Recommended dishes to try for a non-adventurous eater in Vietnam and China
I will be traveling to Hanoi, HCMC, Hoi An, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing and I was hoping that I could get recommendations for dishes from each region that someone who does not like organ meats and "fishy tasting" seafood would like. Are there certain dishes that most Americans prefer?
In Shanghai and Beijing at least, if you pass by a 兰州拉面 (Lanzhou lamian- their standard is a noodle soup), they almost always offer 西红柿炒鸡蛋 (xihongshi chaojidan), which is a tomato and egg over rice dish. Actually, many of these places offer picture menus on the wall, and besides the potential for little bits of beef in a dish other vegetarian, the contents of the pictures are typically reliable as ordered.
So, do you like certain seafood or fish, or is that just out completely? Do you 'tolerate' seafood, or can you truly adore it if its not overly fishy tasting?
Beijing: Get the Zha Jiang Mian (noodle in bean paste sauce) at Noodle Loft. A dish of lotus root and walnuts was also stellar. Noodles with 'fatty meat sauce' is delicious, and don't let the name put you off.
Is spicy food out for you? If not, get the fried ribs at 3 Guizhou Men. Also the fried eggplant, which is not spicy.
In Shanghai, do not miss the dumpling shops. There are two right across the street from each other around the corner form the Park Hotel, so this is Chowhound heaven. Yang's Fry Dumplings and Jia Jia Tang Bao. At JJTB, I adore the crab and pork, but the regular pork ones are the most popular.
Also in Shanghai, a great Cantonese place is Hengshan Cafe. Get the turbot with fresh chilis, the roast goose, shallot root salad, and morning glory greens sauteed with garlic.
Get a dry-fried lamb and bread dish at a Xinjiang or Uighur restaurant. This is a dish (and style of cooking) you can't find in the US, but is soooo delicious.
Here is a good resource for listing information:
Hope the above conforms to your limitations. Don't leave Beijing without trying zha jiang mian! It's a staple.
Thank you so much for all the replies. I can't wait to try all those new dishes!
In order to give you a better idea of what to recommend these are my preferences: I like some seafood (scallops, lobster, snapper, raw tuna, shrimp and conch) and chicken. I love pate, foie gras, duck, pork and red meat.
The top place for Shanghainese cuisne is Jesse at 41 Tianping Lu in the French Concession. It is small, casual. I went in the summer for an early lunch and could get in, but I hear it fills up quickly. Their wild herbs wrapped in tofu was one of the best dishes of my trip. Also well known for the red-braised pork and river shrimp. There is another location elsewhere that I hear is not nearly as good.
this is just me. and i'm honestly not trying to obnoxious, so please take this as i mean it, which is a sincere suggestion.
these areas probably cook a lot of stuff you're familiar with in ways very different than you're familiar with. conversely, they may also just straightup cook a lot of stuff you're not familiar with. are you open to what i would suggest, which is just... trying it? worrying less about what you do or don't like, and just going in with an open mind to try new stuff?
i don't mean to downplay your preferences, but i think going in more with an attitude of being open to trying new things - including being open to eating some things that you'll find gross! which you very well may! - can be a real gift in foreign countries.
i've definitely taken this approach when i travel. i'd be lying if i said it was always a good idea (shirako, anybody?), but i'd also be lying if i said i regretted it. even the fails aren't harmful. at worst, they're a great story and i moved on to find other things i enjoyed.
good luck and enjoy your trip! remember, FEARLESS!! :-)
The only thing I can add to this advice is that, eating out in China can be very, very cheap. You can have it both ways: order food you feel safe with AND order some other things. If you don't like it, don't eat it. It doesn't cost much! My son and I visited some friends in Beijing, and they always ordered more dishes than we could possibly eat, just so we could try more.