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Local Dining Out In China

Here is my local dining out experience in Beijing China, to show you what differences and what to expect from the local restaurants in China. 

Nowadays dining out has become quite normal for the middle class in China. No matter you are alone or with friends, you can always find a suitable place to eat. For young couples who feel lazy to cook, dining out few times a week is nothing new.

The difference?

- A place for socializing

I used to compare Chinese restaurants to the British’s pub. In the UK, people can go to pub for socializing, chat and drink beers; in China, people meet up at restaurants, chat and enjoy nice food.

- Dress casual

In the UK, dining out is kind of social event, people may make effort to dress up. In China unless it is to do with business (in expensive place), people usually dress very casual for local dining out.

For example, you may see some male Chinese wearing shorts and slippers at restaurants. For them, these restaurants are just like fish & chip shops in the UK.

So it really dedpends on the situation, but ingeneral, casual smart should work well.

Local Chinese Restaurant in Summer Night.

- Plenty of choices 

Take the street near the hotel I stayed as an example. There were at least seven restaurants lined up within a short walking distance, which were the restaurants for congee, Japanese style fast meal, Sichuan hot pot, seafood, traditional Beijing cuisine, Shanxi sliced noodles, and dumplings.

This means, even you eat out every day, you won’t have the same food within a week. And this is only one place, think about how many choices you can have in a big city like Beijing?

- Open hour

In most places Chinese restaurants open 7 days a week and open till very late. In the summer, some restaurants may stay open till middle night.

- No tips are expected

There might be service charge included in the bill in some high class restaurants. But for most places, you don't need to give tips.    

What to expect?

Usually the best food comes from those ordinary local restaurants, not the places target for the tourists.

My first day in Beijing, I had dinner at a small local restaurant that serves dumplings and homemade meals.

Local restaurant in Beijing.

This is what you can see from most Chinese restaurants, a pair of chopstick, food menu, and one set of sauces (soy sauce, vinegar and chilli oil), plus a cup of tea.

Table in Local Chinese Restaurant.

This is how a typical Chinese food menu looks like @_@. Well, I know you may not understand a single word, but just want to show you this.

Chinese menu.

It has categories like meat, vegetables, egg, main foods like rice, dumplings or bing (stuffed pie or pancake), plus soups and drinks.

Sometimes these may be further divided into small groups based on the way of cooking. For example, the meat can be stir-fried, or stewed, the dumpling can be boiled or fried.

But there is one major difference comparing to the western menu, no dessert, most likely. Some places may offer the sweet snacks or fresh fruits after meal, but you won’t see desserts like cake or ice cream, at least not in the traditional Chinese restaurants.

I ordered one vegetable dish called smacked cucumbers with garlic (pai huang gua), which is a very common dish in Beijing.

Beijing Smacked Cucumbers with Garlics.

For main food I had the half pan fried dumplings (guo tie) with pork fillings. The pan fried dumplings, top sides are steamed but the bottom side are fried to golden brown.

Chinese Pan Fried Dumplings.

A homemade tofu (jiachang tofu), stir fried.

Chinese Home Style Tofu.

The total cost: 30RMB, which was affordable price for the locals. These were just the ordinary chinese food that we can cook at home. But for me, who comes back China once or twice a year, their taste was just wonderful.

For more China local dining out stories, please see Beijing Food & Travel.

(Posted: 26/11/12; Update: 26/01/14

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