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'Welcome back from China' dinner ideas?

My parents are coming back from a two-week expedition-style holiday in China where they have apparently been roughing it - and not just in terms of 'squat-over-a-hole' type hotels but also foodwise. From the few messages that have managed to reach me through the heavily censored internet over there I hear that they have been dining on mostly egg, savoury porridge, bull's penis and a few 'real deal' versions of the kinds of things we get in Chinese restaurants in the west. I'd like to cook them a welcome home dinner when they get back in two days, and I want it to be the kind of thing they will have been yearning for while chewing through another bowl of noodles. (Therefore not spaghetti!)

So: what kind of meal would you guys suggest as a perfect contrast to a lot of Chinese food? What would be the best thing to come home to after two weeks of hiking and bulls' penis? What's the kind of food you just long for after you've been in a really foreign place for a while? I'd love to know your ideas!

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  1. Wouldn't this depend on where you live, what your parents' background is and what their culinary interests are? I can suggest a lot of ideas but apart from describing their adventure on the mainland, there's really no guidance in terms of what they might crave.

    Outside of food, I'd be assuming running water, shower and toilet facilities designed and manufactured by the Japanese would probably be in order.

    1. Make them their favorite foods, unless their faves are pasta! But mac and cheese, if that is a fave, would not be the same as a bowl of noodles. Or you could grill steaks, or make barbecue, especially if they like those things.

      1. For me it would be a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.
        For a welcome home dinner I'd like a good roast beef dinner with yorkshire puddings,roast potatoes and loads of veg and gravy and a pint or two of proper beer.

        1. I was gonna say Mexican or Tex-Mex food but then checked your profile and saw that you were in the UK. Maybe Indian food?

          When I came home from periods in India and elsewhere, I always wanted stuff like a big mixed greens salad. I lived in places where there was cabbage or something called "Russian salad," but no leafy green salad...when I got on the plane on the way home I just relished the pathetic airline salad and then had a lot more salad at my house. Definitely include that.

          1. Two thoughts. 1) It is not unusual for travelers returning from a Third-world country to have upset tummies. I would inquire as to whether they are eating a normal diet just now. 2) Why not ask them what dishes they missed and what they long for? Maybe some traditional family favorites. But first, find out if they're restricted to tea and toast and Lomotil.

            1. We spent the better part of 20 years working,short and long stints in and out of China,Japan, and Korea,80's & 90's.Bar none the most missed thing was DAIRY.Chocolate chip cookies made with BUTTER,grilled CHEESE sandwiches made with brioche and expensive CHEESE and a glass of milk.Things not so mainstream then and not in non tourist China now.

                1. Ice cream (cold and sweet) -- contrast the savory and hot foods from China.

                  1. These all sound good - Sorry for not being more specific in the original post, yes I am based in the UK and their culinary interests are pretty much "everything". The reason why I'm not asking them what they want is that it's supposed to be a little surprise, as I think they're probably expecting to just have to dig bits and pieces out of the fridge when they get home :)

                    Salad is an interesting suggestion, tricky to make really 'luxurious' though?

                    1. It's my understanding that, while Chinese food contains some dishes and ingredients that western palates find odd or disgusting, the same is true in reverse. I've read (and feel free to correct me where I'm wrong) that the Chinese find cheese (except the blandest, most ultra-processed kind) to be revolting, and rare meat to be barbaric. And I also saw your comment about a salad. So maybe a nice rare steak with a salad that involves something like bleu cheese?

                      1. Porterhouse steaks or (prime) standing rib roast. cesar salad, apple pie.

                        1. I'd make Ina's Roasted Chicken with mashed, gravy and a couple of vegetables. Her roasted chicken, is listed as perfect too! :)


                          1. When I got back from a long visit in France, I was craving Chinese food. So maybe they'll want French after their visit to China!

                            In seriousness though, I would go for some very high-end protein after all the bull penis. A roast beef or turkey dinner might hit the spot.

                            1. When I lived in remote areas, I was always craving fresh fruits & veg when I returned. We were so limited to just a few options (I still don't eat bananas...they were the always-available, very cheap fruit...& I ate them all the time overseas!). Anyway, I wanted pineapples, mango, berries, snap peas, cauliflower, even spinach and such. And 'real' ice cream -not made with milk powder!
                              Just my .02 ;)

                              1. I lived in China for a year in the late 70's. It was very rudimentary and NO american food had been adopted as of that time. When I returned to the US, believe it or not I craved US chinese food. I know it sounds crazy but I wanted egg rolls and general Tso's chicken. Bring on the MSG.

                                1. 1) Steak or meat loaf, baked potatoes and broccoli, berry pie

                                  2) Fried chicken

                                  1. whenever i go traveling and come back i stop first for a cheeseburger. mexican is next, then a good pizza.

                                    like others say favorite fast foods really hit the spot.

                                    1. Wow, thanks for all the awesome suggestions! I think I've cracked it though: with all the mentions of beef and cheese and proper American food (yeah, I know I'm British) I figure something they would probably INHALE after days of sweet and sour, luxury meatballs and spaghetti with tons of parmesan and an intensely tomato-y sauce. I know I was going to avoid spaghetti, but maybe I'll go with penne and have a really crisp, fresh selection of salads for the sides, like a coleslaw and a leafy, fennel-y one. I always put a load of smoked bacon in my meatballs, too, so it's even hitting that particular classic craving. :)

                                      1. I could imagine that they perhaps like some dessert other than plain cut up fruits. ( not that there is anything wrong with that)
                                        I am however somewhat amazed that even in the poorest places they were not able to get their hands on very delicious food? It has been my experience that China is certainly not a "third world country" as perhaps suggested up-stream.

                                        1. OK, so, I recently came back to the US after living in Beijing for three years. I craved these foods to the point of having lucid dreams about them:

                                          Thinly sliced rare roast beef sandwiches with horseradish
                                          Any kind of rare roast meat really
                                          Taco Bell
                                          Fresh salads with vinaigrette
                                          Chef Boyardee products
                                          Cured meats and sausages
                                          Western-style portions (i.e. fat man portions)

                                          I don't have a particularly advanced palate so take it for what it's worth.