Changing China

Giant on the move

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Bread? That’s not for eating


A Chinese employee carries a tray of Mantou steamed bread made of wheat flour in Xi’anAfter laying out our spread of spicy Sichuan food, the waitress returned with four slightly stale slices of white bread, each on their own glistening plates.      

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.