Traditional Foods

In China, food is believed to be central not just to health, but to bodily harmony. While rice is the staple food, meals contain a wide variety of food types, and only a few, such as dairy products, are avoided. Most foods are cooked, with only fruit usually eaten raw.

Local street markets are the most preferred shopping hubs in China. Goods may be spread out on the pavement or displayed on carriages in the back streets of the market. Here a person can indulge in bargaining for the lowest prices. There are no warranties or guarantees, all sales are final, and no credit cards are accepted.

The habits and preferences of food and eating mostly reflect that of the largest ethnic group, the Han. There are three meals each day plus numerous snacks. The meal’s composition is governed by specific rules. These rules include a balance between yin (hot or spicy) and yang (cold or bland), and proper amounts of fan (grains and starchy foods) and ts’ai (vegetables and meats). Traditionally, meals are eaten with chopsticks, except that soup is eaten with a porcelain spoon. While eating, the rice bowl should not sit on the table, but should be raised to the mouth.

The Shandong area is considered to be in the Northern culinary region. This area is famous for Peking duck and mu shu pork. Both are eaten wrapped in Mandarin wheat pancakes topped with hoisin. The Northern region is also known for its noodles, dumplings, pancakes, and steamed bread. Foods typical of the Chinese diet include bitter melon, bok choy, Chinese eggplant, ginger root, long beans, lotus root, mushrooms, oyster sauce, pork, rice, shrimp, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Hot soup or tea is the beverage usually served with meals.

Increasingly, people in China are going to large supermarkets for their food. In the film below, the ChinaVine team goes to the grocery to purchase candy for children in the Shandong villages where they will be doing fieldwork.