As most people in the western world, I’ve spent a good many meals chowing down at the local Chinese restaurant. I’ve also been into China town to try out some of the places in the heart of the Chinese population.
But I’m going to trump most of you when I can also say that I’ve eaten my way around China. With a local girl leading us by the hand, I’ve eaten Chinese food with Chinese people in Shanghai, Xian, Beijing, Changzhou and Wuxi.
I’ve eaten the smoothest cold silken tofu, the most wholesome, tasty mutton stew, the hottest of hot hot chicken, and I’ve had my share of deep fried snake, pig’s throat, chicken feet, eel and I can’t remember the various other nasties I’ve tried.
What I’ve learned on my travels is that the Chinese like food. A lot. And they are down to earth. They value family and they like to feel comfortable when they’re out to dinner. It’s not often you’ll find Chinese people dining in an upscale, Michelin starred Chinese restaurant. No, you’ll find them at a select group of restaurants that they know serves good food, and doesn’t mind kids running around.
Time and time again it has been proven that to pick the best place to eat amongst a big group of restaurants, like in China town for example, or a suburb with a large Chinese population, you go where the Chinese people are eating.
Back in Eastwood, where I used to live, there used to be 2 or 3 Chinese BBQ restaurants. Tiny little places with pork and ducks hanging in the window. There was always lines at one of these places. I’m not an expert, I didn’t grow up eating Chinese food every night, but the locals knew which shop served the BBQ meat and they went there. So did I. And I can prove it was the best because when I got sick of lining up I tried one of the other places and it simply was not as good.
Another way to tell a good Chinese restaurant is the decor and the tables. Don’t go in for anything too fancy. The best places don’t need to worry too much about looking trendy or fancy, their food brings in the customers. Look out for simple, humble table white table cloths, and not much else. And of course, look at the clientele. If you don’t see any Chinese people in there, chances are it’s not such a great choice.
I tried my first Chinese meal in Soho last week with AT. It was so hard to decide where to go, but we went with our instinct and picked the place that looked down-home and kind of like the places we used to go at home I guess.
It reminded me so much of BBQ King back in Sydney, so I knew it had to be good!
And it was. We had mixed greens, salt and pepper squid and BBQ pork. There was a mountain of food and it was all great. I knew we wouldn’t eat it all….we couldn’t, there was simply too much. But shamefacedly we left the place with our stomachs really full and the plates empty. Sign of a great meal.
It was Wan Chai Corner on Gerrard St in London. So if you’re ever in London looking for a good meal and great value for money, try it out.