Where to eat and drink

Where to Eat and Drink

Better quality Chinese restaurants (fandian/canguan) generally have a large number of tables; with separate banquet/dining rooms at the wings (for private groups). Non-smoking sections are rare except in expensive, or hotel, restaurant, but the pricier banquet rooms (danjian) can be used for this purpose. English menus can be a rarity except in more expensive hotels, or those located by Westerners. Food is not necessarily served in particular order, and you will probably have to remind the waitress for your rice (baifan). The Chinese eat many dishes at the same time, rather than courses. Many restaurants do not take credit cards, so check first or carry enough cash at all time. There is no need to tip at most restaurants, but smarter establishments may preempt you by adding a gratuity. Not included in the list following are fast-food outlets that are plentiful. McDonald's and KFC (often the only English words taxi driver recognize) can be found in large towns and cities throughout China. Other familiar names are TGL Friday's Haagen Dazs, and Starbucks.

If you don't know how to use chopsticks, you might as well use you time in China learning the skill (once learned, you won't forget). They come in disposable bamboo, lacquer, or imitation ivory; occasionally you will see a silver pair. Practice with a pair of pencils, if you like. Hold them so that your middle finger acts as the fulcrum, with pressure from the thumb and second finger, the other two fingers are not used. When not using your chopsticks, do not thrust them upright into your bowl of rice, but place them across your plate or on the chopstick rest (provided in smarter restaurants).

Sichuan hotpot
Chongqing (see p 146) is the place to sample a flaming Sichuan hotpot (huoguo). The hotpot is divided into two compartments, one hot and the other milder, or is just plain hot. Into the boiling furnace of each are liberally thrown skewers of sliced meat and vegetable. The experience guarantees a warm afterglow in winter. Chongqing is China's hotpot capital and restaurants can be found everywhere.