The first thing to mention about any visit to China, or any conversation with a Chinese person is that there is a national obsession with food (thats from my personal experience, maybe all the Chinese people I met just happened to be foodies but I have a feeling its a common Chinese trait) . The Chinese aren’t unique in this as a nation but the sheer diversity, omnipresence and oddness (compared to our comparatively parochial western European food) make their love of food stand out.
Below are some things about food in China I am no longer ignorant about.
“One pack of ocelots ear lobes please”
Before visiting China be prepared for the fact that every part of the animal, even parts so obscure even the animal forgot it had them, are often the staple stuff of Chinese menus. I fully expect KFC to at some point start selling deep fried mechanically reclaimed chicken faces in their China branches to ensure no part of the chicken goes to waste.
Chinese food, isn’t “Chinese food”
Thats to say it scarcely resembles Chinese food from the UK. Our Chinese restaurants generally contain a mutant bastardised version of Cantonese food ( food that originated in Guangdong ) which I saw scarce hints of in China.
There are of course some similarities. Yes, you can have rice with most dishes in China, but often when you ask for it in restaurants the waiting staff look at you as though you ordered lime jelly as a starter in a British restaurant. Rice is used as a basic bulking agent in china, eat all the lovely meat and veg dishes then have some rice ( fàn ) later to make you full up if you need to.
Uighur, Uyghur, Uigur ? NOT East Turkistan.
One of the Chinese regional specialties I would hearily recommend is Uighur food and is utterly removed from the Chinese food you would expect to have. Unsurprisingly, if you know the region’s geography, the food is a lot like Turkish food. There is a lot of excellently cooked lamb with spicy sauces, kebabs and roll-your-own minced meat wraps. Even more ‘Un-Chinese’ is the atmosphere in the restaurants with the staff being very informal, loud and fun with many restaurants including singing and dancing during the evening with the clientele being dragged up to join in. Its cheap, fun and tasty and would probably be the food I’d most recommend to try when in China.
As a side note its worth pointing out that as a minority (a population of only 15 Million makes them little more than 1% of the total population) there is a fair bit of unfair discrimination against the Uighurs, which makes no sense as they sell the nicest roast lamb in town.
Mine mine mine. or not.
Another thing done differently in China is the ordering process. Its a lot more normal for someone to order for everyone at the table. It is assumed that all the food will be shared anyway so as long as its good food we’ll all have some. On the flip side of this we found that if you are a greedy selfish western pig-dog and want to order individual dishes it is impossible. If for example two of you want the same dish you can both order it, you can even repeatedly say ‘èr‘ (‘2’) to the waiter and they will nod and definitely bring back only one dish of the food. “You MUST intend to share it after all, so whats the point in making two dishes dirty? Silly” being the waiter’s reasoning.
And lastly, anyone that got what the title was a reference to watches too much TV.