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A few weeks ago I bought a copy of this cookbook which is a best-selling spin off from the highly successful television series by China Central Television - A Bite of China as discussed on this thread.   .

 

cover.jpg

 

The book was published in August 2013 and is by Chen Zhitian (陈志田 - chén zhì tián). It is only available in Chinese (so far). 

 

There are a number of books related to the television series but this is the only one which seems to be legitimate. It certainly has the high production standards of the television show. Beautifully photographed and with (relatively) clear details in the recipes.

 

Here is a sample page.

 

sample page.jpg

 

Unlike in most western cookbooks, recipes are not listed by main ingredient. They are set out in six vaguely defined chapters. So, if you are looking for a duck dish, for example, you'll have to go through the whole contents list. I've never seen an index in any Chinese book on any subject. 

 

In order to demonstrate the breadth of recipes in the book and perhaps to be of interest to forum members who want to know what is in a popular Chinese recipe book, I have sort of translated the contents list - 187 recipes.

 

This is always problematic. Very often Chinese dishes are very cryptically named. This list contains some literal translations. For some dishes I have totally ignored the given name and given a brief description instead. Any Chinese in the list refers to place names. Some dishes I have left with literal translations of their cryptic names, just for amusement value.

 

I am not happy with some of the "translations" and will work on improving them. I am also certain there are errors in there, too.

 

Back in 2008, the Chinese government issued a list of official dish translations for the Beijing Olympics. It is full of weird translations and total errors, too. Interestingly, few of the dishes in the book are on that list.

 

Anyway, for what it is worth, the book's content list is here (Word document) or here (PDF file). If anyone is interested in more information on a dish, please ask. For copyright reasons, I can't reproduce the dishes here exactly, but can certainly describe them.

 

Another problem is that many Chinese recipes are vague in the extreme. I'm not one to slavishly follow instructions, but saying "enough meat" in a recipe is not very helpful. This book gives details (by weight) for the main ingredients, but goes vague on most  condiments.

 

For example, the first dish (Dezhou Braised Chicken), calls for precisely 1500g of chicken, 50g dried mushroom, 20g sliced ginger and 10g of scallion. It then lists cassia bark, caoguo, unspecified herbs, Chinese cardamom, fennel seed, star anise, salt, sodium bicarbonate and cooking wine without suggesting any quantities. It then goes back to ask for 35g of maltose syrup, a soupçon of cloves, and "the correct quantity" of soy sauce.

 

Cooking instructions can be equally vague. "Cook until cooked".

 

A Bite of China - 舌尖上的中国- ISBN 978-7-5113-3940-9 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Thanks very much for posting about this book. It sounds like a lot of fun, for someone who could read it. I'm enjoying going through your list of dish names. Some of them are interesting and amusing. What on earth could "Buddha Leaps the Wall" be? Or "General Crosses the Bridge"? "Train of Thought Tofu?" What would be the "Best Concubine's Chicken" or "Dragon's Well Shrimp"?

I look forward to reading more about this book. Any descriptions you might care to post of those interestingly-named dishes would be welcome.

"Cook until done", indeed. :-D


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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"Buddha jumps over the wall" I seem to recall was so named because the dish was so deliciously smelling and tasty in the eating that Buddha himself (the archetype of Buddhists, avowed vegetarian) (or at least Buddhist monks, generally speaking) was (were) enticed to jump over the monastery wall so he (they) could get at the dish and eat it.  :-)

 

"Dogs Refuse Them Buns" (狗不理包子) are those Tianjin pork buns popularized by that chain restaurant (e.g. this one, or this one, etc) named after the erstwhile fellow, yes?  Which have become tourist traps of sorts?


Edited by huiray (log)

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Some of them are interesting and amusing. What on earth could "Buddha Leaps the Wall" be? Or "General Crosses the Bridge"? "Train of Thought Tofu?" What would be the "Best Concubine's Chicken" or "Dragon's Well Shrimp"?

 

 

"Dragon's Well Shrimp" Dragon's Well Shrimp is a simple dish of shrimp stir fried with egg and Dragon's Well Tea Leaf. The tea is one of China's best known green teas and comes from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. 

