The most important tip I can give you on China local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting China, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in China
Food in China varies widely from region to region so the term “Chinese food” is pretty much a blanket term, just like “Western food.” While visiting, relax your inhibitions and try a bit of everything. Be aware that some “Chinese” food, such as Beef and Broccoli or Chow Mein should be avoided (if you could even find them), as these are not real Chinese dishes and will get you strange looks from locals. Do keep in mind that undercooked food or poor hygiene can cause bacterial or parasitic infection, particularly during warm or hot weather. Thus it is advisable to take great care about (and perhaps abstain from) eating seafood and meat on the street during the summer. In addition, unless you’re in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai or other large cities, raw meat and seafood should be avoided. That all being said, the hygiene conditions of a restaurant are usually satisfactory which means that diarrhea is usually not a risk to most people. Chinese gourmands place emphasis on freshness so your meal will most likely be cooked as soon as you order it. Searing hot woks over coal or gas fires make even street food usually safe to eat. Indeed freshly prepared street food, as noted by many travel writers, is often safer than the food sitting on the buffet lines of 5-star hotels. China is no exception.
The two-menu system where different menus are presented according to the skin color of a guest remains largely unheard of in China. Most restaurants only have one menu – the Chinese one. Learning some Chinese characters such as beef ), pork ), chicken ), fish ), stir-fried ), deep-fried ), braised ), baked or grilled ), soup ), rice ), or noodles ) will take you a long way. As pork is the most common meat in Chinese cuisine, where a dish simply lists “meat” ), assume it is pork. Certain Chinese dishes contain ingredients some people may prefer to avoid, such as dog, snake or endangered species. However, it is very unlikely that you will order these dishes by a mistake. Dog and snake are usually served in specialty restaurants which do not hide their ingredients. Obviously, products made from endangered ingredients will have astronomical prices and would not be listed on the regular menu anyway. Generally speaking, rice is the main staple in the south, while wheat, mostly in the form of noodles, is the main staple in the north. Regional Cuisines Four Great Traditions Jiangsu / Zhejiang / Shanghai “Huáiyáng cài”, ,”S Cài”, Huaiyang cuisine): Huaiyang cuisine tends to have a sweet side to it and is almost never spicy. Pork, freshwater fish, and other aquatic creatures serve as the meat base in most dishes, which are usually more meticulous and light compared to the more “brash” eating styles of northern China.
Huaiyang cuisine also includes several breakfast choices such as crab soup dumplings “xìehúang tngbo”), thousand-layered cake “qincéng go”), steamed dumplings “zhngjio”), tofu noodles “dàzh gns”), and wild vegetable steamed buns “cài bozi”). Cantonese / Guangzhou / Hong Kong Gungdng Cài, Yuè Cài): the style most Western visitors are already familiar with to some extent. Not too spicy, the emphasis is on freshly cooked ingredients and seafood. Dim Sum Dinxn), small snacks usually eaten for breakfast or lunch, are a highlight. That being said, authentic Cantonese cuisine is also among the most adventurous in China in terms of variety of ingredients as the Cantonese are famous, even among the Chinese, for their extremely wide definition of what is considered edible. Shandong Shndng cài, L Cài, Shandong cuisine): Although modern transport has greatly increased the availability of ingredients throughout China, Shandong cuisine remains rooted in its ancient traditions. Most notable is the staggering array of seafood, including scallops, prawns, clams, sea cucumbers, and squid. Sichuan Chun Cài): Famously hot and spicy. A popular saying is that it is so spicy your mouth will go numb. However, not all dishes are made with live chilies. The numbing sensation actually comes from the Sichuan peppercorn . Sichuanese food is widely available outside Sichuan and also native to Chongqing. If you want really authentic Sichuanese food outside Sichuan or Chongqing, look for small eateries sporting the characters for Sichuan cuisine in neighborhoods with lots of migrant workers.
