On Food: Be Excited about It....?

Ryan Dondalski
February 7, 2018
Hot Pot(火锅) in Downtown Shanghai

It is my third week here in Shanghai, and if it weren't for the fact that I'm not fluent in Mandarin, I would feel like I've been here forever. It's actually really quite spooky, but I think that after having had legitamately every day be filled with tons of activity, with intensive language study, cultural immersion inside and outside of class, and almost every meal being eaten out, it feels like I've fulfilled my travel time for the next several years. And although it is simultaneously obvious and also strange that I've only been here a few short weeks, it's actually quite comforting knowing that I have more of the semester ahead of me to be filled with wonderful things. Of course, I can't get ahead of myself, because if I look too far forward I'm gonna miss what's in front of me. And what's in front of me right now is food. And nobody wants to miss that.

Well actually what's in front of me is my computer, but that seemed like a good segway, so I took it. Regardless, food, among many other things, is a substantial staple in any country or region's respective culture, and is certainly of great concern for whoever is going there. Sometimes this concern takes shape in the rejoice in knowing that you will be eating lots and lots of super delicous, authentic, looks-like-it-was-photoshopped-in-real-life food. And other times, this concern takes shape in thinking, "I've got no idea what to expect, but I've heard that food there can kill you if you look at it the wrong way." Although a bit of an exaggeration, the latter was closer to my thoughts prior to going to Shanghai, and it definitely was a little bit scary. However, after arriving and eating out every night, I think that my fears have dissapated. Still, the food here in China is substantially different from that of the US, so I thought it would be very interesting to see what a typical day of meals looks like for me here.


Morning Oats at the Apartment

I think that you'll find that this particular meal is the least exciting, but for myself who as of late has been using the snooze button too frequently, it's very convenient. Some dried fruit and some boiled water and my breakfast is good to go.

Tangyuan(湯圓) for Breakfast

Now from potentially least exciting to most exciting! This right here is 湯圓(Tangyuan) and I know you may be thinking, "You should not eat whatever that is because it is definitely the black plague." Actually, that black stuff right there is black sesame seed, and it gets boiled inside these glutonous rice balls. This right here is my favorite food I've had so far. It has a sweet flavor and can double as both breakfast and dessert. Win win.


Before you take a look, I think I should preface that after breakfast (and even sometimes including breakfast), there really aren't very many standard meals here. In fact, it seems to be that food in China is just food and there aren't really too many foods set apart for the time of day you typically eat them. In fact, several of the meals I've pictured in this post I've eaten during meal times other than where they are listed. In fact, let's see the meal that I've eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

HunTun(餛飩) for Lunch

This is the culpret right here. It's called 餛飩(Huntun) although you may know it as Won Ton. And wow is this stuff good. These guys can be packed full of whichever filling you might choose, although I most prefer the pork and egg yolk filling. Add a little bit of spice to the broth, and you're in business.

I would be remiss if I didn't include the food from this place. In fact, the picture here isn't even of my food, but I can't not leave it out. 建中餐厅(Jianzhong Canting), like many other resturaunts in the Huangpu district where I currently live, is a tiny little resturaunt where you hit your head on the 2nd floor ceiling if you're not careful. Despite its small size, this place has become a go-to lunch spot for my roommates and I. A favorite of mine here has been the 宫保鸡丁(Gongbao Jiding), better known as Kungpao Chicken, one of the more famous Chinese dishes overseas.


Dinner tends to be the most adventurous meal of the day. My roommates and I have free time in the evenings, so it allows us to travel a little farther and order a little larger. As a result, the dinners I have are rarely the same and can sometimes be some of the more iconic or exotic dishes China has to offer.

Fried Frog Dish for Dinner


This is one of the more exotic dishes I've had, althoug I'd say this one isn't to crazy. This is 炒牛蛙(chao niuwa), or in English, fried bullfrog. We ate this in Shanghai at a deceptively large restuarant along with some 火锅(huoguo), or hot pot, which is pictured (from a different restuarant) as the featured photo in this post. This was my first time eating frog, and it was absolutely delicious. I definitely understand why people often compare it to chicken, but I found that this dish was even more flavorful.

Several Interesting Meats Roasting

You'll notice several fascinating meats I got to try here in this photo as we roasted them. In the middle, the still red meat that is roasting is chicken heart, and just to the right of that is squid. Chicken heart, along with cow tongue which isn't pictured here, was a new favorite find for me in terms of meat. The chicken heart was very dense and flavorful, and went well with some cumin. The squid was also very tasty, although I found it to be a little bit too chewy. Regardless, I was able to try three different, new foods in one meal, which was very fun.

And thus would complete a full day for me! As you can see, Chinese food is incredibly distinct from American food, so it's important to keep that in mind if you ever do travel to China, lest it take you off guard. Overall, I've found the transition actually quite enjoyable, perhaps because the differences are so vast that the food here is always novel and interesting. So thus begs the question: should you be excited about food abroad? I think the answer is absolutely yes! Whether you're going somewhere where the food is very similar to food in your home country, or whether you're going somewhere whose food you've never tried at all, as long as you keep an open mind, the cuisine you eat will be a very memorable aspect of your time abroad. Thanks for reading yet another very long post, and I hope to see you again! 

Ryan Dondalski

<p>My name is Ryan Dondalski, and I am a Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Tulsa. I love automobiles, building things, and most of all, people! I hope you'll find my posts enlightening, and thank you for stopping by!</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
University of Tulsa
Fullerton, CA
Engineering - General
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