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There was a joke where I used to work:  How do you get staff to attend an unpopular meeting or presentation?  Provide free food!It appears free food is not a joke in China.  The Chinese take it very seriously.  

Charitable “sharing fridge” not shared

In early October, a new community kitchen with a refrigerator stocked with food meant for needy hungry folks opened in Shanghai’s Putuo District.  However, not all in line looked “needy.”  And once the community kitchen doors opened, families scrambled inside to grab what they could.  A retiree was stopped for trying to take all the food in shopping bags.

Local media, reported on Oct. 13 that 30 food boxes donated by a restaurant were gone within 10 minutes, and sometimes, taken by a single person!  Food placed in a similar fridge meant for seniors in another part of town was taken by people from outside the neighborhood. 

To prevent greedy “snatchers,” the Putuo kitchen has placed volunteer guards who make food takers complete a form before leaving with food.  Other locations are devising “management” strategies.

By Elaine Dunn

The Year of the Monkey is just around the corner.  If you are thinking of throwing a party at home in celebration, be sure you know what auspicious foods to include!  Additionally, the number of dishes served should be six, eight or 10, which means smooth, getting rich and perfect respectively.

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is probably one of the most important Chinese celebrations for all Chinese the world over.  Given the importance of food in Chinese culture, it is no surprise that foods will be the centerpiece of any New Year celebration.  Chinese New Year is not only a time for family to get together, it is also the time for households to honor heavenly deities and pay respects to ancestors.

Foods with special significance and why

What gives certain foods their sway to impart luck and good fortune?  Some are based on their shapes; others are based on the sound of their names.  Traditionally, Chinese New Year celebrations start on New Year’s Eve when families gather for a reunion dinner and to celebrate the departure of the Kitchen God (so he can report to the higher heavenly authorities the favourable behavior of the family during the past year).  

By Greg Hugh -

As North Americans prepare to celebrate our traditional Thanksgiving feast with family and friends with a large roasted turkey as the centerpiece of the meal, it should be noted that this is not a holiday typically observed within China.  The obvious reason is the origins of Thanksgiving when, in the autumn of 1621, English colonists in America whom we call Pilgrims, celebrated days of thanksgiving for their first successful harvest.  Also, another reason could be attributed to the fact that the typical kitchen in China does not have an oven, let alone one large enough to roast an average 18-lb. turkey!

In lieu of what Benjamin Franklin had lobbied to be the national bird of the U.S.A., China has its own famous fowl, the Peking duck.  It is one of the most famous dishes of Beijing cuisine.  It was originally prepared for the imperial families of China, with a history of more than 400 years.  In its classic form, the dish calls for a specific breed of duck, the Imperial Peking, that is force-fed and housed in a small cage so that inactivity will ensure tender meat.  The neck and head are left intact as the bird is killed (at about six weeks old) and dressed, and after the entrails are removed, the lower opening is sewn shut. Air is forced between the skin and flesh to puff out the skin so that the fat will be rendered out during roasting and the skin, the choicest part of the dish, will be very crisp.  The inflated bird is coated with a sweet solution, hung up to dry, then suspended and roasted in a traditional cylindrical clay oven.

By Elaine Dunn

Quick, which general from Hunan Province, China, is better known than Mao Zedong in the U.S. and not because of his role on the battlefield?  Answer: General Tso.  

Walk into any of the approximately 50,000 U.S.-based Chinese restaurants or Asian buffets and you’ll come across a dish called General Tso’s chicken (左公雞).  This sweet, slightly spicy, deep-fried chicken nugget dish is one of the most ubiquitous – and popular – dishes in America.  So was this chicken dish really a favourite of General Tso?  

Who is General Tso?

By Elaine Dunn

Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province in southwestern China, is not only famous for its beautiful landscape but also its delicately made, hot and numbing cuisine, a legacy of its Miao residents (苗族), one of the 55 officially recognized minority tribes in China.  Yes, numbing.  The main ingredients of Guiyang cuisine are red hot peppers and dried chili powder, believed to be ideal for the cold, wet weather in winter.

One just cannot visit Guiyang without trying its famous fish in sour soup!  This delectable soup is so common and in high demand that it can be had from street stalls.  It is THE traditional Maio soup and each Miao family has its own special recipe!  But all comes in a large pot and rumour is that Miao girls who don’t know how to make it won’t be able to find a husband.

The story behind the soup is that there once was a pretty brew master in the Miaoling Mountains whose wine was sweet as honey and clear as  spring water.  She had many suitors and she used to sing, “with love, water can become sweet wine; without love, sweet wine will turn sour.”  If she didn’t like her suitors, she would serve them sour wine.

The soup can come in a red or white soup base.  The red base is from fermented wild tomatoes and the white, fermented rice. The fish is boiled in the soup base with garlic, ginger, salt, chili, wine and special fragrant spices.  Tofu and vegetables are usually added to the pot just before serving.

Aside from the fish in sour soup, Guiyang is also known for:


A form of Guizhou tapas!  Soft tofu are shaped into balls and deep fried to golden color. They are crispy on the outside, but tender inside. They are eaten with a sour dipping sauce.

 

 

Sliced vegetables in rice wrappers 
Think vegetable spring rolls. Fresh seasonal vegetables such as bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots and deep-fried beans are placed in rice wrappers, eaten with a sour (what else!) and chili sauce.   

 

Chopped squid is skewered and grilled on a metal plate containing an enormous amount of sizzling chili sauce. These are served hot from street carts.

 

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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