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Hosting Chinese Students in Los Angeles - What to feed them?

We have two middle school aged kids from China staying with us for a week. I'm excited but a little worried about what to feed them. We're thinking of hitting the grocery store with the kids tomorrow. We are near Arcadia and there is a Ranch 99 market, so it might be nice for them to have some familiar snacks.

These students are from Shanghai - I want them to try American food but I don't want to give them indigestion. Any suggestions as to snacks or foods that would make them feel comfortable and would be easier on their tummies. Maybe salmon? Any drinks that would be good to have in the fridge? I was thinking that bananas, watermelon and apples would be nice for them.

Any suggestions?

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  1. If I was a visitor from a different country like China, I would like to try something indigenous like maybe a hamburger or fried chicken? Forget the Chinese restaurants unless they request it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Clinton

      Yes - I was surprised to see a lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken in China. Maybe Roscoe's would be a good idea since we live near Pasadena.

      I was thinking of making burgers at home and they could try different toppings. My 16 year old cousin is a vegetarian so we could have tofu burgers as an option is they like.

    2. Here's a thread on preserved Chinese fruit snack stores. Chinese kids, well, all Chinese love this stuff. Me included! The kids would like it. Chinese visitors don't like to stray to far from familiar. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/56649

      1 Reply
      1. re: Galen

        I'll try that - thanks! The kids are 12-13 years old so a familiar snack would probably be nice for them.

      2. Don't worry too much about their tummies. If they can stomach Shanghai street food they can stomach the food here.

        Kids are kids. They'll probably destroy any Flaming Hot Cheetos or Funyuns you have lying around. They would probably really enjoy eating a lot of burgers (In-N-Out), hot dogs, pizza, shakes, philly cheesesteaks, fried chicken, etc.

        If they get home sick you can always take them to J&J for comfort Shanghainese food or Shanghai #1 Seafood Village for some higher end Shanghainese food. The pan fried buns at Shanghai #1 are very good. The two restaurants are literally across the street from each other. I'm not as keen on Mei Long Village as most people. A distant 3rd IMO.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Porthos

          well, i might go easy on the dairy and avoid large portions of red meat.

          i like the idea of going to a shanghainese restaurant. maybe dean sin world?

          1. re: raizans

            Maybe one night at a Shanghainese restaurant. I'll see what their schedule has been like so far. They will be going to school during the day so I bet they will be pretty tired in the evening. On the other hand they might be really raring to get out and see things with an American family.

        2. How old are they? Why not just ask them what they like to eat?

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I'm just worried that they will be so polite that they won't say anything. Or that their English will be more academic than casual everyday stuff.

            I should probably learn some handy Chinese phrases about food, that will have them rolling on the floor laughing.

          2. Don't worry too much about indigestion; they probably have iron-clad stomachs.

            I'll disagree from some other posters by saying this:

            Just don't feed them what they usually eat back in Shanghai, unlike they exhibit signs of homesickness. True, many Chinese visitors to the U.S. tend to stick to the familiar. BUT kids are a different ballgame (some still are developing their palates)...

            1. only suggestion:
              have many NON DAIRY food choices.

              10 Replies
              1. re: westsidegal

                Don't assume westsidegal. One really popular item in Beijing is housemade yogurt. Yes, from milk.

                1. re: J.L.

                  The lactose-intolerance issue is more prevalent with the older folks (i.e. the students' parents) than with younger kids these days. Esp. if these kids are coming from a major metro area like Shanghai or Beijing, they've been getting all the dairy products that U.S. kids grow up with, and probably more.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Not to mention that many lactose intolerant people can suggest live cultured yogurt.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      maybe my experience is tainted because i, myself, am one of those <<older folks>>.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Going "Full Dairy" in much of East Asia is somewhat recent. Japanese consumers have been consuming milk and ice cream in varying degrees since post-WWII. But I was surprised how much cultured dairy products - high quality products - are now consumed there.

                        As already mentioned, dairy is no stranger now in Chinese Asia either. Many of Singapore and Malaysia's more recent generations consume dairy is (and a fair amount of other and Euro foods).

                        Yogurt is becoming an increasingly common menu item at SGV eateries as well, particularly at the Sichuan places. I think the yogurt helps calm the digestive system after eating so much fire.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Or how about Shaved Snow? Or boba teas?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            We have a lot of Boba down Duarte road (I'm in Monrovia). I was also thinking "Noodle World" is a good ol' standby.

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        Not to mention lactose intolerance is mostly a southern China thing.

                      3. re: J.L.

                        Popular indeed, very good and fairly cheap ( 5 RMB ).

