Do you like china

thirst for the world

“Do you like Chinese food?” Is the most popular question Chinese people ask me when they get to know me and the marginal data (i.e.: where are you from? Where are you going?) Have been clarified. The answer is simple: yes, I love Chinese food! It's so incredibly diverse, varied and imaginative. The Chinese seem to be a little crazy about food, and many like to joke about it themselves. In China, the question "have you already eaten?" Is a completely normal welcome question that often replaces the question "how are you?" Food seems to be more important here somehow, embedded in Chinese medicine, culture and philosophy. Here, dishes have meaningful names and symbolic meals are not spared on special occasions. For example, “gold and silver for the house” is served at weddings, a dish made from corn and pine nuts, the yellow and white colors of which represent health and wealth.1

I can get a lot from street food and soup kitchens right now. Perhaps one or the other is wondering whether you should really eat noodle soup, roasted sweet potatoes or fried tofu with some guy who is standing with a little cart or just a grill on his bike rack at the side of the road. One should! The assumption that the food was prepared more hygienically in a restaurant is deceptive, after all, German hygiene guidelines do not apply there either. The only aspects that you can be sure of when you eat in a touristic restaurant are that the menu will be in English, the food is adapted to the European palate and you will definitely not be able to look into the kitchen. The street snack, on the other hand, sells really authentic food that is freshly prepared right in front of your eyes.2

I also like to go to the soup kitchens that line the streets. In the buildings, which are mostly open to the street, all kinds of food are offered to you on the usual little chairs and tables. I worked on the right phrase for vegetarians for a while. I quickly abandoned the idea of ​​eating meat again during my trip to China. First of all, it was harder for me to eat meat again than expected and in addition, it is easier to live a vegetarian life here than I thought, unless you are strict and know the right words. My new Chinese friends like Maya and Sam advised me against the expression vegetarian, that the concept is too unknown to the Chinese, and that the idea of ​​voluntarily giving up fish and meat seems absurd to most. In the not at all distant past, many Chinese were forced to be vegetarian because the farmers could only very rarely or not at all afford meat. Meat is therefore associated with prosperity, although it is no longer very expensive today.

The phrase “I don't eat meat” is just as tricky, because the Chinese term for meat (rou) does not include fish and, according to Maya, usually does not include poultry and beef either. So I would run the constant risk of fish and chicken ending up on my plate.

So when I order food again, it looks like this: I boldly step into a soup kitchen and shout “Hello! I (only) eat vegetables (Ni hao, wo chi su). ”My vocabulary does not provide a polite introduction. I usually pronounce it incorrectly and instead say “Hello, I'm a vegetable (wo shi su)!”. I underline the whole thing with a radiant smile. The confused owner usually asks questions, to which I respond with an apologetic grin and "I don't understand (wo bu mingbai)". Most of the time I end up in the kitchen or in front of a refrigerator. Then I point to some vegetables, preferably eggplants. Finally I sit down and let myself be surprised what they will bring me. Being a vegetarian is more fun in China than anywhere else, as long as they really understand your concern. There are great vegetarian dishes that were not invented afterwards for Fleichmeider, such as the European vegetable patty or the soy sausage, but have been classics of Chinese cuisine for centuries, such as the simple tomato and egg dish or the cabbage seared with chilli. Tofu dishes also play a different role here. They are not only consumed by do-gooders in wool socks, but are a completely normal part of everyday cooking. When I buy a grilled tofu stick, I painfully learn that tofu is not just a second-rate meat placeholder in China; it would never have occurred to me that this could be filled with tuna.3

In the soup kitchens there is always the option to supply yourself with hot water or green tea in a paper cup. Water is usually drunk hot in China.

When the cooks are particularly motivated, they perform a pantomime dance around the question of whether I want my food spicy, a word that I kept forgetting to the end. If you go out with several people, several dishes are ordered, which usually represent different variations of vegetables and meat fried in a wok. The plates with the dishes are all placed in the middle of the table and everyone gets a bowl of rice. Then everyone just reaches out with the chopsticks. I think this is the more communicative and better way to eat. When I think about what kind of theater my family puts on in restaurants in order to get the same result ... there are pizzas and breads cut up, vegetables exchanged, plates rotated and places changed, it could be so easy for us.

I don't like the Chinese breakfast, however. Sam enthusiastically ordered his favorite breakfast for me, rice porridge with egg. It's actually not a real porridge, it's cold rice with water. The boiled goose egg is stirred into the rice. I found the dish absolutely disgusting, although I can't figure out why, rice and egg can't be that bad in principle. Then prefer a noodle soup for breakfast or a couple of steamed rolls (baozi).

The relationship to animals and meat is different in China, it is particularly praiseworthy when it is immediately apparent that the dinner is really an animal. Restaurants often have cages with chickens and ducks, and water bowls with fish in front of the door. When the dish is prepared, it is also often done in such a way that the animal can be recognized. Roasted chicken, for example, is often served in a sitting position and since the feet, comb, beak and eyes are usually left in place, it doesn't take much imagination. Somehow this relationship to animal and meat is a more honest one, nothing is hidden and there is hardly any waste because there is a use for each part. Chicken feet are a popular snack between meals. In every self-respecting kiosk they can be bought in different versions, shrink-wrapped. Young and old like to nibble, on the street or on the bus next to me.

But the fact that there is less faking and deception also means that suffering animals are much more visible. In markets, chickens, geese and ducks stare at me from tiny cages, crabs try to flee with bandaged claws, toads sit stacked in their nets, and in the narrow fish bowls some often swim dead with their bellies up.

Once in the park a woman sat down on the bench next to me. She pauses relaxed for a while. The cackling ducks, which are tied at the feet and which she carries around with her upside down, she simply put down next to her.

So do the Chinese treat animals worse than Germans? I don't think I can judge this. German fattening farms and slaughterhouses are usually sealed off from the public. The average meat consumer has never seen an animal slaughtered. The madness of cheap meat also means that pigs injure each other because they become aggressive out of boredom, that turkeys become so fat that they can no longer walk and that in Germany every year 50 million male chicks are shredded or gassed after a day because they are unsuitable for the mast. So my impression is that the difference is primarily related to the fact that in China these things are more visible, while in Germany they are invisible.




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