How to order Dinner in a small village in China!

Updated:  December 2022

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Some of you may shake your head at this.

Eating out in a foreign country can be an event all by itself! There is a mixture of emotions when faced with food you have never seen, let alone tasted before. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who are a bit picky.  Sorry, I have a weak stomach and I hate to admit it.

Dinner out in a small village in China

A few years ago I visited China for the first time and was totally in awe of everything I saw or did.  My son and I were in a small village in search of dinner and after watching a steady stream of people go into a small local restaurant we decided to follow them in.

A local favorite – hot pot – but how to tell them what we wanted?

It was obviously a favourite of the locals for hot pot which is am amazing culinary experience by itself. 

Trying to order food that wasn’t scary was an adventure especially for me since I don’t really eat much meat at home and find I am really hesitant to experiment here. Veggies, noodles, rice, tofu – all okay!   Meat – questionable.  

I should mention that I frustrate the heck out of my son but I figure that’s the price he has to pay to have an awesome mother who loves to travel with him at times.   I’m not sure he agrees with me on this but… lol

What does that menu say?

Four young women stood over us with a menu filled with symbols and numbers trying to direct us to the item with the highest numbers. Looking around at others we tried determining what others were eating so we could order the same but that didn’t work. My son tried phoning the one person he knew who spoke Chinese – also no luck.

Motioning towards the kitchen

Not to let this little hiccup get the best of us, he indicated he wanted to see the food in the kitchen and proceeded to go into the back and five minutes later came out with the girls carrying little plates and bowls of tofu noodles, different kinds of mushrooms, some kind of rolled up meat, cilantro, and another green leafy vegetable. Success! When in doubt it helps to point!

Condiments next!

We then took some little bowls over to the shelves against the wall, covered with bowls of wonderful fresh ingredients. We quickly loaded up with chopped  garlic, finely diced green onion, peanut sauce, red pepper sauce, soya, and a few others I couldn’t hope to know. We each put a mixture in our bowls combining them into what we thought we would like as a dipping sauce.

It’s hot pot time!

Back at our table we put all the meat and veggies into the steaming bowl of broth that was boiling away  on our table. It sat in an indented section in the middle of the table and over a burner that kept it bubbling. Our job? Use our chop sticks to pull out the beautifully steamed mixture of tasty vegetables and meats. I have to add here that I loved using chop sticks – they’re the perfect utensil for eating. 

Taking pieces of food out of the bowl with our chop sticks the next step is to dip it into the bowl of sauce we had created earlier with the first taste bringing tears to my eyes. Delicious!

Rice too please!

After almost finishing  our meal we saw a bowl of rice go by in the hands of one of the young girls and asked (using hand motions) for her to please bring us each a small bowl of rice. Voila! It arrived exactly as ordered and we poured the remaining sauce over to to finish off a great meal. Drinking a pot of Chinese tea through out the meal helped take off the bite from the spices.

What a fantastic meal and healthy too!

My son never seems to get daunted and is always ready to come up with a solution to things that others may feel are insurmountable – its amazing.

We provided the entertainment when having dinner in China

We definitely were the entertainment for the night as the other patrons and waitresses stared and watched the whole process from beginning to end and seemed to get great delight in our experience right up to us riding away on the scooter and them waving us off.  I bet we made their day.

Total cost – 43 RMB -$8.00 Canadian but the fun and taste were priceless.

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