This morning while cleaning my office I happened upon a menu that I collected over twenty-five years ago in the spring of 1990 while studying in Chengdu, Sichuan. I don’t remember what restaurant it is from, but the fact that the first page lists Green Leaves Beer (绿叶啤酒) and that page two lists “guo kui” (锅魁) is a dead giveaway that it was from that time.
The menu is an interesting look back, not only at the kinds of foods sold near the university back then, but what things were added to the menu—dishes very common to foreign students in Chengdu at that time: beer, orange drink, soda, fried eggs, green beans, eggs and tomatoes.
The prices listed are, of course, amazingly low when compared to today. Back in 1990 foreigners still exchanged foreign currencies for F.E.C. (foreign exchange certificates) and could only acquire R.M.B. Yuan by exchanging it on the black market. In 1990 the official exchange rate was 4.70 RMB to the dollar, but on the black market it would have been even higher. So a youtiao would have been about three cents, a bowl of noodles fourteen cents, and that Green Leaves Beer would have officially cost $.30 a bottle.
Here is a PDF of the full Chinese menu from 1990 for those who are interested in taking a closer look. Just don’t read it on an empty stomach!