A lot of people have been inquiring about what I eat, here, in China. Well, let me tell you that, believe it or not, in China, they eat Chinese food.
On campus, there is really only three dining options, two of which I visit regularly. First is the canteen (cafeteria, if you will). This place is meant to feed the entire student body of 7000 hungry teenagers each and every day from 7AM to 7PM. Three meals are served each day and timing determines what food you get. It’s not so much the crowds of people because everyone will get fed and everyone will sit down comfortably but the quality of the food declines by the minute. For instance, breakfast starts somewhere around 7AM. By 9AM, the canteen is pretty much closed. Now the closer you arrive to 7AM, the more fresh the prepared food is. They usually serve a variety of “baos” (San Francisco Chinese food eaters will know the popular options like “char siu bao”) along with a few traditional fried items including scalion cake and fried dough. Sweetened soy milk is the drink of choice in the morning. Now you college readers out there must have caught the outrageous closing time of 9AM — most regular college students aren’t even up! The Canteen also serves lunch and dinner with made to order options in noodle/fun bowls and fried rice. Most students choose to eat rice for lunch and dinner, though. How it works is: you pay for some white rice (0.5 yuan) and you choose topings for your rice (various meat, tofu, and vegetables, up to four yuan).
The second location is only open for lunch, dinner, and late snack. When first said in a Chinese accent, I was convinced the place was called the “Anti-Bar,” (a super artsy-cool name) but alas, it’s actually called the “Any Bar.” This place is considerably more expensive with considerably less options but you really pay for the “modern cafe” environment. While doubling as a internet cafe, it serves mostly Hong Kong-style Western food which consists of various spaghetti dishes, a curry-pork dish, and a hamburger. Occasionally they have specials that vary the menu every so slightly. Drinks are much more popular than the food with students ordering up everything from milk tea to coke (boba or bubble tea is a foreign concept, though). Cake and ice-cream are readily available as well.
The last location is located in the Academic Conference Center (ACC). This is the “restaurant” on campus with full selections of Chinese dishes as well as Western favorites. It’s meant to serve visiting guests and to host private dinners within the University. While I ate here for the first few nights, the food does not justify the price.
Price, of course, is relative here. The ACC might be closest to what an American University student would spend on a regular meals. The Any Bar might be closest to what an American University student would spend on fast food. The canteen is closest to what an American University student would spend on dorm-room cereal. I can have dinner at the Canteen for five yuan/RMB and that is not even a dollar. I can have dinner at the Any Bar for 20 yuan or over two dollars. I can have dinner at the ACC for around five to ten dollars.