 

"General Crosses the Bridge"General Crosses the Bridge is a dish of poached snakehead fish with Shanghai cabbage, bamboo shoot, shrimp, mushroom and sausage. I've forgotten the origin of the name. I'll get back to you on that one when I check the book.  I'm not at home right now.

 

The "Train of Thought Tofu?"Train of Thought Tofu is a soup made from strips of braised tofu with shredded carrot, bamboo shoot, fresh shiitake mushrooms, laver and lean pork. Some recipes use chicken instead of the pork. The origin of the name is unclear. There is one story that the soup was invented in Yangzhou by a monk named Wen Si. The characters for the name are the same as the characters meaning ‘train of thought’.

 

"Best Concubine's Chicken"Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken is chicken wings marinated in soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, sugar, salt and ginger, then fried or grilled. This is named after Yang Guifei (719-756), one of the four ancient Chinese beauties. She was indeed the highest ranking concubine to Emperor Xuanzong. The dish is said to have been her favourite.

 


Edited by liuzhou something got lost in a software update. (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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"Dogs Refuse Them Buns" (狗不理包子) are those Tianjin pork buns popularized by that chain restaurant (e.g. this one, or this one, etc) named after the erstwhile fellow, yes? Which have become tourist traps of sorts?

 

The buns indeed originated in Tianjin, in 1858. The Goubuli brand is one of China's oldest brands.

 

I have no idea who 'the erstwhile fellow" is, but there are certainly many fakes around. 

 

The buns are a type of meat and vegetable baozi. The origin of the name is unclear and there are many competing versions, none of which are particularly convincing.

 

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some idiot in government decided to re-translate the Chinese to "Go Believe" (which very roughly sounds like the Chinese, but is utterly meaningless.). The suggestion met with derision and was dropped.


...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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General Crosses the Bridge. 

 

As mentioned above, the dish features snakehead fish. This is a particularly aggressive predatory fish. These qualities are seen admirable as they demonstrate braveness and heroism* - like that of a great military general. So the fish becomes the general.

 

The bridge refers elliptically to the Huai river which flows near Yangzhou where the dish originated. The whole fish on the plate resembles a bridge (I'm told) carrying the other ingredients (which are piled on top) from one side of the river to the other, possibly to escape to higher ground during one of the frequent floods.

 

I did warn you. Chinese dish names can be extremely fanciful.

 

* The fish is in fact a notorious invasive species causing great ecological damage in many places around the world. It is illegal to possess live snakehead fish in some US states.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Thank you for the descriptions!  I have heard of snakehead fish and their predatory behavior.  The other descriptions are also interesting.

 

As for the Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken:  those sound like ingredients as available as they are appealing to this particular westerner.  If you feel you can post proportions, I would be grateful; otherwise, I'll just mess around until I come up with a likely substitute and then rename it.  I promise not to shame you by association.   :laugh:

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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As for the Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken: those sound like ingredients as available as they are appealing to this particular westerner. If you feel you can post proportions, I would be grateful; otherwise, I'll just mess around until I come up with a likely substitute and then rename it. I promise not to shame you by association.  

 

The interweb is full of recipes. However, few of them are close to what is in the book. They seem to be adaptations which include things like red wine which wouldn't be traditionally Chinese. There also recipes which use whole chickens or chicken thighs. The original is definitely chicken wings. Also, many recipes instruct us to de-bone the wings. Chinese chefs would never do that, I'm sure. On the bone is much preferred.

 

This one is close to what the book has (apart from the deboning) and that they simmer the wings in the sauce rather than fry just them. But I'm sure the end result would be very similar. Anyway, it should give you a starting point.

Don't worry about shaming me. I've done that so much by myself, I have moved beyond shame and descended to ignomy. :wacko:

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This morning, I picked up another Bite of China book from the local bookstore. Again all in Chinese.

 

cover 2.jpg

 

This one isn't so glossily beautiful as the first, but is a huge tome running to over 600 pages. The first 313 contain a number of essays on Chinese food history and culture. The second half of the book is a collection of recipes. An astonishing (and ominous) 666 of them!

