You’ve probably all heard horror stories of friends or family taking their first trip abroad to a country that might have less than American standards for food preparation, they may come away scarred and light one pair of pants in their suit case upon returning home. Yes it happens to all of us that travel around the world, even those with the strongest of intestinal fortitude have succumbed to the microscopic bacterium of some geographical area that their DNA can’t handle.
China is probably up there near the top of the list. Heck, when we were studying Mandarin as undergraduates there was an entire chapter discussing “la duzi” (diarrhea) and another chapter about “don’t drink the tap water”. I’m happy to say that restaurant standards all across China have greatly improved since I first visited and now I rarely get stomach issues unless I venture off into a back alley dive. The two best places in China in my opinion that will not turn you inside out would have to be Din Tai Fung and Element Fresh.
Din Tai Fung is a place that many in the states may already be aware of; it has chains in Seattle and Los Angeles as it does other places in Asia. This place originated in Taiwan and is based on the Shanghainese/Taiwanese soup dumpling style dim sum. You can find one in almost every major Chinese city and it provides an authentic enough Chinese food experience if you are travelling with first time business partners with weak stomachs. The soup dumpling is typically filled with pork or chicken coated with lard that forms a soup inside each dumpling as it steams. You take a small bite out of the dumpling skin and first drink the soup, followed by consumption of the rest of the dumpling. Don’t eat it all at once! This will burn your mouth for certain. Din Tai Fung is clean and accepts all major foreign credit cards, but is definitely pricier than local versions of the same cuisine.
Element Fresh is a new Chinese take on health food that has a variety of Chinese food and western style salads that can provide a refresher after days of traditional Chinese food. They also have a large line up of smoothies and fresh juices. Again, this place can be found in almost any major Chinese city and is an extremely clean establishment regarding food preparation. All major CCs are accepted at most locations.
By all means, have your adventurous eating for the first few days, but make sure you have no major events to attend the day after doing some local eateries. There are a plethora of places like the two I mentioned above, but they are definitely the two “ go to” places for most expats in China.
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