Dining Culture

Unlike dining where each diner is served pre-determined portions at the beginning of the meal or each course, Chinese dining is communal. While each person receives a small bowl of rice, all main dishes are placed in the center of the table, usually on a rotating “lazy Susan.” Diners dish out small portions of the main plates as dinner progresses. The two main components are carbohydrates (such as rice, noodles, or dumplings) and accompanying dishes, consisting of meats, vegetables, or fish. Soup is often served after the main dishes are finished. Lastly, for formal banquets, fruit slices, usually watermelon and oranges, are placed on the table. Common beverages include hot tea, water, orange juice, cola, sprite, and beer.

Students out on the town

Student Tips on Shanghai Hang Out Spots

I loved to hangout at Barbarossa. It is this lounge that has hookahs, food and drinks in the middle of a lake in the middle of People’s Park. Just imagine a hookah bar/lounge/restaurant located in the middle of central park surrounded by a lake and you get the idea. --Alice 

If you’re a fan of Latin dancing, definitely don’t miss Zapata’s. While their free Salsa lessons can be really basic for more advanced dancers, it’s a really fun way to meet new people. It’s just intriguing to be a part of a Salsa lesson in Shanghai! --Erica

Bar Rouge was where I found NYC nightlife in Shanghai. The crowd and the view are beautiful, the music is great, and the bar is literally on fire the entire night. Bar Rouge is definitely one of the best scenes on the Bund. --Melissa

Expat entertainment is usually a little more expensive than local places, but a ton of English-speaking people are around and it’s always interesting to meet people with different backgrounds. I’ve definitely run into a few NYU professors and administrators and met people from my hometown of Vancouver, Canada who I shared mutual friends with! --Katherine

Student Recommendations

Dining for Vegetarians

China has plenty of vegetarian dishes to offer. Just make sure that the dishes you order do not use animal-based oils or broths in preparation. Some recommendations from previous vegetarian NYU students traveling to China include:

  • 番茄炒蛋 (fān qié chǎo dàn) - fried tomatoes and scrambled eggs
  • 三丝饭 (sān sī fàn) - three shredded vegetables over rice

Some vegetarians had trouble finding “actual” vegetarian food. For example, the waiter might bring out an eggplant dish with tiny shrimp sprinkled on top, even after specifically ordering “No meat.” Sometimes, you just have to laugh it off and reorder. Or, if you are fine with picking out shrimp, that works too!

When traveling to smaller cities, whether on group travels or individually, however, students may be dismayed to find a lack of vegetarian options and an excess of exotic meats such as dog, pig testicles, frog legs, snakes, and so on. Make it an adventure, and stay open-minded.

Students share a meal

Chinese Pin Yin Translation
小龙包 xiǎo lóng bāo Soup dumplings (Shanghai specialty)
羊肉串 yáng ròu chuàn Lamb kebobs (typical of Xinjiang)
番茄炒蛋 fān qié chǎo dàn Fried tomatoes and scrambled eggs
三丝饭 sān sī fàn Three shredded veggies over rice
宫保鸡丁 gōng bǎo jī dīng Kung Pao chicken
麻婆豆腐 má pó dòu fu Tofu in chili sauce
四川火锅 Sì chuān huǒ guo Sichuan hot pot
芥兰牛肉 jiè lán niú ròu Beef with broccoli
北京烤鸭 Běi jīng kǎo ya Peking Duck
清蒸鱼 qīng zhēng yu Fish steamed in broth
麦当劳 Mài dāng láo McDonald’s
肯德基 Kěn dé ji Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
必胜客 Bì shèng Ke Pizza Hut
spicy tofu