Busting Chinese Food Myths
Some of the common stories you hear about food in China can be weird, unbelievable and even downright disgusting. For example, you may have heard that dog is a Chinese specialty or that scorpion is a normal afternoon snack. Or maybe, you’ve even heard about the Chinese delicacy of fresh monkey brain?
Internships China is here to explain the truth behind some of these wild and wonderful dishes and bust some of the more common food myths. Be prepared to be enlightened……
Dog: It is a common misconception that all Chinese people eat dog. While dog is popular and fairly easy to come by in southern provinces like Guangzhou, in cities like Beijing or Shanghai, while it is possible to find a restaurant offering dog if you look hard enough; in most places you’d be lucky to see dog on the menu.
Insects: If you’ve ever been to or seen photographs of Beijing, you’re likely to have seen skewers of cockroaches and caterpillars. Other exo-skeletonous creatures are also common sights, such as locusts, centipedes and scorpions, still wiggling around wildly on their wooden sticks. While insects are popular dishes in some areas of China, in Beijing and Shanghai’s street markets, they are more for tourists’ amusement than everyday consumption.
Monkey Brains: It is a myth that Monkey Brains are a Chinese speciality dish. While it may be possible to find monkey brain in some parts of China if you look hard enough; it is certainly not a dish you would commonly find on the dinner table. Other organs however, are much more common. The Chinese love to tuck into dishes of liver, stomach, intestines and most other innards you can think of and they have a hundred different, equally tasty ways of cooking them all.
Feet, Ears and Other Extremities: The Chinese obsession with what many Westerners consider inedible parts of animals is no myth. If you’ve ever been to an Asian supermarket you’ll know that chickens’ feet are considered a tasty snack, with other favourites including pigs’ ears and ducks’ tongues. Unlike many of us is the West, the Chinese don’t like to waste any part of an animal. They even have a saying in Guangzhou that states the Chinese eat anything with legs that isn’t a table and anything with wings that isn’t a plane.
Weird sounding but extremely delicious Chinese specialities:
Fish Fragrant Pork: This is not, as it may sound, pork that tastes like fish. The name in fact refers to the seasoning used in preparation of the dish. The same spices and sauces are more commonly used to flavour fish. The dish is sweet and spicy and a firm favourite with Western visitors to China.
Stinky Tofu: Often known as the blue cheese of tofu dishes; Stinky Tofu definitely lives up to its name. The signature stink comes from the long fermentation process the tofu goes through before it is deep-fried and eaten. It is certainly an acquired taste but, if you like salty food and can stomach the unique smell; it’s certainly worth a try.
Drunken Chicken: While the name of this dish may conjure up an image of a chicken walking around rather unstably whilst clucking along to the latest hits; the chicken is in fact well cooked and utterly delicious. This dish was traditionally made using chickens that had been fed grain soaked in rice wine and then marinated and cooked in more wine, hence the name. Nowadays though, the chicken tends to be reared the usual way and then marinated and cooked in wine, this is mainly to keep the cost down.
Other Chinese favourites that Westerners may find a little strange are Drunken Prawns (these are still alive when you eat them), Birds’ Nest Soup (made with real birds’ nests), donkey meat and starfish. While the names or the ingredients may put you off at first, be brave and have a taste. You’ll generally find that most Chinese food is mouth-wateringly delicious.
So, the next time you visit your local Chinese restaurant, why not as for a dish of fish fragrant pork or drunken chicken, you might be pleasantly surprised with what arrives at your table. The weirder the name, the nicer the dish; so be adventurous, try everything and delight your taste buds.