 

The pictures are a lot smaller, but the ingredients lists are more accurate (i.e. most recipes give quantities for main ingredients and flavourings), as are the instructions, so far as I can see from a quick look through.

 

sample pages 2.jpg

 

I will get around to translating the contents list eventually, but it may take a while. 

 

I hope both books are eventually officially translated.

 

A Bite of China - Chinese Choice Food Complete Canon (舌尖上的中国 - 中国美食全典) by Li Chunmei (李春梅 lǐ chūn méi) and Liu Jia (刘佳 liú jiā). ISBN 978-7-5113-3524-1

 


...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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The cover art on the new book is beautiful. Thank you for giving us a look into cookbooks many of us could otherwise not understand. Thanks also for the link to Concubine Chicken that's most like the original!


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The dish names in the second book are generally more prosaic, and the recipes clearer.

 

I'm slowly working my way through it. I have decided to translate and post the contents list one chapter at a time. The book is huge.

 

Chapter 1 (of 9) can be found here (Word file) or here (PDF). 113 recipes.

 

As before, I've translated most of them literally, used explanations rather than translations where the name is highly cryptic, but left a few for amusement value. 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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This is incredible and fascinating, thanks liuzhou - please keep it coming. Selected recipes adapted by yourself, if you're up for it, would be very welcome as well.

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This is incredible and fascinating, thanks liuzhou - please keep it coming. Selected recipes adapted by yourself, if you're up for it, would be very welcome as well.

 

Thank you, I wasn't sure if people would be interested.

 

I'll get round to a few "adapted" recipes in time. Please send any requests.

 

I still have 7 more chapters of contents to translate, so it might take a little while.

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800px-Tofu2.jpg

A selection of tofu products in my local market. This is only half the woman's stall.

 

 

Chapter 3 is called "The Art of Change" and is nearly all about tofu* or bean-curd and bean sprouts.

 

Contents Lists - 76 recipes

 

Word Document

 

PDF File

 

In Chinese, it is 豆腐 dòu fǔ (doe a deer, then foo as in fighters.) The word 'tofu' came via the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese.

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Chapter 4 is titled "Five Fragrant Cereals" This refers to rice, two kinds of millet, wheat and beans - China's staples.

 

In fact the chapter is dedicated to the everyday foods people eat mainly in simple fast food restaurants, works or school canteens etc. They are mostly not dishes which are often prepared at home.

 

Set dishes served with with rice, fried rice, noodles, rice porridge, pancakes, steamed buns, dumplings  and both sweet and savoury cakes.

 

The chapter also demonstrates the random order dishes are listed. We go past a section on rice porridges and you think you have seen them all, but then another pops up, for no apparent reason, in the middle of a steamed bun section.

 

Word Document

 

PDF File

 

81 recipes


Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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I didn't realize how versatile tofu could be. Your photo really brings that point home. Thank you very much for these interesting posts!

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I didn't realize how versatile tofu could be.

 

There are literally dozens of types of tofu, if not more. I don't mean tofu dishes, just the ingredient. 

 

Glad you find it interesting.


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Does Chapter 2 address the preservation techniques in addition to dishes using them, or does it use the salted or otherwise cured food as a starting point?  Specifically, the 功夫黄瓜 "Konfgu" Cucumber /388 and 风味酱黄瓜 Special Sauce Cucumber /389: are those fairly basic dishes, like pickles, or do they start out with already-treated cucumbers?

 

Some of those titles make me want to go get some pork belly, NOW.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I didn't realize how versatile tofu could be. Your photo really brings that point home. Thank you very much for these interesting posts!

 

There are literally dozens of types of tofu, if not more. I don't mean tofu dishes, just the ingredient. 

 

Glad you find it interesting.

 

There are many different types of tofu (the ingredient, as liuzhou explains) shown on eG in various posts on various threads too.  ;-)  Quite a number.  Don't forget, too, the "preserved tofu" variations. :-)

 

ETA: Smithy, have you ever had tofu as a dessert?  Like "tofu flowers" - 豆腐花 ?  It's QUITE scrumptious, especially when scooped from the wooden bucket from the street stall (for example) into a bowl, still slightly warm, and splashed with gula melaka or a suitable syrup and handed to you...


