the fish and sauce. Then the staff goes into the back, and brings your fish to the table live for inspection. Then they go back, kill, gut, and roast the thing, and serve it to you. If you like spicy Szechuan food, you’ll love the sauce with chilis and Szechuan peppercorns. And if you like fish at all on any level, you’ll want to eat the black bean sauce. It’s largely composed of a scallion/bell pepper/celery kind of mirepoix with of course black beans as well. We had it served over bok choy (which you’ll generally find called “cabbage” on English-language Chinese menus). I can’t find an address for this place, but we found it by trying to go to Fu Ku which had been recommended to us but was closed. Roast Fish Legend is next door.
— More generally, including a dim sum option at your random hotel breakfast buffets improves them by about 250 percent.
The big frustration for me of eating in China is that Diet Coke is not very widely available even though regular Coke is everywhere. At one point I realized that rather than getting aggravated about this, I should just suck it up and go to McDonald’s but even there they had no Diet Coke. So the world isn’t quite flat yet.