Chinese food – multitude of aromas, flavours and colors
Chinese food. Where to begin? I remember on one occasion I was invited for a breakfast in mainland at one cafeteria, which offered variety of snacks, rich in taste and color. I got so filled up that I was forced to sit for a while for half an hour in order to come back to normal.
The predominant myth about the Chinese restaurants
The first thing that should be debunked is the myth that the Chinese restaurants outside mainland offer traditional Chinese cuisine. I have traveled and tried Chinese restaurants in various countries but they all look the same. Some claim they adapted the taste to the western standards. Believe me, the dishes, noodles and even sweets bear no comparison with their western counterparts. You have heard the jokes that Chinese eat only the garnish but, hey, what I saw over there prompted just the opposite. These guys eat a lot, in the morning people are crowding to get the street snacks and doufu (original soy milk), during the noon you will have to fight your way to get a small portion of fried vegetables or pork.
As you may have guessed, the Chinese cuisine varies from North to South and East to West. The southern Sicuan is characterized with a lot of spice and is hot. Hot pots from the region at the centre of the table are ushering the puzzled tourist to dip his own meal. In the Tianjin and Beijing a common breakfast is comprises of doufu and fried dough sticks. I have mentioned elsewhere that one peculiar tradition in Chinese restaurants is the customers to order more food than they could eat. Some claim this is to compensate for the dark period of famine in the reign of Mao Tze Dong.
What about cockroaches?
I know at the back of your Western mind a questions keeps popping up – do they eat some weird stuff as cockroaches and scorpions. I do not dare to say so. Needless to say, at Wang Fu Jing you can see those type of snacks but it is more of a cunning marketing strategy to attract more customers (my opinion). I , honestly, don’t think the Chinese put insects in their morning muesli. Having said that, there are some really wicked meals I discovered during my stay in that fascinating country. One of them is a clear soup with cucumber in it and another was a sort of marinated (I assume) egg which got a black color instead of white. Cool, isn’t it?
1. Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant - taken from Charles Haybes, flickr
2. Xian street food - taken from David Gordillo, flickr