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[Opinion] Chinese Cuisine

Posted July. 08, 2003 21:56,   


A Japanese man working for a trading office in Hong Kong found something interesting as he visited a restaurant nearby for lunch every day. The shape and taste of white bread the restaurant served were never the same for several months. One day, he asked the chef, “How many kinds of white bread can you make?” Then, the chef asked back, “How long do you plan to stay in Hong Kong?” When the Japanese man answered “three years,” the chef said confidently, “I will refund all the money you paid for lunch here if you ever find the same taste of white bread for the next three years.” This is one of many stories that tell about a full variety of Chinese dishes and their ways of making food.

Chinese people are known to use every material to make food, including all the four-legged creatures except a chair, underwater creatures except a submarine and flying objects except an airplane. Guangdong, in particular, outperforms other areas in Chinese cuisine. Adjacent to the sea, they have many kinds of seafood and have long accommodated western ways of cooking only to enrich Chinese dishes. There are also a variety of wild animal dishes including a brain of a live monkey. Asked too many questions about the unique dish, one hotel in Guangdong even post a message in front of a monkey cage `these monkeys are not edible`.

When you visit a food street in Shenzen, Guangdong, chances are that you will mistake the street for a zoo. Mice as well as snakes are ready to be served. When asked “how could you eat mice?,” the owner answered that those mice are raised as food. Just as we answer “they are raised to be eaten,” when asked by westerners “how can you eat dogs?” Three eastern provinces in China also enjoy dog dishes, but westerners mostly point fingers at Koreans. Given the population, there must be a lot more people in China who eat dogs than in Korea, though.

We often use a word `epicure`, but in China it is not a matter of Epicureanism. It is about their living style and culture. `Do we eat to live or live to eat?` is considered a silly question in China. The Chinese government plans to soon announce a list of 14 wild animals to be banned from trading as food, according to the Shinhwa News Agency. We wonder the list includes mice. It is not right to criticize the way certain people prepare and enjoy food as a part of culture. While visiting China, President Roh might try some of unique Chinese dishes, though.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com