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Popular But Weird Chinese Food
China, A Paradise for Food Lovers
This could turn out to be a pretty long article! Over the last three years I've encountered so many weird and wonderful, unusual and even confusing foods while living in China that I just couldn't keep them to myself any longer. On the flip side, my students also want to know about British Fish and Chips, a dish which is kind of infamous here, likewise they're curious to know if potatoes really are eaten with every meal, well not in my house, that's for sure!
So, it's been a fascinating three year nutritiional clash and crossover of cuisinal (yes, I know that's not a real word) cultures.
My Chinese friends often joke about how if it runs, walks or flies Chinese people will eat it but that's not to say that they're not discerning. Indeed they love the variety of foods which span the country giving regional variations to popular dishes. Foreigners in China have their own fads when it comes to trying or even getting used to a whole new diet. Here's just a few of the foods I've encountered, some of which I admittedly preferred to admire rather than actually taste.
Donkey, Mule, Ass Burger
Red Bean Rice and Noodle Dish
I've been invited on several occasions to the various donkey meat restaurants which spring up from time to time in Shenzhen. My friends quickly forget that I'm a vegetarian, either that or they think that Donkey doesn't count, somehow. Naturally I've declined and I'm prett sure that even if I did eat meat, I'd be reluctant to try a mule burger.
I am curious though and when I enquire about the taste, I'm reassured that it's delicious. Personally I think that's more down to the spices and sauces than the actual meat which is apparently a little tough and rubbery and nothing like chicken.
Not only do the restaurants serve the fleshier parts of the animal they also serve the tongue, the ear, the eyelids, the chin bone. I have to stop now, I'm feeling queasy.
Let's look at the next dish.
Century eggs also known as Pidan in Chinese are particularly popular in Southern China, mainly Guangdong Province.
They were initially devised as a way of preserving duck and quail eggs in a time of no refrigeration, consequently the method is quite complex. They're initally wrapped in a mixture of natural earthy materials such as quicklime, ash, salt, clay and rice hulls for up to several months. During this time the yolk darkens to a blue or dark green colour while the white turns dark brown.
Many Chinese eat these eggs boiled and added to noodles. Some western sources claim that the sulphur build up could be toxic, but the jury's out on this.
The name 'Century' comes from the length of time they were kept underground in olden times.
I've never tried them athough I've been served them often. Many claim that they're delicious
Chinese Rice Pudding
Duck's Feet, Duck's Tongue, Duck's Wing (poor duck!)
Marinated Spicy Duck feet, packaged and ready for a take out lunch. Yum yum, apparently, although as I'm vegetarian I can't speak from first hand experience.
This common snack which is lean and bony, can be enjoyed anywhere at anytime and you can choose from spicy, plain, marinated or freshly cooked. They're enjoyed all over China and probably in other parts of Asia too.
Chinese Colleagues Digging into a Scrumptious Lunch
Hot Pot Spicy Beef in Sauce
With a fantastic name, it's almost a shame that this food is nothing more than simple grains. Although calling it simple doesn't really do it justice as it can be used to make drinks, soups and medicines.
Also known as Chinese Pearl Barley, the grains can be found in the islands above tropical South America.
Tender Sheep's Stomach
Popular all over China, although it is originally thought to have been a cheap and easy, nourishing meal for peasants.
The sheep's stomach is ripped into strips and lightly seasoned in a savoury soy based oil. The meat is supposed to be soft and delicious although I personally think that that's the result of skilled cooking rather than the actual stomach itself.
Chili peppers add a kick to the final flavour.
Black Jelly and Red Bean Dessert
With so many towns and cities situated along China's vast coastline, the varieties of seafood are loved by many.
Chinese Little Lobsters or Litte Dragon Shrimp can be eaten on special ocassions such as weddings or Chinese New Year as well as whenever the fancy strikes.
Thought to have originated from Southern parts of North America, via Europe and down to China, In other parts of the world they're known as Crayfish and just like everywhere else, they're considered an expensive, special treat.
Zha Mantou Chinese Dessert
Whatever your preferences are in terms of how and what you like to eat, you're almost guaranteed to have them satisfied in China. I say almost because vegetarianism is not widespread apart from among Buddhists and Buddhist restaurants. Similarly halal food is still in its infancy outside of the Muslim communities. But if you're after the weird and wonderful, you could dine happily here for a long time.
I've purposely excluded some of the more infamous foods such as Monkey Brains, various creepy crawlies and animals such as dogs and tiger parts. The reasons for this are that they've been covered extensively on other sites, I've never eaten them and have no intention to and, most importantly, eating these items is generally treated with paternal disdain in the west and I don't want to write anything which could possibly cause offence to my Chinese friends and colleagues.
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