I’m guessing most of you have never showed up in a Chinese restaurant in the States (or wherever else you might be) and tried ordering anything that wasn’t on the menu. Today I want to share with you a few authentic dishes that any Chinese cook should be able to whip up, even if it’s not on the menu. (I discovered that some restaurants even have completely separate menus for Chinese people.)
In Order From Safe to Adventurous
Egg & Tomato (西红柿炒蛋 xi hong shi chao dan) This simple dish is pretty much what it sounds like, just scrambled eggs and some tomato slices. It’s a dish that I have found on every menu in China. Apparently the tomato only recently became popular (last 20 years or so) in China, and this is one of their favorite ways to enjoy it.
Pork Threads in Beijing Sauce (京酱肉丝 jing jiang rou si) First thing to clear up, pork threads is a direct translation, it just means very thin pieces of meat. The Beijing sauce is similar to what you would dip roast duck into, slightly sweet and salty. Usually the meat is stir-fried with some onions. When I have foreign guests in China, I usually order this one, and there have never been complaints.
Fish Smelling Pork Threads (鱼香肉丝 yu xiang rou si) I know what you’re thinking, and I assure you, it tastes and smells nothing like fish. This one tends to be a bit spicy, and the recipe can vary widely. Typically it’s pork threads, a special kind of mushroom, and some green peppers. I like it, my wife doesn’t, but it’s something authentic. Fish smelling egg plant (鱼香茄子 yu xiang qie zi) is a great vegetarian choice, and is one of our favorite dishes.
Boiled Beef Slices (水煮牛肉 shui zhu niu rou) This one might take a little hunting, and a big glass of water. The name fails to inform you that this is more or less beef floating in a dark red (very spicy) soup. It is one of the trademark dishes of Sichuan, and Sichuan is considered the flavor capital of China. A good Chinese restaurant should be able to prepare this, and if they ask tell them you aren’t afraid of spicy (我不怕吃辣 wo bu pa chi la).
Good luck to all of you, and if it at first they claim they can’t cook these, just tell them you’ve been to China and miss the food. The rest of this blog should help you fake it if they ask any follow up questions.