These tend to be much cheaper and often better than the ubiquitous up-market Sichuan restaurants. Famous Traditions (The Other Four of the Eight Culinary Traditions of Chinese cuisine) Fujian Fújiàn Cài, Mn Cài): uses ingredients mostly from coastal and estuarial waterways. “Buddha Jumps over a Wall” Fó Tiào Qiáng) is particularly famous. According to legend, the smell was so good a monk forgot his vegetarian vows and leaped over the wall to have some. Fujian cuisine can be split into at least two distinct cuisines: Minnan cuisine from the area around Xiamen and Mindong cuisine from the area around Fuzhou. Zhejiang Zhè Cài): includes the foods of Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing. A delicately seasoned, light-tasting mix of seafood and vegetables often served in soup. Sometimes lightly sweetened or sometimes sweet and sour, Zhejiang dishes frequently involve cooked meats and vegetables in combination. Hunan Húnán Cài, Xing Cài): the cuisine of the Xiangjiang region, Dongting Lake and western Hunan Province. Similar, in some ways, to Sichuanese cuisine, it can actually be “spicier” in the Western sense. Anhui nhu cài), hu cài): Anhui cuisine is known for its use of wild herbs, from both the land and the sea, and simple methods of preparation.
Braising and stewing are common cooking techniques. Frying and stir frying are used much less frequently in Anhui cuisine than in other Chinese culinary traditions.Anhui cuisine consists of three styles: the Yangtze River region, Huai River region, and southern Anhui region. Anhui has ample uncultivated fields and forests, so the wild herbs used in the region’s cuisine are readily available. Other traditions Shanghai Hù Cài): because of its geographical location, Shanghai cuisine is considered to be a good mix of northern and southern Chinese cooking styles. The most famous dishes are xiaolongbao Xiolóngbo) and chives dumplings Jicài Jiozi ). Another specialty is “pulled noodles” lmiàn), from which Japanese ramen and Korean ramyeon are believed to be derived. Fried dishes are often somewhat sweet.
Teochew / Chaozhou Cháozhu Cài): originating from the Shantou area in northern Guangdong, a unique style which nonetheless will be familiar to most Southeast Asian and Hong Kong Chinese. Famous dishes include braised duck Ly, yam paste dessert Yùní) and fishballs Yúwán). Guizhou Guìzhu Cài, Qián Cài): combines elements of Sichuan and Xiang cuisine, making liberal use of spicy, peppery and sour flavors. The peculiar zhergen Zh’rgn), a regional root vegetable, adds an unmistakable sour-peppery flavor to many dishes. Minority dishes such as Sour Fish Hot Pot Sun Tng Yú) are widely enjoyed. Hainan Qióng Cài): famous among the Chinese, but still relatively unknown to foreigners, characterized by the relatively heavy use of coconuts. The signature specialties are the “Four Famous Dishes of Hainan” Hi Nán Sì Dà Míng Cài): Wenchang chicken Wénchng j, Dongshan goat Dngshn yáng), Jiaji duck Jij y and Hele crab Hélè xiè). Beijing Jng Cài ): home-style noodles and baozi bread buns), Peking Duck Bijng Koy, cabbage dishes, great pickles. Not fancy but can be great and satisfying. Imperial Gngtíng Cài): the food of the late Qing court, made famous by the Empress Dowager Cixi, can be sampled at high-end specialized restaurants in Beijing. The cuisine combines elements of Manchu frontier food such as venison with exotica such as camel’s paw, shark’s fin and bird’s nest. Fast food Various types of Chinese food provide quick, cheap, tasty, light meals. Street food and snacks sold from portable vendors can be found throughout China’s cities. Wangfujing district’s Snack Street in Beijing is a notable, if touristy, area for street food. In Cantonese-speaking areas, street food vendors are called gai bin dong; such ventures can grow into a substantial business with the stalls only barely ‘mobile’ in the traditional street food sense. Various quick eats available nationwide include: Various, usually sweet, items from the ubiquitous bakeries , .
A great variety of sweets and sweet food found in China are often sold as snacks, rather then as a post-meal dessert course in restaurants as in the West. Barbecued sticks of meat from street vendors. Yang rou chuan , or fiery Xinjiang-style lamb kebabs, are particularly renowned. Jiaozi , which Chinese translate as “dumplings”, boiled, steamed or fried ravioli-like items with a variety of fillings. These are found throughout Asia; momos, mandu, gyoza, and jiaozi are all basically variations of the same thing. Baozi , steamed buns stuffed with savoury, sweet or vegetable fillings. Mantou , steamed bread available on the roadside – great for a very cheap and filling snack. Lanzhou-style lamian , fresh hand-pulled noodles. This industry is heavily dominated by members of the Hui ethnic group – look for a tiny restaurant with staff in Muslim dress, white fez-like hats on the men and head scarves on the women. In Guangdong and sometimes elsewhere, dim sum . At any major tourist destination in China, you may well find someone serving dim sum for Hong Kong customers. The Western notion of fast food is arguably as popular as the domestic variety. KFC , McDonald’s , Subway and Pizza Hut are ubiquitous, at least in mid-sized cities and above. Although common, the menus and flavors in these Western chains have been altered to suit Chinese tastes, such as Mcdonald’s Red Bean Mcflurry.
