Morning Rice

早上好 and welcome to another week of the trek up the Great Wall of Chinese! This week has been full of cultural adventures, with a few discoveries on what happens when gourmet Chinese hits McDonalds China.

I’ve also discovered that 饭 seems to be a very important word in Chinese – the lifeblood of China’s people and also it’s language. Translating literally to ‘rice’, it has a host of other meanings, and can even be synonymous with ‘meal’. Breakfast? ‘Early rice’ – 早饭. Lunch? ‘Noon rice’ – 午饭. It won’t come as a surprise to find that ‘晚饭’ (late rice) means dinner. A restaurant is a 饭店 (‘rice inn’) and, predictably perhaps after all of this, ‘饭厅’ (‘rice hall’) meaning dining room.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Chinese people eating early rice in their rice hall and going out for their late rice to a rice inn were obsessed with rice and the ancient cuisine passed down the family lines, but Western food has trickled down into China. Chinese McDonalds are nearly always full and there are a staggering 4,563 branches of KFC in China (just below the US at 4,491) – but there’s also some strange differences which have caught on in Chinese Western food. Pizza Hut is considered an fine dining restaurant in China, and the most popular ice cream flavours at Chinese McDonalds is the ‘green tea’ flavour, which will rarely, if ever, be seen in a Western restaurant. Few Chinese people have ever travelled to a Western country, so they will happily tuck in, unknowing that a westerner would never eat ‘French shrimp soup’ at Pizza Hut.

But despite all this Western loving, it’s no myth that Chinese people love Chinese food. There’s a reason why 45 billion chopsticks are used every year in China – and you only have to walk into a Chinese restaurant and see the hundreds of dishes to lose your impression that it ‘all tastes the same’. Highlights from a Chinese menu might include ‘Husband Wife Lung Slices’, which is not actually cannibalism, but a cut of beef with chilli oil! This might contrast with their rather shorter dessert menu, which often seem bizarre and odd to Westerners.

So I’ll leave it here for this week, and finish up with another sentence all in Chinese for the third week running!


Things I’ve learned this week:

  • Rice doesn’t have to just be for dinner – early rice at the rice hall it is!
  • I might have to go to China just to try out the green tea McDonalds ice cream
  • Husband Wife Lung Slices might not be as bad as they seem…!

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