Dealing with a peanut food allergy is one thing, but dealing with it while living or traveling overseas is quite another, especially in China.
Chinese cuisine is very diverse and changes greatly depending on where you are in the country. This is especially important for you to know if you are coping with a peanut allergy, especially in the South where the climate is hot and allows for the growth and production of peanuts. Therefore, peanuts are cheap, and are used everywhere.
Cultural factors also come into play: in most Western countries, peanut allergies are unfortunately very common, and therefore most people will understand what you can and can’t eat. In China, to have a peanut allergy is almost unheard of, so you need to make yourself understood clearly when explaining about your allergy.
Key phrases for dealing with a peanut food allergy in China
– 我对花生过敏。 Wǒ duì huāshēng guòmǐn. I’m allergic to peanuts.
– 这个菜有花生吗？ Zhège cài yǒu huāshēng ma? Does this dish have peanuts?
– 你们用花生油吗？ Nǐmen yòng huāshēngyóu ma? Do you use peanut oil?
– 如果我吃到花生我会死，所以请不要用花生！Rúguǒ wǒ chī dào huāshēng wǒ huì sǐ, suǒyǐ qǐng bùyào yòng huāshēng! If I eat peanuts I will die, so please don’t use peanuts!
Only you know the seriousness of your peanut allergy, so it is up to you to know whether you can eat in restaurants that handle peanuts, or may have cross-contamination. It is important to consider this before you head to China – since it could really impact on where you can and can’t eat.
Be aware: In the South of China especially, they like to put peanuts into a lot of the dishes, and one of the biggest dangers is the invisible type: peanut oil. This oil is the primary cooking oil used in the south, since it is a cheaper oil to use, and some prefer the taste and say it is healthier than other oils. It is less commonly used in the North of China, but still is something to watch out for if you suffer from a peanut food allergy.
Chinese food is awesome, and there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it even if your allergy is severe – however, do exercise caution. If you don’t feel confident with your Mandarin, do take someone who can speak Chinese with you.
Have other dietary requirements? Read everything you need to survive China as a vegetarian or a sufferer of food allergies.