                        Served in a gray clayish ( or is it glass? ) pot, you need to eat it right next to the stand, since the pot must be returned to the vendor right away.
                        BTW, Yoshinoya, KFC, McD, Pizza Hut, you name it, seem to be all the rage with locals in Beijing. Particularly ( needless to say ) the young crowd.

                    2. Dont feed them Chinese food. Maybe take them to a real Japanese restaurants since most in China are crap unless you are rich.

                      Probably want to avoid dairy, or check with them because Asians in general don't do so well with dairy.

                      Salads and raw foods might be a bit far stretched for them since Chinese people tend to eat everything cooked.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Johnny L

                        Yes, I will definitely avoid dairy!

                        1. re: Johnny L

                          "Salads and raw foods might be a bit far stretched for them since Chinese people tend to eat everything cooked."

                          Like sushi?

                          1. re: chezwhitey

                            The operative expression here is "...tend to..."
                            In the case of sushi, the appeal to Chinese people makes a fair amount of sense to me.

                            1. re: chezwhitey

                              What Tripeler said.

                              Besides...uhh...I don't think a Japanese restaurant - here in the US anyway - has ONLY sushi that contains raw fish on the menu, or is SYNONYMOUS with JUST sushi. There are tons of other Japanese dishes that are cooked. Then there are many kinds of sushi, both makimono (rolls) and nigirizushi that do NOT have raw fish in it. P.s. Things like raw cucumber is readily and commonly eaten by Chinese folks, before you object there... :-)

                          2. Maybe take them to a Chinese restaurant and watch what they order from the Chinese-language menu. Perhaps some of them could explain the food as well...?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Tripeler

                              Thanks to everyone for the tips! I'm picking the kids up this afternoon and now I have a plan A, B and C!


                            2. My wife is from Taiwan, and she doesn't have any issues eating dairy. But travel is about experiencing different things, and even if they don't eat the free samples, you may want to consider taking the kids to a real cheese shop (like the one in Beverly Hills), just for the sheer joy of watching the expressions on their faces when they walk into and smell the store!

                              Mr Taster

                              1. Unless the purpose of their externship is to study Shanghainese food, I’d suggest Dog Haus or King Taco.

                                For drinks, take them to Rocket Fizz (Pasadena), give each some $, and let THEM decide how to stock the fridge.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: MonsieurKnowItAll

                                  it has a dual purpose: the visiting students can eat what they like and show how they eat at home, and the hosting family learns what their guests are used to and can try the food themselves.

                                  that only works well if the restaurant is "authentic." another way to do the same thing is if they cooked a meal one night.

                                  still, isn't exploring another's cuisine worth a little indigestion?

                                  1. re: raizans

                                    We hosted a Korean teenager for 1/2 year. Initially, he was most interested in eating pizza and burgers. He had no interest in dining on Korean cuisine. He was never crazy about salads but did learn to eat what was on our dining table. Great experience for all of us.

                                    1. re: maudies5

                                      Yeah, my younger Mexican cousins are the same. No Salads, No Vegetables, No Fruit! They'd be THRILLED for Papa John's Pizza everyday because it's something that is a 'treat' for them in Merida and the quality of the Pizza ingredients (pepperoni, Mozzerella, tomato sauce) there are terrible ... *le sigh*

                                      In and Out is always a treat because they are so legendary. I took them to Eureka Burger and they were over the moon (So much better than TGI Friday's which the only choice of fancy burger they place they have in Merida). At the same time though, they balk at the prices of Mexican food and other services here... $3 for a Taco... outradgeous!

                                      Middle School will probably be around 12-16 so they could also have a slightly picky streak.... just learn to go with the punches. Sometimes it best to do a good part of the shopping before hand when you get a better sense of the kids. We've been on the flipside and on our last trip to Merida, they stocked the house with packages of oscar meyer hotdogs and bologna. We instead wanted tortas de Cocinita and Kibis...


                                      1. re: maudies5

                                        i was going to say something similar. although we're pretty different from koreans and chinese (we being japanese), most japanese kids that come over here want to eat hot dogs and hamburgers, especially hamburgers and the real stuff too.

                                        i'd avoid chinese unless they request it. would you like to go all the way to China and then eat burgers and pizza? just sayin'. it may be fun to compare their version of it but maybe that's one trip.

                                        how about a trip thru In n' Out? and i think the best rule of thumb is to ask them what they would like to eat. heck, take them grocery shopping or even to a famers market. now that's getting to know another culture.

