What Is the College Canteen in China Look Like?
Chinese restaurants, restaurateurs and chefs produce great cuisine, but some of the best food in China can be found in the more than 2,000 university and college canteens and dorms across the country. Most universities in China have an extremely large campus and therefore, there are a few different places scattered all around in which you can find somewhere to eat. However probably the most popular choice (and most economical) would be the canteens. Even beyond the walls of some universities themselves, these canteens have made a name for themselves!
Outside and inside university, it is known that canteen food is pretty good. There are a large variety of foods to try that are all well priced. In every canteen the set-up is almost the same. You grab a red tray, green chopsticks, possible a red spoon if needs be, and wait in line in whatever food stall you fancy and then go to the counter to pay. A slight downfall perhaps is that you can only use your card to pay. Therefore this means topping up every so often, at the top-up shop situated centrally in campus. Nevertheless since canteen food is pretty cheap, you don't need to make this trip that often. For example a big bowl of fried noodles or rice with two sides will cost you around 8/10 RMB. The food varies slightly from each canteen however you will always find in every canteen staple dishes such as Jiaozi (delicious steamed dumplings) fried rice, noodles, heavily flavored meat dishes, Baicai (Chinese cabbage) etc.
There may be several floors of food that you can choose from, mostly serving a variety of Chinese, Korean and Japanese food: chicken soup noodles, fried noodles, meatballs, Korean hot pot style fried rice and so on. Many canteens are situated opposite the teaching buildings. So when you are really hungry after class, you have the perfect solution. Some canteens just take less than minutes’ walk from the library. Therefore if you have been studying hard, the canteen is ideal for a food break.
Note of warning when dining canteen style, things can get messy. It is always best idea to go little bit earlier than 12:00pm. One downfall of being in such a large university is the mass amount of hungry people you encounter at noon. However stand your guard and be effective at balancing a tray full of food, and you will have no problems.
Chinese campus food is also generally considered safe — and that carries a lot of weight in a country facing frequent food scandals such as clenbuterol-laced pork, cardboard-filled Baozi, milk mixed with melamine and, most recently, rat meat that was passed off as lamb.
The universities, and the local government officials affiliated with them, are known to take special care to ensure the quality and cleanliness of ingredients, lest the country’s future leaders (especially in the top-tier universities in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities such as Xi’an and Chengdu) fall ill. That would not play out well in the Chinese media, which recently received additional reporting freedoms from the government to cover food safety related stories.