Sourcing from China ? All the better if you like Chinese food

I have always said that one of the best things about doing business in China is that you have the opportunity to eat some great food. And make no mistake about it if you want real Chinese food you have to go to China. You just cannot find authentic Chinese food in NYC, San Francisco or Tokyo, three places I have lived at length and tried to find good Chinese restaurants. To no avail.

For me, three things stand out about Chinese food: the variety, the regional cuisines and the cost.

Variety: Case in point. A few years ago I was in Guangzhou and picked up a recipe book for soups in a local book store. This was just another recipe book in the food section of the book store but there were 2000 different recipes in this book ! And that is just soups and soups from just one province, Guangdong Province. And this mirrors my own experience living and travelling to China over the past 26 years. I can still go to China and, depending on where I am, I will have dishes I never tried before, much less heard of. And they usually turn out to be the best dishes I have ever had in my life.

Regional Cuisines. It is true that all countries have their own regional cuisines. In Japan, for example, there are many different types of Miso soup depending on which prefecture you are in. In Italy the same holds true; in the South they use more tomatoes and olive oil in cooking Still most dishes are the same regardless of where you are and in this respect food works somewhat like language. In other words, from region to region the idiom is the same with only slight variations. But in China it is different. In China when you walk into a restaurant in, say Hefei ( capital city of Anhui Province) you will find a menu entirely differnt from one in a restaurant in Shanghai.

Cost: When I lived in Shanghai some 15 years ago I used to eat regularly in a restaurant down the street from my apt. The tab for 3 or 4 dishes, rice and a couple bottles of beer was always under $ 10.00. Of course that was then. But food in China is still very cheap. In most cities, even in places like Shanghai and Beijing, you can walk into a pretty decent restaurant and eat for under $ $25.00 You can get dinner and drinks for a group of six people for proabaly not more than $ 100.00. If you went to one of the good Chinese restaurants here in San Francisco with a group of six it would probably cost you upwards of $ 300.00 -$400.00, San Francisco being what it is nowadays, one of the most expensive cities in the country.

A final thought: How much do you budget for food for a week in China ? The answer : Zero. If you are on an official vendor visit vendors will usually foot the bills for all of your meals. You will only have to pay for meals when your vendor is not present. Who could ask for more than that ?

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