Order meals online in China?

Fun, easy, and very convenient! Those are words to best describe it. As a foreigner with very limited Mandarin skill, I would add up another word; very liberating!

I love exploring what’s in the neighbourhood. I’m pretty open trying new food. I enjoy going out picking up our food. I love cooking and I do cooking quite often. Yet still, after a while I would sometimes feel bored with all the food we’ve tried…lost appetite to our usual favourite dishes…don’t have energy, time, or mood to cook what I or we want to eat…feeling not so well…or simply the weather is not inviting to go out and pick up some food…etc… That’s the moment when order meals online service comes handy.

After a while using a few different online order service here, I’d like to share here how those four words are really mean… I’m gonna share the steps in photos instead. So if you are a foreigner perhaps newly lived in China, this maybe can be a little help…at least to give you a rough idea on how the process looks like.

Before going further, here is what you’ll need to be able to make an online order on Meituan, for example:

  1. Open a bank account and get the bank staff to open the account for online banking and Alipay. I used CMB (China Merchants Bank) once and just moved to ICBC for its better overall banking service – especially for foreign residents.
  2. Open/register yourself an Alipay account; better on website first (Alipay.com), you’ll required to link it to your bank account and active mobile number. Later on, you can also download and install Mobile Alipay (手机支付宝)on your smartphone, if you want to enjoy the joy and beauty of ordering food from your mobile! ;D Note that you’ll need to also upload photos of your passport to verify your Alipay.
  3. Open an account on the online groupon website you want; Meituan, Tuangou, Nuomi, Baidu Waimai, etc. In this case, I use Meituan. Here you’ll need to connect your mobile number to their site
  4. If you want to order via mobile phone, then install the application (people here call APP) of the site you want. For some reason and convenience, I stick with Meituan.
  5. If your Chinese is still zero, I hate to say this, but you’ll need to know a little bit of basic Hanzi (Chinese characters), or have a local friend assist you for the first time so you can make a mental or paper note for your next order. At least until the sites you use are willing to launch a full English version for foreigners (which I think will still probably take a while). Also, learn a little bit of basic mandarin, especially to say and read your address properly – the delivery guy will usually call your mobile to make sure about your address. Nothing complicated if that’s only food ordering.
  6. You’re good to go!

In this example, I ordered a package of food for two people from our favourite restaurant at a block across from our building – around 150 meters away.

We wanted to order our favourite toufu dish from them, but we found it is not on their Meituan menu list. So we called, and the guy on the line asked if we use Baidu Waimai, I said we don’t but we use Meituan instead. But they don’t put our favourite toufu dish on the menu list. He said, that’s okay he will put it on immediately so we can try again order via Meituan.

Before calling, I had the name of the dish written in pinyin (romanized chinese words) ready. It’s called zi zhi jiang shui doufu (自制浆水都付). After the call, I checked Meituan again, our fave toufu dish is now on the list! So we submitted the order. They meals arrived about 20 minutes earlier than its official estimation. Here are the screenshots of the chronological steps…




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