There are a few Burger Kings , Domino’s and Papa John’s as well but only in major cities. Chinese chains are also widespread. These include Dicos – chicken burgers, fries etc., cheaper than KFC and some say better – and Kung Fu – which has a more Chinese menu. Another Western brand that takes on a surprising incarnation in China is Häagen-Dazs. If you see a Häagen-Dazs in a larger city like Shanghai or Guangzhou, note that it is in fact a formal dining experience, where an ice cream sundae will cost about 100 RMB. Also note that some other Western brands that are considered casual in the West may take on a more formal atmosphere in China. Pizza Hut is an example of this. Etiquette China is the birthplace of chopsticks and unsurprisingly, much important etiquette relates to the use of chopsticks. While the Chinese are generally tolerant about table manners, you will most likely be seen as ill-mannered, annoying or offensive when using chopsticks in improper ways. Stick to the following rules: Never use your chopsticks to examine a dish piece by piece, making everyone taste your saliva. Implicitly use your eye to target what you want, and pick it. Once you pick a piece, you are obliged to take it. Don’t put it back. Confucius says never leave someone what you don’t want.
When someone is picking from a dish, don’t try to cross over or go underneath his arms to pick from a dish further away. Wait until they finish picking. In most cases, a dish is not supposed to be picked simultaneously by more than one person. Don’t try to compete with anyone to pick a piece from the same dish. Don’t put your chopsticks vertically into your bowl of rice as it is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and carries the connotation of wishing death for those around you. Instead, place it across your bowl or on the chopstick rest, if provided. Don’t drum your bowl with chopsticks. Only beggars do it. People don’t find it funny even if you’re willing to satirically call yourself a beggar. Other less important dining rules include: Many travel books suggest that cleaning your plate suggests that your host did not to feed you well and will feel pressured to order more food. In general, finishing a meal involves a delicate balance. Cleaning your plate will typically invite more to be served, while leaving too much may be a sign that you didn’t like it. When you’re stuffed, you will please your host by lifting up a thumb, telling your host how much you enjoy it, and theatrically rubbing your belly to show that you’re stuffed.
Communal chopsticks are not always provided. Diners typically use their own chopsticks to transfer food to their bowl. While many Westerners consider this unhygienic, it is usually safe. However, if desired, it is acceptable to request communal utensils. Making slurping noises when eating is common but could be considered inappropriate, especially among well educated families. However, slurping is seen by some gourmands as a way to enhance flavor. Spoons are used when drinking soups or eating watery dishes such as porridge. In China, the dish should be scooped towards you, and not away from you as done in the West, as the Chinese believe that this rakes in wealth. If a piece is too slippery to pick, do it with the aid of a spoon; do not spear it with the sharp end of the chopstick. All dishes are shared, similar to “family style” dining in North America. When you order anything, it’s not just for you, it’s for everyone. You’re expected to consult others before you order a dish. When you’re asked about your opinion, being overly picky is usually seen as annoying. It is normal for your host or hostess to put food on your plate. It is a gesture of kindness and hospitality. If you wish to decline, do it in a way so that it does not offend. For example, you should insist that they eat and that you serve yourself. Fish heads are considered a delicacy and may be offered to you as an honored guest. In truth, the cheek meat is particularly savory. Treating In China, restaurants and pubs are very common entertainment places and treating plays an important part in socializing. While splitting the bill is beginning to be accepted by young people, treating is still the norm, especially when the parties are in obviously different social classes.
