Simply said, Chinese food is delicious! Absolutely delicious! In the past three months, I can only recall one dish that we didn’t enjoy. It looked tasty and there was nothing wrong with the flavour but it consisted mainly of gristle on bone. We didn’t know for sure what it was but we called it knuckles because that’s what it most resembled!
There are a myriad of tiny restaurants within a few blocks of our apartment where we can easily buy a meal for the two of us for significantly less than $10. If we weren’t as health conscious as we are, it would be easy to eat out even more often than we do, especially considering the limited cooking facilities we have here at home.
China is a huge country, of course, and cuisine varies from one region to another but in general, a Chinese diet is heavy on rice and noodles. We do our best to balance the carbs with healthy amounts of meat and vegetables but there’s not a lot we can do about the fact that almost everything seems to be cooked in oil.
I know that there are healthy and not so healthy cooking oils but then there’s Chinese cooking oil! The following is a direct quote from our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. Be forewarned! If you have a delicate stomach, you may not want to read it!
"In 2010, diners in China were appalled to discover that one in 10 meals cooked in Chinese restaurants was prepared with cooking oil dredged up from sewers and drains. Oil is lavishly employed in Chinese cooking and generates considerable waste.
This waste oil is harvested by night soil collectors who scoop out the solidified oil from drains near restaurants and sell it. The oil is then processed, sold to restaurant owners and it re-enters the food chain…
Once used again, there is nothing to stop the waste oil from being harvested afresh for further recycling. At present, no regulations preventing the recycling of waste oil exist in China."
Food scandals abound in China. A couple of them have made headlines in China Daily, the English language newspaper that we read regularly. Several food stores in Shanghai have been temporarily or permanently shut down for selling fake mutton made from fox, mink and rat meat! We’re a long way from Shanghai and I don’t care much for mutton so we’re not likely to be affected by that one.
We watched with great interest when a restaurant below our window underwent a complete makeover recently and we looked forward to stopping in for a meal when it opened for business. Even after one of our students told us that the sign indicated that it served "everything from a sheep" we thought we’d give it a try but they lost me with the severed goat’s head! It was on display on a table out front one morning when I visited the street market and it remained there all day! Though I was tempted to take a picture, I didn’t, so you’re spared that gruesome sight! It seems to have been effective advertising though. The restaurant has been doing such a booming business that they’ve erected some temporary shelters on the sidewalk across the street and serve their overflow customers there. When we go to bed at night, there are still patrons enjoying whatever it is that they serve!
Then there’s the tainted rice scandal that hit Guangdong province recently. An inspection campaign found that the cadmium levels in six batches of rice and two batches of rice noodles produced in two different factories exceeded national standards. Cadmium is a carcinogenic substance often used in fertilizer. Fortunately, no cadmium poisonings have been reported.
Armed with this kind of information, how can we stand to eat at all? It’s easy… as I said, the food is absolutely delicious and miraculously, my somewhat finicky stomach hasn’t bothered me a bit since we arrived in China! If we are what we eat, I guess we’re a little bit gross right now but I keep telling myself that we’re only here short term and that our bodies will clean themselves out when we get home.
Yes, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Chinese food!