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Fish etc in China


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fish2.thumb.jpg.cd6501162e54855afbaa7628282ceeb4.jpg

Sea fish in my local supermarket

 

 

In the past I've started a few topics focusing on categorised food types I find in China. I’ve done

 

Mushrooms and Fungi in China

 

Chinese Vegetables Illustrated

 

Sugar in China

 

Chinese Herbs and Spices

 

Chinese Pickles and Preserves

 

Chinese Hams.

 

I’ve enjoyed doing them as I learn a lot and I hope that some people find them useful or just interesting.

 

One I’ve always resisted doing is Fish etc in China. Although it’s interesting and I love fish, it just felt too complicated. A lot of the fish and other marine animals I see here, I can’t identify, even if I know the local name. The same species may have different names in different supermarkets or wet markets. And, as everywhere, a lot of fish is simply mislabelled, either out of ignorance or plain fraud.

 

However, I’ve decided to give it a go.

 

I read that 60% of fish consumed in China is freshwater fish. I doubt that figure refers to fresh fish though. In most of China only freshwater fish is available. Seawater fish doesn’t travel very far inland. It is becoming more available as infrastructure improves, but it’s still low. Dried seawater fish is used, but only in small quantities as is frozen food in general. I live near enough the sea to get fresh sea fish, but 20 years ago when I lived in Hunan I never saw it. Having been brought up yards from the sea, I sorely missed it.

 

I’ll start with the freshwater fish. Today, much of this is farmed, but traditionally came from lakes and rivers, as much still does. Most villages in the rural parts have their village fish pond. By far the most popular fish are the various members of the carp family with 草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - Grass Carp being the most raised and consumed. These (and the other freshwater fish) are normally sold live and every supermarket, market (and often restaurants) has ranks of tanks holding them.

 

128480612_.thumb.jpg.4e2defa4476e78a1893c47fe38c5e951.jpg

Supermarket Freshwater Fish Tanks


You point at the one you want and the server nets it out. In markets, super or not, you can either take it away still wriggling or, if you are squeamish, the server will kill, descale and gut it for you. In restaurants, the staff often display the live fish to the table before cooking it.

 

These are either steamed with aromatics – garlic, ginger, scallions and coriander leaf / cilantro being common – or braised in a spicy sauce or, less often, a sweet and sour sauce or they are simply fried. It largely depends on the region.

 

Note that, in China, nearly all fish is served head on and on-the-bone.

 

849563837_grasscarp.thumb.jpg.715b8cfbb987d2c52e027506fd1c3297.jpg

草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - grass carp

 

More tomorrow.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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18 minutes ago, Eatmywords said:

Cool thread!  Any concern with how they raise and what they feed the farmed?

 

There are always some concerns about fish farming, yes. But they are not by any means confined to China.

I'm just attempting to record what is available to me here and what the Chinese people tend to eat.

 

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I should have mentioned that when your server is preparing the fish, especially the freshwater fish, they may ask you if you want the creature's float bladder. They hope you will say "no". That way they can sell it separately and get paid for it twice.

 

The totally tastlesss bag of air is prized by many Chinese for texture in soups. Can't see the point, myself. If you do want it, make sure you get it.


Here is the same grass carp as in my previous post, but with its float bladder.

 

1969287512_grasscarpwithfloatbladder.thumb.jpg.fe9d38a14124484e71ebf9cd0c218c0c.jpg

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3 hours ago, liuzhou said:

I should have mentioned that when your server is preparing the fish, especially the freshwater fish, they may ask you if you want the creature's float bladder. They hope you will say "no". That way they can sell it separately and get paid for it twice.

 

The totally tastlesss bag of air is prized by many Chinese for texture in soups. Can't see the point, myself. If you do want it, make sure you get it.


Here is the same grass carp as in my previous post, but with its float bladder.

 

1969287512_grasscarpwithfloatbladder.thumb.jpg.fe9d38a14124484e71ebf9cd0c218c0c.jpg

 

I have enjoyed float bladder soup at a restaurant* down in Princeton.  Memorable experience.

 

*not a diner.  The diner in Princeton was burned down by an arsonist.

 

 

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Following the carp family (to which I shall return), the next most farmed freshwater fish in China is 罗飞鱼 (luó fēi yú) or Tilapia. Tilapia is not one species, but any of over 100 different species.

 

tilapia.thumb.jpg.821f7d01d3117afb9fa263e309d23c36.jpg

Tilapia

 

While no one sane would claim it to be the tastiest fish going, it is prized for its relative cheapness both in the raising and to the customer. This is mainly due to its being vegetarian.

