Number 1 question I was asked when I got home from China, “So how was the food?”
Well, here’s a blog about it!
Travelling with Intolerances
There is nothing better than trying new things when you travel! The whole point is to immerse yourself in another culture’s traditions and social activities – and of course, try their food. Turns out the food part isn’t always that easy…
I am gluten, dairy and sugar intolerant (among other things), which eliminates quite a range of foods – especially anything processed or preserved. Since discovering these intolerances, I have done a great deal of travelling – overseas for dance and locally for work. I got the hang of pre-cooking meals and finding all the right snacks to pack but it is still challenging.
When you’re on a dance tour and want to stay fit and healthy, it becomes even more difficult. In China, meals became a game of ‘what food is least likely to make me sick’ – and it took constant effort to get it right!
What to pack?
Fitting clothes, dancewear, supplements and toiletries for 2.5 months and a yoga mat into one 23kg bag and a 7kg carry-on proved tough! I managed to add a kg of almonds, 30 RUSH protein bars and a large packet of Wazoogles Superfood Protein Shake – some snacks to ration.
Obviously, all our dietary requirements were noted and I was relieved to find that there were other tour members who had similar problems. Together, we did our best to inform our hosts about what we could eat but since we moved cities every two or three days and mostly ate at restaurants or got take-out – there was generally always some problem with our food…
Eggs, Chicken and Bok-choy!
Even navigating the breakfast buffet was challenging – boiled or fried eggs became my morning staple, usually with some fruit and if I really felt hungry, I admit – fried rice. I seriously missed my morning scrambled eggs and omelettes with veg or cinnamon infused gluten-free oats!
Plain boiled chicken became a lunch and dinner staple, with a few greens, usually oily bok-choy. And of course, there was always plenty of rice. Overall, not exactly ‘dance-fit food’…
However, we persevered – and survived the tour with a renewed appreciation for home-cooked food!
What in the world is that?
Food sensitivities aside, meals in China were always interesting. At every meal, we peered into dishes as they made their way around the table asking questions like, “Is it meat? Are they mushrooms? Is it salty, spicy, sweet?” or directly to our host, “Liam, what is that?”. We came across the strangest looking foods in China but also some yummy quintessential Chinese treats. I wish I could have eaten the steaming dumplings that always arrived in their woven baskets…
I did try some delicious little crispy-fried peppers – really great, just don’t eat a lot! And the crunchy peas that came in little packets were added to my store of nuts. ‘Harvest baskets’ filled with boiled eggs, purple sweet potatoes, pumpkin and corn were a favourite too.
Let’s find the ‘Western’ food!
As we became more comfortable navigating the Chinese cities, we started seeking out or suggesting which restaurants to eat at. Italian in Dalian, Tex-Mex in Chongching, Tandoor (twice) in Ningbo, racks of lamb and a basket of chicken in Wuhan. Towards the end, in Kunshan, we enjoyed salads, burgers, tortillas and pizza at a little ‘Italian’ place opposite the theatre. We also discovered that in China, Pizza Hut doesn’t only serve pizza (chicken wings and a garden salad was my standard order). Joyful times!
Despite the challenges, I smile fondly at memories of our mealtime shenanigans as the lazy-susan turned, slowly delivering to each person some new and obscure food. Meal times were sharing times – where we learned about each other, shared our frustrations or interesting experiences, laughed and moaned and learned a little more each day about the weird and wonderful elements of Chinese cuisine. And that, is definitely what travel is all about.