Food with Friends


One of my favorite things to do in China is EAT! I absolutely love trying new foods. While it’s great to try new dishes at restaurants with friends and other foreign teachers, I really enjoy trying new foods with my Chinese friends.

There’s a rumor among the foreign teachers: if you want to know where to find the best food around, ask a Chinese student. I’ve tested this rumor and found it to be true. However, I absolutely LOVE it when our Chinese friends invite us to a home-cooked meal. Often, they introduce us to a family recipe, something they, themselves–and often their parents–grew up on.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of ours, Cassie, invited my husband and I to come to her apartment for lunch. Cassie is a teacher at Sias who we met when she and my husband were working on the same project. Cassie’s boyfriend came to eat with us as well–in fact, he cooked most of the food. Cassie and her boyfriend introduced us to several new dishes, including Coke Chicken! Growing up in the South, we’ve often made foods with sodas: Coca-Cola Ham, Apple Crisp smothered in Mountain Dew, and Coca-Cola BBQ–just to name a few. But this was my first experience with Coke Chicken–and it was delicious!

Our friends were so excited to share these dishes with us. We could see it brought them such joy to watch us savor each bite. So, a week later, my husband and I decided to return the favor. We invited Cassie and her boyfriend over for dinner–and we introduced them to a few American dishes: pork chops, fried potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. Then, we got to feel the joy of sharing our culture, through these dishes, with them. But the best was yet to come…

This year, I had to return to the States a bit earlier than planned for some medical reasons. But I came prepared; Cassie sent me back with recipes, so I could continue to share authentic Chinese food with my friends and family here. So, I gathered the ingredients and made my first Chinese meal (Stateside) for my family: rice, tomato and egg, and coke chicken. And as I ate with them, watching them enjoy each bite, I remembered my friend Cassie.

Coke Chicken, Tomato and Egg, and rice

If you’d like to make some Coke Chicken of your own, check out the recipe below:

Some tips: You can use chicken breasts in place of wings if you like. I used chicken breasts and red wine vinegar.

Meet the author

Kayla Dean is an Arkansas native who moved to China with her husband and son in 2017. Kayla graduated from Arkansas State University in 2011 with her M.A. in English, and she currently teaches English Composition for Fort Hays State University at Sias. In her free time, Kayla enjoys singing, reading post-apocalyptic novels, writing some poetry or fiction of her own, and spending time with her growing family in the great outdoors.

*Author photo credit to FHSU

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