 

It does however, divide opinion. Some complain about a muddy flavour; others that it tastes off. I don’t get it. Properly raised tilapia should not taste off and I feel the ”muddy” label is overstated and applies to all freshwater fish, farmed or wild.

 

The treatment I see most often is found in the many popular 烤鱼 (kǎo yú - roast fish) restaurants, both smart places and ... let’s say “here today; gone tomorrow” roadside pop-ups. It is roasted whole tilapia served under a pile of vegetables and soy beans with a spicy sauce. Some of these places only do that one dish.

 

242125133_RoastFish.thumb.jpg.c2101034858da61646d2bcde9559426d.jpg

 

I often eat and enjoy this. A sharing meal.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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1513990478_loach(2).thumb.jpg.8c4c94cb6262bc46ea2fdbf50c747478.jpg

Live Loach

 

One fish that you’ll find in a tank in most supermarkets and markets (or sometimes in buckets by the roadside) are 泥鳅 (ní qiu) - Loach. These are not a single species or even one family; there are an astonishing 1,249 known species in nine families. The most commonly consumed here are Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, usually referred to in English as the “pond loach” or “weatherfish”. These  native to East Asia and are extensively farmed commercially, but in the countryside villages are found in the rice paddies. Ovre the last decade, they have been found in the southern USA.

 

About 4 - 5 inches / 10 - 13 cm long, pond loach are bottom feeding scavengers, mainly eating algae, but also known to eat small worms and aquatic creatures such as snails. They are covered in a mucus which enables them to survive long periods out of water.

 

They are popular in Korea and Japan where they are used in soups The Korean soup is chueo-tang (추어탕), whereas the Japanese version is dojō nabe (ジョウ鍋). Here in China, though, I’ve only ever had them stir fried (skin and bone on) with the usual garlic, ginger and chilli triad and vegetables, often water spinach aka moning glory. I’ve cooked them this way several times, but also just by dredging them in potato starch (the uncivilised use cørn starch) and deep frying until crisp. Drain sprinkle with salt and chilli powder and Robert is your father’s brother. Great beer food.

Please note, they go into the hot oil still alive but die immediately.

 

2044272290_loach(1).thumb.jpg.f3894ff1db9acbec9e5697c069f9d33d.jpg

My Deep Fried Loach

 

If frying them is too much trouble, worry not.  The supermarket sells them pre-cooked, too.

 

1909745668_supermarketloach.thumb.jpg.6391dc53082726f76773ad697d51c7b1.jpg

Supermarket Fried Loach

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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10 hours ago, liuzhou said:

1513990478_loach(2).thumb.jpg.8c4c94cb6262bc46ea2fdbf50c747478.jpg

Live Loach

 

One fish that you’ll find in a tank in most supermarkets and markets (or sometimes in buckets by the roadside) are 泥鳅 (ní qiu) - Loach. These are not a single species or even one family; there are an astonishing 1,249 known species in nine families. The most commonly consumed here are Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, usually referred to in English as the “pond loach” or “weatherfish”. These  native to East Asia and are extensively farmed commercially, but in the countryside villages are found in the rice paddies. Ovre the last decade, they have been found in the southern USA.

 

About 4 - 5 inches / 10 - 13 cm long, pond loach are bottom feeding scavengers, mainly eating algae, but also known to eat small worms and aquatic creatures such as snails. They are covered in a mucus which enables them to survive long periods out of water.

 

They are popular in Korea and Japan where they are used in soups The Korean soup is chueo-tang (추어탕), whereas the Japanese version is dojō nabe (ジョウ鍋). Here in China, though, I’ve only ever had them stir fried (skin and bone on) with the usual garlic, ginger and chilli triad and vegetables, often water spinach aka moning glory. I’ve cooked them this way several times, but also just by dredging them in potato starch (the uncivilised use cørn starch) and deep frying until crisp. Drain sprinkle with salt and chilli powder and Robert is your father’s brother. Great beer food.

Please note, they go into the hot oil still alive but die immediately.

 

2044272290_loach(1).thumb.jpg.f3894ff1db9acbec9e5697c069f9d33d.jpg

Deep Fried Loach

 

What is the texture like once fried?  Does the mucus coating cook off or does it get kind of crunchy?

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6 minutes ago, KennethT said:

What is the texture like once fried?  Does the mucus coating cook off or does it get kind of crunchy?