Men are expected to treat women, elders to juniors, rich to poor, hosts to guests, working class to non-income class (students). Friends of the same class will usually prefer to split the opportunity to treat, rather than split the bill, i.e. “This is my turn, and you treat next time.” It is common to see Chinese competing sweatily to pay the bill. You are expected to fight back and say “It’s my turn, you treat me next time.” The smiling loser will accuse the winner of being too courteous. These dramas are becoming somewhat less common among young urban Chinese despite still being widespread among all generations and usually played wholeheartedly. Unless you only hang out with non-Chinese tourists, you will have fair chances of being treated. For budget travelers, the good news is that Chinese tend to be eager to treat foreigners, although you shouldn’t expect much from students and working class families and individuals. That being said, Chinese tend to be very tolerant towards foreigners. If you feel like going dutch, try it. They tend to believe that “all foreigners prefer to go dutch”. If they try to argue, it usually means that they insist on paying for your bill as well, not the opposite.
What to Drink in China
The Chinese covers quite a range of alcoholic drinks. Toasting Chinese toast with the word gnbi , literally “dry glass”). Traditionally one is expected to drain the glass in one swig. During a meal, the visitor is generally expected to drink at least one glass with each person present; sometimes there may be considerable pressure to do this. And it can be considered rude, at least early during the meal, if you do not make a toast every time you take a drink. Exercise caution. Fortunately, the glasses are usually small even beer is often drunk from an oversized shot glass. The Chinese liquor, baijiu, is definitely potent (up to 65% alcohol). Baijiu is often drunk in small shot glasses for a good reason. US president Nixon practiced drinking before his first trip to China to be ready to drink with Mao Zedong. Unless you are used to imbibing heavily, be very careful when drinking with Chinese. If you want to take it easy but still be sociable, say suíbiàn before you make the toast, then drink only part of the glass. It may also be possible to have three toasts (traditionally signifying friendship) with the entire company, rather than one separate toast for every individual present.
Alcohol The legal drinking/purchasing age in China is 18, except in Macau where there is no legal drinking/purchasing age. Note, alcohol regulations of Hong Kong and Macau are different from Mainland China Beer píji is very common in China and is served in nearly every restaurant. The most famous brand is Tsingtao from Qingdao, which was at one point a German concession. Other brands abound and are generally light beers in a pilsner or lager style with 3-4% alcohol. In addition to national brands, most cities will have one or more cheap local beers. Some companies (Tsingtao, Yanjing) also make a dark beer hipíji. In some regions, beers from other parts of Asia are fairly common and tend to be popular with travellers Filipino San Miguel in Guangdong, Singaporean Tiger in Hainan, and Laotian Beer Lao in Yunnan, The typical price for beer is about ¥2.5-4 in a grocery store, ¥4-18 in a restaurant, around ¥25 in an ordinary bar, and ¥40+ in a fancier bar.
Most places outside of major cities serve beer at room temperature, regardless of season, though places that cater to American and Canadian tourists have it cold. Locally made grape wine pútaoji is common and much of it is reasonably priced, from ¥15 in a grocery store, about ¥100-150 in a fancy bar. That said, most of the stuff bears only the faintest resemblance to Western wines. The Chinese like their wines red and very, very sweet, and they’re typically served over ice or mixed with Sprite. Great Wall and Dynasty are large brands with a number of wines at various prices; their cheaper (under ¥40) offerings are generally not impressive. Chang Yu is another large brand; some of their low end wines are a bit better. If you’re looking for a Chinese-made, Western-style wine, try to find these labels: Suntime , with a passable Cabernet Sauvignon Yizhu, located in Yili and specializing in ice wine Les Champs D’or, French-owned and probably the best overall winery in China. Imperial Horse and Xixia, from Ningxia Mogao Ice Wine, Gansu Castle Estates, Shandong Shangrila Estates, from Zhongdian, Yunnan There are also several brands and types of rice wine. Most of these resemble a watery rice pudding, they are usually very sweet and only have a very small amount of alcohol for taste.
These do not generally much resemble Japanese sake, the only rice wine well-known in the West. Travelers’ reactions to these vary widely. Báiji is distilled liquor, generally 80 to 120 proof, made from sorghum and sometimes other grains depending on the region. As the word “ji” is often loosely translated as “wine” by Chinese beverage firms and English speakers, baijiu is frequently referred to as “white wine” in conversation. Baijiu will typically be served at banquets and festivals in tiny shot glasses. Toasts are ubiquitous at banquets or dinners on special occasions. Most foreigners find baijiu tastes like diesel fuel, while a liquor connoisseur may find high quality, expensive baijiu quite good. Baijiu is definitely an acquired taste, but once the taste is acquired, it’s quite fun to “ganbei” a glass or two at a banquet.
