Usually, we are used to hearing how breakfast is the most ‘important’ meal of the day. But I’ve found in China, it’s turning out to be the most complicated meal of the day.
The last time I was in China, there was a small row of shops and food stalls right outside my dormitory, so I could buy fruits and (China’s sweet) bread for breakfast, no problem. Here, in Jinhua, my dormitory is really far from anything. They put the foreigners in the furthest corner of the university, as you can see from my brilliant Paint skills.
The orange star in the bottom right corner is our dorm, and to get to the pink star, it takes at least 7mins to get there. At the pink star there is a school canteen and a small building with some small restaurants and a supermarket. It’s ok, but there’s not a great amount of choice. Then there’s the yellow star ‘Beimen’. Although beyond the gate, it looks like there is nothing there, it’s actually where life begins. There is a range of fruit stalls, book stores, coffee shops, restaurants, phone repair shops, nail salons, a gym, KTV, a couple of hotels. Rumour is, anything you need, you can find it in Beimen. Someone once told me there is a place which sells Oreo McFlurries!
There’s no proper milk to have cereals here and don’t even mention the T word. It’s too far to go to Beimen for breakfast (about 1.7km from our dorm) so I go to the canteen in the mornings. In the canteen at lunch and dinner times, it’s quite straightforward – you choose if you want a small or large bowl of white or egg friend rice then go to choose which bits you want – fish, chicken, pork, veg, they have it all on tiny dishes and you get what you see.
But it’s different at breakfast time and I still haven’t figured it all out.
There are bowls of porridge you can get, I like the red one, but not the white one. It’s hot porridge and has grainy bits, like rice inside. Then everything else is like a mystery to me.
There is always 包子, small wrapped steamed buns containing meat or veg. But often there is no sign to say which type they are. They are on the counter in large steaming circles and once I took two from two different places, thinking they’d have different stuffings, but they were both pork.
They usually have these round bread like circles, stuffed with meat, potatoes or vegetables. But they are all fried and are dripping in oil so I only made that mistake once.
Then the canteen always seems to want to trick me, and test me. They tease me with things that look familiar and then totally ruin it. There was once a round orangey thing that had the character 糕 (cake) in it. There was what looked to be sprinkled bits of coconut on top so I took one. I bit into it, and it was an oily fried circle of sweet potato, with bits of sugar on top – not the cake I was expecting.
Another time I saw what I thought was a cheese toastie, there were two triangles of bread placed together and although there was batter on the outside (they’d been deep fried) I took one, eager to have my first bit of bread. I bit into a corner and saw a yellow filling inside. Then when I got to tasting the filling, it was the Chinese custard they use in cakes – no cheese and I didn’t know why they deep fried it.
Once I picked up a bowl of white liquid, thinking it was yoghurt. Other students were putting sugar and what I thought was dried fruit into it. I did the same, but the white liquid was a warm solid, jelly-like soya bean thing. And I don’t like jelly. The ‘dried fruit’ was actually pickled vegetables and the sugar didn’t make it bearable – what a waste of 20p, I didn’t eat it.
Sometimes there are nice surprises, like when I got a pancake, opened it and found a fried egg and sausage inside. That was pleasant. I also had a nice nutty squishy triangle thing one time. They change the breakfast everyday, so I still have many things to try in the canteen. It’s sometimes fun, not knowing what you’re going to be eating, but there are days when I would just love a bowl of muesli or some honey on toast.
*Sorry, my USB ports on my laptop have all broken so I can’t upload any of my own pictures until I get it fixed =(