Edited by huiray (log)

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Does Chapter 2 address the preservation techniques in addition to dishes using them, or does it use the salted or otherwise cured food as a starting point? Specifically, the 功夫黄瓜 "Konfgu" Cucumber /388 and 风味酱黄瓜 Special Sauce Cucumber /389: are those fairly basic dishes, like pickles, or do they start out with already-treated cucumbers?

 

The chapter includes some dishes which are not pre-processed, but the majority are for things you would buy already preserved/cured.

 

The cucumbers are not-pretreated. They are both relatively simple dishes (Most Chinese dishes are - when they are not being extremely complicated!)

 

For Kongfu Cucumber the ingredients are one cucumber, Chinese chives, onion, red chili powder (pure chili pepper), sugar, salted shrimp paste, salt, green onion, garlic,

 

The cucumbers are cut into sections and salted for several hours. When the cucumber is adequately salted, the onions and garlic are chopped and mixed with hot water along with the chili pepper, sugar, and shrimp paste. This is then poured over the cucumbers. 

 

Sorry for the vagueness, but I'm paraphrasing and the recipe is vague to begin with. Welcome to the mysterious world of Chinese cookbooks.

 

For the Special Sauce Cucumber you need 350 grams cucumber, 3g salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, 

 

The cucumber is sliced thinly, briefly blanched in boiling water and drained. The salt, sesame oil and soy sauce are mixed and used to dress the cucumber slices.

 

Simple.


...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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The chapter includes some dishes which are not pre-processed, but the majority are for things you would buy already preserved/cured.

 

The cucumbers are not-pretreated. They are both relatively simple dishes (Most Chinese dishes are - when they are not being extremely complicated!)

 

For Kongfu Cucumber the ingredients are one cucumber, Chinese chives, onion, red chili powder (pure chili pepper), sugar, salted shrimp paste, salt, green onion, garlic,

 

The cucumbers are cut into sections and salted for several hours. When the cucumber is adequately salted, the onions and garlic are chopped and mixed with hot water along with the chili pepper, sugar, and shrimp paste. This is then poured over the cucumbers. 

 

Sorry for the vagueness, but I'm paraphrasing and the recipe is vague to begin with. Welcome to the mysterious world of Chinese cookbooks.

 

For the Special Sauce Cucumber you need 350 grams cucumber, 3g salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, 

 

The cucumber is sliced thinly, briefly blanched in boiling water and drained. The salt, sesame oil and soy sauce are mixed and used to dress the cucumber slices.

 

Simple.

 

Count me as another fan of this wonderful thread.

 

And I have a couple of cucumber questions.

 

Are they using any special sort of cucumber?  And, assuming they are not a variety of seedless cucumbers, are they most-often seeded? How about peeled?


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Are they using any special sort of cucumber? And, assuming they are not a variety of seedless cucumbers, are they most-often seeded? How about peeled?

 

Cucumber.jpg

 

They are what are regarded as regular cucumbers here and similar to those found in Europe. They are pictured above. (Being from the UK, I have no idea what an "English cucumber" is. Some American invention, I believe.  :smile:  )

 

They are not seedless. I've never seen seedless cucumbers here. 

 

The seeds are not removed (although you could if you wanted to) nor are they skinned.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Chapter 5 is "Five Flavours in Harmony"

 

The traditional five flavours in Chinese gastronomy are sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Balancing these is one of the arts a Chinese cook must master.

 

The chapter includes a lot of dishes you aren't likely to find on many Chinese restaurant menus in the west - unless they are on the fabled secret, Chinese only menus.

 

Offal haters beware.

 

108 recipes

 

Word Document

 

PDF File


Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Are they using any special sort of cucumber?

 

Further to your cucumber question, I picked one up on the way home last night. Here  it is split to let you see the seeds.

 

I don't know if it is the same or similar to what you have, but I doubt it seriously matters for the recipe.

