Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Big Update: Food

So I'm well aware this is on everybody's mind, especially after my meals with Frank.

In this post, I'll address many of the different types of food available in Guangzhou (and, presumably, other urban Chinese cities).

Zac and Josh's strategy our first few days:

Order something random from the menu of the place by the hotel called "Hua Hui" (Hwah-hway) which means "Rice Roll." By this I mean we'd literally just point to something on the menu, staying within a certain price range to ensure a decent amount of food.

The prices were consistent with local lunch-type restaurants for noodles, rice, etc: you can get away with a good meal for anywhere from 6-7 yuan (~$1) to maybe 20 yuan at most (~$3).

I showed this picture to Frank who told me it was bacon with a hard boiled egg. The egg is brown on the outside because it is boiled in tea, not just water! Cool! The bacon was awful on the fatty parts and fantastic on the meaty parts. Additionally, the vegetables you see are served with just about every dish I have ordered here so far! I think it is bok choi?

 Interior of Hua Hui, with Josh in the foreground (I am not sure how he keeps getting into my pictures all the time, and Zac somehow keeps avoiding it).

Another result of our "point-to-order" strategy: fried rice with mystery meat. It was delicious.


They are all over the place. It is absolute corporate brilliance with their market saturation: many locations, many of which are open 24 hours, key locations (metro stations, high traffic areas), relatively low prices, along with clean and modern restrooms available to the public. They also advertise everywhere. Essentially, McDonald's has found its way into society here much like it has in the US, maybe even more successfully. Every one I have seen is absolutely packed with locals eating there during lunch time; much less so at other times.

The set up of these restaurants is extremely similar to those of the West, and the employees even speak limited English (enough to order without any problems).

Look familiar? Well, except for the super-happy dude in the middle...he seems thrilled at my meal choice...

The cost of the Big Mac meal you see above is 17.50 yuan ($2.56) if you get it between 11-2 PM, and 22.50 ($3.29) any other time. This is actually a little expensive for here, but considering you get a full meal (relatively), including a soda, it's a decent deal.

 You can kind of figure out the sequence of events by viewing this picture: 1) Tim orders ice cream. 2) Tim tries ice cream. 3) Tim loves ice cream so much, he decides to take a picture.

The McDonald's ice cream is soft serve on a cone and it is fantastic. I got this one for 6 yuan (< $1), and another one yesterday for 5 yuan from another location. You can get them in a few different other flavors, with vanilla being the base flavor. The other option is to get a smaller ice cream for 2.50 yuan (< $0.40) that is just vanilla.


I don't really have any pictures of a KFC, but they're a little less common than McDonald's. I'd almost consider them to be the little brother of McDonald's as far as the Chinese market is concerned. Even the food on their menu is pretty similar, with some KFC variations (fried chicken, of course). To be honest, KFC isn't really that interesting here!

Pizza Hut:

Now THIS is an interesting one. We all know Pizza Hut to be a cheap, greasy last resort / guilty pleasure in the US, but here it has a completely separate image:

Yeah, that's a hostess out front with a line to get inside.

Basically, Pizza Hut has taken the concept of pizza and transformed it into a higher-end, more expensive, western dining experience. It's a little comparable to California Pizza Kitchens back home, actually.

When we (Zac, Josh, myself) ate there, they gave us forks and knives to eat our pizza with. Zac then began to ask for chopsticks and I stopped him after I realized that out of all of the other people eating there, mostly locals, every single one of them was using a fork and a knife. Then the irony of the situation hit me: the locals go to Pizza Hut for the experience - the western food experience. This is just how we would go to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant in the US and eat with chopsticks to get the Asian style experience! Incredible.


Yep, they're here. However, I have only seen a couple. Coffee shops in general are around, and they're a little strange: they're all higher-end kinds of places. Additionally, they sell tea and coffee for western prices...really not worth it unless you need wi-fi.

Starbucks is no exception to this rule.

Click the image for a larger version; prices are in yuan. Sorry it's blurry! The lady behind the counter was confused as to why I was taking a picture of the menu, and I told her because it is interesting to people back home! She then paused, smiled, and said that I was interesting! Then wandered away...

I paid 27 yuan for my hot chocolate, which is about $4 US! Ouch! I won't be doing that again...

Kung Fu:

This is basically the fast food establishment of China. Similar prices to McDonalds and KFC, but they have food that actually resembles local cuisine.
Additionally, their logo is a black and white sketch of Bruce Lee in a yellow jumpsuit. Cool.

They serve Pepsi on tap (McDonalds serves Coca-Cola), and for some reason it tasted way better than Pepsi in the US. Additionally, it's funny to see the cola-wars abroad...


One thing I absolutely did not expect to find was the absolute abundance of bakeries. They sell everything from regular bread to ice-cream-type cakes that can be rather intricate. Additionally, I haven't really seen high prices like you do in the US at places like these:
Looks good, eh? Prices are around 6-8 yuan ($1 or so) for the small snacks. The big cakes are more money but I would certainly not say they are expensive!

Chinese-style donut. I paid 6 yuan ($1), which sounds expensive for a donut, but it really wasn't anything like the ones from back home! I'm not really sure what Zac and Josh are eating in the background...

Additionally, I've found a few variations of this certain type of sweet-bread that is textured like white bread, but is absolutely delicious. You can be I'll be stocking up with a few of these before I head back...You can get packages of this bread for 4-9 yuan (a dollar, give or take) depending on size and the bakery you buy it from.

And here's the bonus to this post - a new snack combo that I will be getting again and again: squid on a stick and boba tea:
4.5 yuan for the squid, 3.5 yuan for the tea = 8 yuan, or $1.17. Both were absolutely fantastic!!!

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