                                  2. We hosted some kids (teens) from Beijing a few years ago and they absolutely loved BBQ, which is quite different from China. We cooked up the usual at different times: burgers, hot dogs, ribs, corn, steak, pork, cole slaw, potato salad, etc. We took them to get good smoked try-tip at a BBQ place which was a big hit.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: granadafan

                                      BBQ is a good idea! Thanks. Tonight we tried Roscoe's for chicken and they seemed to like it. Poor things had come down on the bus from San Francisco. They are part of two school groups; one is from Shanghai, the other from Wuhan, north of the Three Gorges Dam. These two are from Wuhan .

                                      They told me they like chicken, rice, and yogurt. :)

                                      If anyone ion Chowhound is from Wuhan, let me know!

                                      I'm going to run out and get a rice cooker today.

                                      1. re: Munchmouth

                                        Why not just cook your rice on the stovetop?

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          For me it's all about (as I've heard Ron Popeil say at least 10,000 times) regarding the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, you can just "Set It and Forget It!" (and yes, you can actually hear the exclamation point at the end of that sentence when Ron says it). ;-D>

                                            1. re: Munchmouth

                                              I make awesome rice, but still prefer the convience and the constant availablity of rice from a rice cooker. Growing up in the SGV, no matter what ethnicity you were, almost all my friends in HS had rice cookers, with warm rice in it, available to feed our ravenous appetites... the only thing that changed was what we topped it with... Kim Chee, Chicken Adobo, Guisado...


                                              1. re: Munchmouth

                                                Because I can burn water.

                                                Can you show me how? I've often needed burnt water for making moosehead.

                                            2. re: Munchmouth

                                              i hope they get big ice cream sundaes. fosselmans.

                                          1. Ask them what the do NOT like to eat. Kids don't always know or tell you what they like to eat, but they usually know what they DON"T like.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: raytamsgv

                                              When I was in junior high, I stayed with a Mexican family in Ensenada for a few weeks. Sometimes they made great homemade Mexican food, other times they made stuff Americans would eat like ham sandwiches and burgers. I'm not sure if they were trying to make us feel more at home or if they actually eat ham sandwiches and burgers. Anyway, we all liked the Mexican food much better and were secretly kind of disappointed when they made us Americanesque food. Then again, the Chinese in SGV is a far cry from packaged sliced ham and bimbo bread.

                                              I say follow his advice ^ and find out what they don't like and especially if they have allergies/intolerances. If they don't tell you, I'd say feed them what you normally eat, and you'll sort of start to get what they like and don't like generally. I'd think they'd want to eat like an American while in America.

                                            2. I've gone to eat with friends from Beijing. Their food palates were such that they loved deli sandwiches - esp the corned beef and tongue sandwiches. Liver was fine. Pastrami was a little odd for them. Also, hungarian food was popular given the palate of sweet and sour, as well as stuffed dishes.

                                              Skip the chinese food. There are tons of inferior but popular pizza places like pizza hut all over the richer parts of china. THey might like a pizza. And you can ask if they've eaten pizza. If they have and like it, then the dairy issue might be more minor.

                                              Some of the strangest things we eat are things we don't think of as strange. The British cannot abide Root Beer for one thing, as many medicines in the UK are flavored with sarsaparilla. The French friends i have are mystified by peanut butter, let alone concord grape jelly. remember that your comfort foods aren't necessarily comfort foods universally. A baked potato with all the fix... will be exotic to some people. And easily enjoyed. Most cultures have meat broths.

                                              And a change in diet and place may result in intestinal distress as easily in Berlin or Paris as in +Tijuana. So be prepared with some imodium or pepcid.

                                              I'd go to Europane. I'd go to donut man in glendora. Since you're in the san gabriel valley, I'd go to a mexican place like la parilla, or even the charrascaria in west covina, green field, for roast meat brazililan style.

                                              my closest taiwanese friends detests beans, mexican beans, black beans, just beans. of course, that's just her.

                                              let them try stuff. If they hate it, that's fine. a hershey bar is as typcially american as anything.- a black cherry shasta or a dr brown's cel-ray.

                                              or swing by tapia brothers for some extremely fresh corn, and have them try it. it'll be different than the corn i had in china years ago,much sweeter, etc.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Jerome

                                                Thanks, Jerome!
                                                We had such a fun week with the kids- the time really flew by.

                                                My hubby picked up Moffet's chicken pot pies and carrot salad last night and that was a big hit. After homework was done (yep, school started August 1 for a bunch of schools), we played Monopoly AGAIN.

                                                Who would have thought they'd love Monopoly? And it was STAR WARS Monopoly.
                                                Took me awhile to explain the rent thing to them, but once they caught on, they were killer players.