The cheapest baijiu is the Beijing brewed èrgutóu (¥4.5 per 100 mL bottle). It comes in two variants: 53% and 56% alcohol by volume. Ordering “xio èr” (Erguotou’s diminutive nickname) will likely raise a few eyebrows and a chuckle from working class Chinese. Máotái , made in Guizhou Province, is China’s most famous brand of baijiu and China’s national liquor. Made from sorghum, Maotai and its expensive cousins (such as Kaoliang in Taiwan) are well-known for their strong fragrance and are actually sweeter than western clear liquors as the sorghum taste is preserved – in a way. Chinese brandy is excellent value, about the same price as grape wine or baijiu, and generally far more palatable than either.
A ¥16-20 local brandy is not a ¥200+ imported brand-name cognac, but it is close enough that you should only buy the cognac if money doesn’t matter. Expats debate the relative merits of brandies from French-owned Louis Wann , Chinese brand Changyu , and several others. All are drinkable. The Chinese are also great fans of various supposedly medicinal liquors, which usually contain exotic herbs and/or animal parts. Some of these have prices in the normal range and include ingredients like ginseng. These can be palatable enough, if tending toward sweetness. Others, with unusual ingredients (snakes, turtles, bees, etc.) and steep price tags, are probably best left to those that enjoy them. Bars, discos and karaoke Western style pubs are becoming increasingly popular across the country. Especially in the more affluent urban centers such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Hangzhou one can find painstakingly recreated replicas of traditional Irish or English pubs. Like their Western counterparts most will have a selection of foreign beers on tap as well as provide pub food (of varying quality) and often feature live cover bands. Most of these pubs cater to and are frequented by the expatriate communities so you should not expect to find many Chinese in these places. Be aware that imported beer can be very expensive compared to local brew. To just go out for a few drinks with friends, pick a local restaurant and drink beer at around ¥5 for a 600 ml bottle. It will be Chinese lager, around 3% alcohol, with a limited choice of brand and may be served warm.
Most mid- to high- range restaurants will have small private suites for gatherings (usually offered free if there is more than around 5 people), and the staff will generally not try to hustle you out even if you decide to stay until closing time. Many residents frequent outdoor restaurants or roadside stalls and barbecues (shoko – for a nice and inexpensive evening. In discos and fancy bars with entertainment, you normally buy beer ¥100 at a time; this gets you anywhere from 4 import-brand beer (Heineken, Bud, Corona, Sol, ..) to 10 local beers. A few places offer cocktails; fewer have good ones. Other drinks are sold only by the bottle, not by the glass. Red wine is in the ¥80-200 range (served with ice and Sprite) and mediocre imported whiskeys (Chivas, Johnny Walker, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels; extremely rarely single malts) and cognacs, ¥300-800. Both are often mixed with sweet bottled green or red tea. Vodka, tequila and rum are less common, but sometimes available. Bogus “brand name” products are fairly common and may ruin your next day. These places often have bar girls, young women who drink a lot and want to play drinking games to get you to consume more.
They get a commission on whatever you buy. In general, these girls will not leave the bar with you; they are professional flirts, not prostitutes. Karaoke OK) is huge in China and can be broadly split into two categories. More common is the no-frills karaoke box or KTV, where you rent a room, bring your friends and the house gives you a mike and sells you booze. Much favored by students, these are cheap and fun with the right crowd, although you need at least a few people for a memorable night. Bringing your own booze can keep the price tag down but must be done on the sly – many places have windows in the door so the staff can make sure you only drink liquor they sold to you. Rather different is the distinctly dodgier special KTV lounge, more oriented to businessmen entertaining clients or letting their hair down, where the house provides anything and everything at a price. At these often opulent establishments over-the-top Roman and Egyptian themes are standard you’ll be joined by short-skirted professional karaoke girls, who charge by the hour for the pleasure of their company and whose services may not be limited to just singing badly and pouring your drinks. It’s highly advisable not to venture into these unless you’re absolutely sure somebody else is footing the bill, which can easily run into hundreds of dollars even if you keep your pants on.