 

The final texture is crunchy - like what I think of as whitebait, but that is a very fluid designation - and the mucus somehow disappears. I'd need a scientist to work out why. They didn't teach that in Lingustics 101!
 

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43 minutes ago, gfweb said:

As a teen I had loaches in my aquarium.  Not much meat on them.

 

As I said, there are over 1,000 species known as loaches. I very much doubt that the ones in your aquarium were the same as the ones we eat here.

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1832662695_BigheadCarp3.thumb.jpg.4cdb14b741aa069bc7cc3f20bf5a55e8.jpg

Here is an oddity. Another freshwater fish which is extensively farmed is 大头鱼 (dà tóu yú), Hypophthalmichthys nobilis or Bighead Carp. I say odd because it differs in many ways from other fish in how it is sold, prepared and eaten. And not just because it is bigger.

 

First of all, it is unlike any other member of the carp family in terms of taste. It has none of the favours associated with carp. The flesh is white and firm unlike other carp.

 

The biggest difference though is that, although it is native to China, it has been introduced either accidentally or deliberately to over 70 other countries around the world. In certain US states and in all of Canada, it is illegal to own or sell live fish – the way Chinese and many other Asian customers prefer it.

 

Although whole fish are sold here, usually live, they are also sold freshly killed but in sections more like meat butchery. A whole fish is huge and too much for most families’ needs so, the head and tail are removed and the body cut into fillets to be sold separately. It may or may not surprise you that the tail and especially the head are the most popular parts.

 

It also surprises foreign visitors to the markets when they see the heads displayed on the vendors’ tables still apparently gasping for breath. In fact, they are dead (of course) and what those visitors are observing are post-mortem muscular spasms.
The heads are used for the much loved (and delicious) 鱼头豆腐汤 (yú tóu dòu fu tāng) ‘fish head and tofu soup’ served everywhere. The tails are used to make soups and stocks.

 

1786442503_BigheadCarp2.thumb.jpg.5fcada458353e82c6ae84dc873a5172a.jpg

 

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Wow quite the presentation of the post mortem fish. So how are these firmer guys generally prepared? In terms of carp or tilapia the whole ones are often purchased to be  fried by the fishmonger and presented in an open tray to stay crisp and not steam.  Scored well before fry. In Chinese and Mexican places. The lines get long especially during Lent in all the markets on Fridays. Other cultures having discovered the wonderfulness of the Asian market as its offerings dovetail with their tastes.

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759618917_waspfish.thumb.jpg.e67cae5615bc4203983635a7bd304ead.jpg

 

Another common freshwater fish causes mass confusion and is illustrative of the difficulties I have here in identifying fish. This is not atypical.

 

I have spent years tracking down a reliable identification for this ugly species. The most common name I hear, 黄蜂鱼 (huáng fēng yú), Tachysurus fulvidraco translates as 'wasp fish'. There are other alternative names, both in Chinese and English . In English it is sometimes referred to as yellowhead catfish or Korean bullhead.

 

However, no sooner had I found this than I also found two other different but visually identical species. But I’ll deal with this one first.

 

It is a type of bagrid catfish native to East and SE Asia, particularly China, Vietnam, Laos and Korea. Although it can reach 34.5 cm / 13½ inches in length, it is normally around 8 to 10 cm / 2½ to 4 inches.

 

It is prone to parasites so should always be well cooked before consumption. Like the loach above, it can be rather slimy as it it covered in mucus, enabling it to survive long periods out of water. They are also very lively and will attempt to jump away if they see the chance. One friend was preparing some and one escaped and hid under her kitchen cabinets for a week until she could finally recapture it. It was exhausted but still alive when she finally succeeded.

 

The second possibility is 蟾胡鲶 (chán hú nián), Clarias batrachus or the so-called walking catfish. This name does seem to describe the way that fish of my friend’s scuttled away across the floor and they are described as being particularly slimy.

 

My only hesitation in adopting this name is that the species is said to be native to somewhat south of here, where as the first is decidedly local to here, not that things don’t get introduced, as we have seen.

 

Then recently I found contender number three – 胡子鲇 (hú zi nián), Clarias fuscus, literally ‘Beard Catfish’ non-literally ‘Hong Kong Catfish’. However, this is much bigger, so I’m rejecting that.

 

In the end, I suppose they are all similar enough to be one species as far as dinner is concerned if not to picky ichthyologists. Whatever they are, although they are popular here, mainly in stir-fries or soups, I find they lack flavour but aren’t offensive. That’s the closest I can get to a recommendation.