                                                1. re: Munchmouth

                                                  LOL! The Irony... ;)

                                                  Glad you guys had a fun week... although I scoff at my Cousins rejection of all things tortilla, it is fun to have them over and introduce them to new things (This summer's trip it was Falafel!)


                                                2. re: Jerome

                                                  >> my closest taiwanese friends detests beans, mexican beans, black beans, just beans. of course, that's just her.

                                                  Oh, absolutely. I can't get my darling Taiwanese wife to touch savory bean dishes. (She's crazy of course about mung bean, red beans desserts and pastries, which are Chinese mainstays).

                                                  Of course here in Los Angeles that's hardly a problem, since there's no dearth of Chinese bean pastries, and of course she's crazy for good ceviche, carnitas tacos, caldo de pollo, or the bazillion other regional dishes that don't follow the Taco Bell/Amerimex paradigm of beans/meat/rice/cheese/tortilla stacked in different configurations.

                                                  Speaking of ceviche, if they like Japanese sushi, a good ceviche would have been a great thing to expose them to. Too bad the visit is already over.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Jerome

                                                    >> my closest taiwanese friends detests beans, mexican beans, black beans, just beans. of course, that's just her. >>

                                                    No, it's really not. I'm in my 30s, and most of the Asian parents that I know (in their 60s) won't eat Mexican food (unless it's heavily processed stuff like Taco Bell). And it's not just Taiwanese people; my Cantonese friend (who has lived in the US since he was a pre-teen) has an aversion to Mexican food b/c the rice is similar enough to white, sticky rice to be familiar, and yet different enough to be disconcerting and off-putting.

                                                    As far as the dairy goes, having a consistent exposure to dairy products isn't sufficient to prevent developing lactose intolerance/maldigestion in your late teens since the condition can often be genetically pre-determined (I speak from personal experience). There's also a difference btw being lactose intolerant (which generally implies an intolerance of all things dairy) and having lactose maldigestion (which doesn't necessarily require an avoidance of all dairy products).

                                                    At any rate, to bring this back to the topic, I agree w/ others have exposing your students to a variety of American foods might be challenging but will ultimately probably give them a better culinary experience.... But it won't hurt to have 1-2 familiar Chinese places in mind, in case they get homesick (but they're only staying for a week....).

                                                  2. I'd bet they'd like anything from The Hat. Especially something like chili fries. Who doesn't like chili fries?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                      We always take overseas visitors to a Sunday brunch buffet - they can't believe the selection of foods and the made-to-order stuff.

                                                    2. I took my visiting relatives, including teens, from Japan all over town last summer in search of tasty eats. Their favorites? Baby Blues BBQ, Pinks hot dogs, Sprinkles cupcakes, Randy's donuts(drive thru!) and their surprising #1 pick- d.i.y. frozen yogurt at Menchies.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. having been an exchange student to a different country at that same age, i think a point that is missed is that there are some who play it safe and some who are quite adventurous when they eat. you won't know til you actually get to know the students.

                                                        i wish i could say let them lose in a asian and american market so they could pick out things themselves, but kids at that age aren't really into market shopping.

                                                        anyways it's just a week you, i wouldn't over do it. the program they are in may not have you need to feed them as much too.

                                                        on a side note, i was reminded of something i read from a person who hosted students from japan. the students were really into reddi-whip since it was something not available there. so much so, the host mom bought 4 cases. i'm curious if reddi-whip is something available in china...?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: catbert

                                                          wow this is a really old thread. i wonder how i clicked on this? sorry that my above reply is irrelevent

                                                        2. Couple of thoughts:

                                                          1. No rare steaks. Most of the Chinese I know have trouble eating raw things (ie raw fish, raw vegetables, rare steaks).
                                                          2. Don't worry about milk or milk products. Lactose intolerance is mostly a southern China thing.
                                                          3. In N'Out, end of discussion.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: PeterL

                                                            #1 Almost all chinese I know can (and often do) eat sushi. They also have no issues eating rare steaks, but tend to order medium and up, as they're used to their meat being more thoroughly cooked

                                                            #2 It is not a north or south thing, it is a han chinese thing.

                                                            #3 yes

                                                            1. re: blimpbinge

                                                              while it is more common for Asians to be lactose intolerant, many non-asians are intolerant as well.

                                                              1. re: trolley

                                                                this lactose intolerance issued has been discussed at length elsewhere on these boards. just anote - in 1982, i had some of the best milk i ever drank - it ws in Shanghai at the Heping hotel. back in the day. pasteurized, not homogenized - cream on top next ot tin foil cap. had heard of this, never saw it until then.
                                                                and beijing was famous for yogurt back in 1982 as well - not a recent western import. (see the beijing yogurt you can get here in alhambra0>