Yesterday I have shared my impression of the trip to Shilinxia. However, as you might have noticed, I skipped dining experience as I think it deserves an entire post. So yesterday I got to eat like a local – family style dining restaurant.
Family style dining.
What is that? So, you normally sit at the round tables with a glass platform that turns, in restaurants we call it lazy Susan. Chinese people would put plenty of Chinese dishes on the platform so they rotate and you need to be able to catch some food.
Another surprise is that all the dishes are served together – salad, soup, fish, meat – hot and cold.
So what to expect on your family style dining table? Surely you will get some egg and corn soup as it is a must have in China.
A lot of rice because well, you are in China. Some wok-friend celery or beans or kale or other greens.
A green leaves salad is also always on the table BUT ours was spices with chilli to my surprise.
Potato and beef (can be chicken or mutton or ANYTHING) stew in a meaty hearty gravy, which you are supposed to eat with rice.
Some local sausages and meat jelly of a strange color, which I did not force myself to try.
Fried eggs, deep fried greens, boiled mushrooms, Chinese flat bread (which is very fatty and oily) as well as some wok-fried intestines also join the table.
Finally, the main dish that they bring is fish with soya sauce and spices. What i truly believe is that Chinese people surely know how to cook fish in the nicest way – it was very juicy and tender – just fish of the dream…
So while you are trying to grab at least something and you have a small ball filled with rice, soup, celery, fish and other stuff all together (for me as a foreigner it is weird), dessert appears on the table. Guess what is it? Slices tomato with bunch of sugar on it! The Chinese consider tomato and cucumbers as desserts here. They always look at me weird when I eat it together with my main food.
My colleagues did not wait until all dishes were served on the table. As soon as the first dish came up, they attacked it all together. For me as an expat, before I eat I need to ask what the dish is and what’s inside, by the time I figure out it is edible, it is gone.
Well, you might tell me I am too choosy – but let me tell you two stories. I will go to 2013 and my first outing with my team. We had a family style dining outing in one of Beijing local restaurants. We were served dishes and I was aiming at trying all of them. I took a piece of what I thought was chicken and was just about to put it in my mouth when I heard my colleague saying oh try this frog, you’ll love. Guess what? I didn’t make it!
Another story was even better. My manager decided to organise a farewell party for me but did not ask what I could suggest. She basically just booked a table in a very local restaurant. I don’t remember what was on the table, but I clearly remember that everyone applauded when the fish dish was served.
The fish was soaked in a sauce, which looked kind of grayish with some white spots. As it did not look appetizing I asked what it was. I was extremely happy I’d asked because turned out it was all intestines and other internal organs blended. I was truly surprised.
So yeah, now I try to ask what’s the dishes are. Some of the foods end even before making a round so you don’t even get to try. As for schedule we were supposed to have 1,5 hours for lunch but it was over in 15-20 minutes as everyone eats extremely fast.
Family style dining in China is completely different from how we eat in Russia. Depending on the region, food that we are served is also not always what we are used to. Take your chances and experience this too!