 

Cucumber inside.jpg

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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      I bought a copy off of PurpleCuture.net on April 14th. When I purchased Sichuan Cuisine, it said there was only one copy left. That seems to be a lie to create false urgency for the buyer. My order never updated past processing, but after emailing them, I was given a tracking code. It has since landed in America and is in customs. I'll try to update this thread when (if) it is delivered.
       
      Closing thoughts
      This book is probably not worth all the effort that I've put into finding it. But what is worth effort, is preserving knowledge. It turns my gut to think that this book will never be accessible to chefs that have a passion for learning real Sichuan food. As we get inundated with awful recipes from Simple and quick blogs, it becomes vital to keep these authentic sources available. As the internet chugs along, more and more recipes like these will be lost. 
       
      You'd expect the internet to keep information alive, but in many ways, it does the opposite. In societies search for quick and easy recipes, a type of evolutionary pressure is forming. It's a pressure that mutates recipes to simpler and simpler versions of themselves. They warp and change under consumer pressure till they're a bastardized copy of the original that anyone can cook in 15 minutes. The worse part is that these new, worse recipes wear the same name as the original recipe. Before long, it becomes harder to find the original recipe than the new one. 
       
      In this sense, the internet hides information. 
       
    • By liuzhou
      Perhaps the food-related question I get asked most through my blog is “What's it like for vegetarians and vegans in China. The same question came up recently on another thread, so I put this together. Hope it's useful. It would also, be great to hear other people's experience and solutions.
       
      For the sake of typing convenience I’m going to conflate 'vegetarians and vegan' into just 'vegetarian' except where strictly relevant.
       
      First a declaration of non-interest. I am very carnivorous, but I have known vegetarians who have passed through China, some staying only a few weeks, others staying for years. Being vegetarian in China is a complicated issue. In some ways, China is probably one of the best countries in which to be vegetarian. In other ways, it is one of the worst.
       
      I spent a couple of years in Gorbachev-era Russia and saw the empty supermarkets and markets. I saw people line up for hours to buy a bit of bread.  So, when I first came to China, I kind of expected the same. Instead, the first market I visited astounded me. The place was piled high with food, including around 30 different types of tofu, countless varieties of steamed buns and flat breads and scores of different vegetables, both fresh and preserved, most of which I didn't recognise. And so cheap I could hardly convert into any western currency. If you are able to self-cater then China is heaven for vegetarians. For short term visitors dependent on restaurants or street food, the story is very different.
       
      Despite the perception of a Buddhist tradition (not that strong, actually), very few Chinese are vegetarian and many just do not understand the concept. Explaining in a restaurant that you don't eat meat is no guarantee that you won't be served meat.
       
      Meat is seen in China as a status symbol. If you are rich, you eat more meat. And everyone knows all foreigners are rich, so of course they eat meat! Meat eating is very much on the rise as China gets more rich - even to the extent of worrying many economists, food scientists etc. who fear the demand is pushing up prices and is environmentally dangerous. But that's another issue. Obesity is also more and more of a problem.
       
      Banquet meals as served in large hotels and banquet dedicated restaurants will typically have a lot more meat dishes than a smaller family restaurant. Also, the amount of meat in any dish will be greater in the banquet style places.
       
      Traditional Chinese cooking is/was very vegetable orientated. I still see my neighbours come home from the market with their catch of greenery every morning. However, whereas meat wasn't the central component of dinner, it was used almost as a condiment or seasoning. Your stir fried tofu dish may come with a scattering of ground pork on top, for example. This will not usually be mentioned on the menu. Simple stir fried vegetables are often cooked in lard (pig fat) to 'improve' the flavour.
      Another problem is that the Chinese word for meat (肉), when used on its own refers to pork. Other meats are specified, eg (beef) is 牛肉, literally cattle meat. What this means is that when you say you don't eat meat, they often think you mean you don't eat pork (something they do understand from the Chinese Muslim community), so they rush off to the kitchen and cook you up some stir fried chicken! I've actually heard a waitress saying to someone that chicken isn't meat. Also, few Chinese wait staff or cooks seem to know that ham is pig meat. I have also had a waitress argue ferociously with me that the unasked for ham in a dish of egg fried rice wasn't meat.
       
      Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
       
      Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
       
      To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
       
      There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
       
      Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
       
      To be continued
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