As elsewhere, never never accept an invitation to a restaurant or bar from an available-looking woman who just picked you up in the street sometime after sundown. At best, suggest a different place. If she refuses, drop her on the spot. More than likely, she will steer you into a quiet little place with too many doormen and you will find yourself saddled with a modest meal and beer that will cost you ¥1,000 or worse. And the doormen won’t let you leave till you pay up. This is somewhat rare. But it does happen. Tea China is the birthplace of tea, and at the risk of stating the obvious, there’s a lot of tea chá) in China. Green tea lchá) is served up for free in some restaurants (depending on region) or for a small fee. The most common types served are: gunpowder tea zhchá): a green tea so-named not after the taste but after the appearance of the bunched-up leaves used to brew it (the Chinese name “pearl tea” is rather more poetic) jasmine tea mòlihuachá): green-tea scented with jasmine flowers oolong wlóng): a half-fermented mountain tea. However, specialist tea houses serve a vast variety of brews, ranging from the pale, delicate white tea báichá) to the powerful fermented and aged pu’er tea p’rchá).
Tea in Chinese culture is akin to wine in Western culture, and even the same type of tea will come in many different grades. Always check prices carefully before ordering as some of the best varieties can be very pricey indeed. Most tea shops have some teas at several hundred yuan per jing (500 g) and prices up to ¥2,000 are not uncommon. The record price for top grade tea sold at auction was well over ¥7000 a gram. Various areas of China have famous teas. Hangzhou, near Shanghai, is famed for its “Dragon Well” lóngjng) green tea. Fujian has the most famous oolong teas, “Big Red Robe” dàhóngpáo) from Mount Wuyi and “Iron Goddess of Mercy” tigunyn) from Anxi. P’r in Yunnan has the most famous fully fermented tea, p’rchá . This comes compressed into hard cakes, originally a packing method for transport by horse caravan to Burma and Tibet. The cakes are embossed with patterns; some people hang them up as wall decorations. Most tea shops will be more than happy to let you sit down and try different varieties of tea. “Ten Fu Tea” is a national chain and in Beijing “Wu Yu Tai” is the one some locals say they favor. Black tea, the type of tea most common in the West, is known in China as “red tea” hóngchá).
While almost all Western teas are black teas, the converse isn’t true, with many Chinese teas, including the famed P’r also falling into the “black tea” category. Normal Chinese teas are always drunk neat, with the use of sugar or milk unknown. However, in some areas you will find Hong Kong style “milk tea” nichá) or Tibetan “butter tea”. Taiwanese bubble tea Zhnzh Nichá) is also popular and widely available. Coffee Coffee kfi) is becoming quite popular in urban China, though it is nearly impossible to find in smaller towns. Several chains of coffee shops have branches in many cities, including Starbucks , UBC Coffee , Ming Tien Coffee Language and SPR . All offer coffee, tea, and both Chinese and Western food, generally with good air conditioning, wireless internet, and nice decor. ¥15-40 or so a cup. There are also lots of smaller independent coffee shops or local chains. These may also be high priced, but often they are around ¥15 a cup. Quality varies from excellent to abysmal. For cheap coffee just to stave off withdrawal symptoms, there are several options. Go to a Western fast food chain (KFC, McD, etc.) for some ¥8 coffee.
Additionally, almost any supermarket or convenience store will have both canned cold coffee and instant Nescafé (black or pre-mixed with whitener and sugar) – just add hot water. Cold drinks Many drinks that are usually served chilled or with ice in the West are served at room temperature in China. Ask for beer or soda in a restaurant, and it may arrive at room temperature, though beer is more commonly served cold, at least in the summer. Water will generally be served hot. That is actually good, because only boiled (or bottled) water is safe to drink, but it’s not pleasant to drink hot water in the summer. You can get cold drinks from small grocery stores and restaurants, just look for the cooler (even though it might not actually be cool). You can try bringing a cold beverage into a restaurant. Most small restaurants won’t mind–if they even notice–and there is no such thing as a “cork” charge in China. Remember that most people will be drinking tea, which is free anyway, so the restaurant is probably not expecting to profit on your beverage consumption. Asking for ice is best avoided. Many, perhaps most, places just don’t have it. The ice they do have may well be made from unfiltered tap water and arguably unsafe for travelers sweating bullets about diarrhea.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend Please add and comment.