In Mzansi, meat is practically always on the menu. But what do you do when you’re a hungry South African expat living in China, and the meat looks, tastes and smells different from what you are used to?
Working and living in Beijing for the last 12 months has undoubtedly been one of the highlights in my life. The cravings for real boerewors, traditional potjiekos and mouth-watering braaivleis, however, are only a few of the dishes you long for as a Saffa living abroad.
China is certainly one of the countries with the most attention-grabbing foods. Many people who have not yet visited this unique country may stereotypically believe that Chinese people eat almost everything. But with an average life expectancy of 76 years, the Chinese are fairly healthy people. Students get fresh-cooked vegetables on a daily basis with every meal. The country’s tea market also flourishes.
For the non-nationals who do not wish to indulge in the local cuisine, there are ample restaurants who serve foods from all over the world. For the courageous ones who embrace their time here, there are plenty of interesting dishes to choose from.
Roast duck, a Beijing speciality, is popular among foreigners. This is usually served with cucumber and scallion. Another favourite is dumplings (known as “Jiaozi”), which can be found all over China. It is made of rolled dough with different fillings like veggies or mince. A dip in soy sauce makes it even more delicious.
Chinese noodles with various trimmings are also served by most restaurants. Hotpots are also prevalent. Hotpot restaurants usually have a pot in the middle of the table with soup in. Customers are allowed to cook their own ingredients at the table such as meat and vegetables.
For the brave foreigners, who’d like to have a true Chinese experience, there is the famous Wangfujing Street in Beijing, where you’ll find foods that you’ll only see on Fear Factor.
All the vendors in this narrow street attempt to charm customers into trying their fascinating foods. Eatables are prepared in front of you within minutes, but some might just lose their appetite while they wait. From boiled crabs to whole cooked, skinless ducks and fried snakes on a stick, this street has all the ingredients for a possible upset stomach. After taking a bite of fried scorpion, I realised how much I actually miss samosas, koeksisters and all the foods that make South Africa home.