Food in Guangzhou
This being my first entry, I will get right to the most important topic in Canton: food. Cantonese quickly say that they are extremely focused on two things: commerce and food. The first night that I arrived, I went out with some students from Lingnan University to a fairly famous Cantonese restaurant.
The funny thing is, after years of people telling me that the Chinese food I like in the states is not "authentic", I had expected to not like the Chinese food here. However, it has been great. The food that first night was fantastic. Writing about it 4 days later, I can barely recall what I had, but I do remember that we had oolong tea, and particular preparation of chicken that is very common in Canton (it seems to be poached and cut into only a couple pieces, served skin on).
The next day I went out again with Jean, one of the Lingnan students, to a smaller Cantonese restaurant next to the hotel, that caters mainly to University students and locals. The food was significantly better. Everything was very fresh, and every dish was great. There's a couple little traditions local to Canton dining that you might want to know about. First, it's expected that a diner will rinse their dishes with tea before the meal. So you sit down at the table and the waitress will bring a larger bowl. You pour tea into your own bowl and rinse your teacup and shopsticks and all your little rice bowls in the tea and then pour it in the big bowl. This is kind of for cleanliness but mainly for tradition.
Another local tradition is to tap on the table to give thanks for someone pouring your tea. Cantonese claim this for their own but I've heard that this exists in a lot of places in China.
The second night, a bunch of Carlson students went out to a local Szechuan restaurant. Again - I've had Szechuan food in the states and loved it. However, this was a different story. It was incredible. Every dish was absolutely fantastic. It wasn't as hot as I expected it to be. There are definitely no options for chosing heat levels, everything just comes as it comes. Some things were slightly hot but nothing was even close to intolerable. Chicken, pork, beef, very few noodles, and (interestingly) rice isn't served by default, and quite a few people don't eat it at all with their meals.
The next night we went to a Hunan style restaurant and it was even better. Every dish was better than the last.
More on food later .......