In the Song, we find well-documented evidence for restaurants, that is, places where customers chose from menus, as opposed to taverns or hostels, where they had no choice. These restaurants featured regional cuisines. Gourmets wrote of their food reviews. All these Song phenomena were not found until much later in Europe.
Texts from the Song era provide the first use of the phrases nanshi, beishi, and chuanfan to refer specifically to northern, southern, and Sichuan cooking, respectively.
There were also some exotic foreign foods imported to China from abroad, including raisins, dates, Persian jujubes, and grape wine; rice wine was more common in China, a fact noted even by the 13th century Venetian traveler Marco Polo.
The main consumptionary diet of the lower classes remained rice, pork, and salted fish, while it is known from restaurant dinner menus that the upper classes did not eat dog meat.
Common fruits that were consumed included melons, pomegranates, lychees, longans, golden oranges, jujubes, quinces, apricots and pears.
Specialties and combination dishes in the Song period included scented shellfish cooked in rice-wine, geese with apricots, lotus-seed soup, spicy soup with mussels and fish cooked with plums, sweet soya soup, baked sesame buns stuffed with either sour bean filling or pork tenderloin, mixed vegetable buns, fragrant candied fruit, strips of ginger and fermented beanpaste, jujube-stuffed steamed dumplings, fried chestnuts, salted fermented bean soup, fruit cooked in scented honey, and 'honey crisps' of kneaded and baked honey, flour, mutton fat and pork lard.
Dessert molds of oiled flour and sugared honey were shaped into girls' faces or statuettes of soldiers with full armor like door guards, and were called "likeness foods" (guoshi).