When I came to China I had no preconceptions about food or eating – my mother had always cooked with a fusion of different cooking styles in our family home cooking and so I was already quite used to eating a variety of spicy dishes, (la jiao- spicy, chilli pepper) (pronounced la jow) tofu, brown rice and all manner of international ‘exotic’ dishes.
Tip 1. MSG is everywhere in China and how to avoid it?
One thing that struck me during my first few months was the popularity of the widely used ‘wèi jīng‘(味精); pronounced ‘way jing’, known in the west as monosodium glutamate or ‘msg’.
Now of course in the west msg is generally shunned – some people are adversely affected by it and others apparently not. I prefer not to consume it and so I would ask whenever eating out: “no ‘way jing‘” or ‘bu yao way jin‘ (不要味精)(prounced bu yao way jin)
But of course, my total mispronunciation of the four tones in Chinese at this point was very evident, and the restaurateur or street food vendor would look at me like I’d gone insane. Some of them would shake their heads and point me in the direction of the nearest clothing store!
I couldn’t figure out why until some months later when a friend told me I was telling people not to put a scarf (围巾 wei-jin) in my ‘mi fen’ or whatever it was I was ordering to eat..
Pic credit resource: https://dictionary.writtenchinese.com/worddetail/weijing/14814/3/2
Tip 2. Is Chinese food really healthy?
One of the biggest differences between Chinese and western cooking is that because there is not so much deep-frying, oven roasting or baking involved in the Chinese home cooking process, generally, Chinese cooking is healthier..
Instead of baking, even for the final touch after boiling, stir-frying or simmering, and most of the time Chinese people will either stir-fry to fully cooked, or they’ll put into a steamer to proceed.