Giant on the move
Bread? That’s not for eating
I wondered briefly if DIY chili chicken and peanut sandwiches were a new fad in Chinese restaurants, but when I asked her how I was supposed to eat mine, she looked at me as if I was mad.
Silently she fished a sliver of our fish from its oily sauce and showed me what would perhaps have been obvious to someone not brought up on a diet of toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, more toast for tea and sometimes bread and soup for dinner.
The bread was just a sponge, for draining the oil from carp cooked in a traditional and much-loved way that left it a little too greasy for some modern eaters. No one in the “Spicey Seduction” restaurant would dream of eating it.
Which is not to say that there isn’t a lot of bread consumed in China, where bakeries dot most towns and an advisor to parliament admonished athletes last year that they needed to follow Westerners in consuming more milk and beef if they wanted sporting success.
But two weeks enjoying what I think is one of the world’s great culinary traditions may bring a few surprises for Olympic tourists who have not been to China before.
I don’t mean the strange translations which this blog has explored before, or the more exotic animals and birds favoured by some Chinese diners, just small differences in eating and cooking habits that can be a little disconcerting for first timers.
The squeamish may prefer not to be shown the fish they are about to eat flapping around in a net as proof of its freshness, or have chickens and ducks served with their heads and claws still attached.
And I learnt years ago not to expect too many sandwiches outside of Western restaurants.
In one of the first Chinese textbooks that I studied a mother warned her children not to be naughty. Otherwise, she threatened,
they would face …. sandwiches for lunch.
Picture of Chinese breads by China Daily. Beijing restaurant by David Gray