Things I've learned about cooking in China:
1. Don’t stand too close when you turn on the stove – it will send a fireball app. 3 ft high.
2. A wok heats very quickly when placed on a burner that is continually shooting flames in excess of 2 feet.
3. Anything placed in said wok will be finished cooking in about 30 seconds or less, unless you turn the heat extremely low – in which case you can increase the cook time to about 60 seconds.
4. Ramen noodles are as much a staple here as they were in America, but here they come with the powder, a packet of freeze-dried vegetables, and a packet of reddish, oily stuff.
5. Reddish, oily stuff is good when cooking ramen in a wok, because most of the liquid will evaporate. If you cook it microwave-style, however, skip the red stuff.
6. Ramen noodles mixed in the wok with an egg or two is pretty darn good, and beats getting your face burnt off at the cafeteria.
7. Western ingredients are not to be found in the Hunan province. Don’t even hope for milk or cheese.
8. The bow-tie noodles you were so excited to find are not egg noodles. There is a big difference between egg noodles and flour-and-water noodles.
9. Flour-and-water bow-tie noodles do NOT make good pasta. When mixed with eggs and tomatoes they can, however, make a good-smelling-awful-tasting paste, which you could effectively use to scare your dog away from ever eating table food again.
10. Ice cream is a useful substitute for dinner when you have just tried to make pasta using flour-and-water noodles.
11. All meat is fresh. If you want fish, pick one from the bucket and watch as they begin cutting it up for you while the heart is still beating. Same with chickens, ducks, frogs, eels, etc. Oh yeah, and dogs, but I won’t watch that one.
12. Produce and meat purchased in China will be good for one day, maybe two. If you do not intend to use it immediately, don’t purchase it (even if you have a refrigerator)!
13. If you buy normal looking bread, it will have beans, raisins, etc. in it. If you want normal tasting bread, buy the purple kind.
14. The orange, hairy stuff on/in many of the bread products is not an odd-looking kind of melted cheese; it is nastiness. Period.
15. If you leave a few drops of water in a wok overnight, it will rust.
16. Oranges have a green peel, but are still called oranges. They’re quite good.
17. Bread and honey is a luxury meal, and can help ease cravings for “normal” food (a.k.a. food that will not burn your face off).
18. When all else fails, pay Y21 (what you might otherwise pay for 3 or 4 meals) and grab a bag of Snickers bars from the grocery store. They’ll make you feel better.