 

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11 hours ago, liuzhou said:

759618917_waspfish.thumb.jpg.e67cae5615bc4203983635a7bd304ead.jpg

 

Another common freshwater fish causes mass confusion and is illustrative of the difficulties I have here in identifying fish. This is not atypical.

 

I have spent years tracking down a reliable identification for this ugly species. The most common name I hear, 黄蜂鱼 (huáng fēng yú), Tachysurus fulvidraco translates as 'wasp fish'. There are other alternative names, both in Chinese and English . In English it is sometimes referred to as yellowhead catfish or Korean bullhead.

 

However, no sooner had I found this than I also found two other different but visually identical species. But I’ll deal with this one first.

 

It is a type of bagrid catfish native to East and SE Asia, particularly China, Vietnam, Laos and Korea. Although it can reach 34.5 cm / 13½ inches in length, it is normally around 8 to 10 cm / 2½ to 4 inches.

 

It is prone to parasites so should always be well cooked before consumption. Like the loach above, it can be rather slimy as it it covered in mucus, enabling it to survive long periods out of water. They are also very lively and will attempt to jump away if they see the chance. One friend was preparing some and one escaped and hid under her kitchen cabinets for a week until she could finally recapture it. It was exhausted but still alive when she finally succeeded.

 

The second possibility is 蟾胡鲶 (chán hú nián), Clarias batrachus or the so-called walking catfish. This name does seem to describe the way that fish of my friend’s scuttled away across the floor and they are described as being particularly slimy.

 

My only hesitation in adopting this name is that the species is said to be native to somewhat south of here, where as the first is decidedly local to here, not that things don’t get introduced, as we have seen.

 

Then recently I found contender number three – 胡子鲇 (hú zi nián), Clarias fuscus, literally ‘Beard Catfish’ non-literally ‘Hong Kong Catfish’. However, this is much bigger, so I’m rejecting that.

 

In the end, I suppose they are all similar enough to be one species as far as dinner is concerned if not to picky ichthyologists. Whatever they are, although they are popular here, mainly in stir-fries or soups, I find they lack flavour but aren’t offensive. That’s the closest I can get to a recommendation.

 

A WEEK!?!?!

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12 hours ago, liuzhou said:

759618917_waspfish.thumb.jpg.e67cae5615bc4203983635a7bd304ead.jpg

 

 

 

What's all the yellow?  Bile?

 

I hate when my fishmonger accidentally nicks it open and that uber-bitter yellow stuff taints a bit of the flesh (typically around the collar, my favourite bit!)  Straight to the bin that part goes. 

 

 

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34 minutes ago, TicTac said:

What's all the yellow?  Bile?

 

I hate when my fishmonger accidentally nicks it open and that uber-bitter yellow stuff taints a bit of the flesh (typically around the collar, my favourite bit!)  Straight to the bin that part goes. 

 

 

 

It's not bile. Most catfish have these yellow pigments called xanthophylls, which are tasteless and do no harm whatsoever. Still not my favourite fish, though.

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

 

It's not bile. Most catfish have these yellow pigments called xanthophylls, which are tasteless and do no harm whatsoever. Still not my favourite fish, though.

Interesting.  Admittedly I do not eat much catfish.  Thanks for taking the time to share all of this with us; Mother Nature never ceases to amaze!

 

 

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268404444_seabass.thumb.jpg.f5df5bb0093cfb7ee2b7b86ed3f41b6a.jpg

 

I’m taking a bit of a temporary break from freshwater species and going to jump into the sea! I will return. I am anadromous, although I prefer the sea to supply dinner.

 

Much of the sea fish I get is landed at Beihai, a city on the southern coast of Guangxi, near the Vietnam border and is both wild caught and farmed in the Gulf of Tonkin. In addition, we get farmed fish from around most of China’s eastern and southern coasts. Most markets only do freshwater fish, so sea fish is the preserve of the supermarkets. It is rarely sold live, but is mostly fresh. Very little is frozen in China, except in Heilongjiang where everything is frozen, even the people.

 

1820392137_Japaneseseabass.thumb.jpg.a4296cdd04e19751353bb560a938b06b.jpg

 

I will start with something probably familiar to most members. Sea bass, although that name covers a lot of different species. What we get here is 海鲈 (hǎi lú), Lateolabrax japonicus or Japanese Sea Bass. This is approximately 30 cm/12 inch long white-fleshed beast with a fine delicate taste and flesh which flakes perfectly. Here, it is normally gutted and steamed whole and served alongside other dishes, especially on festive occasions. A dip, the nature of which differs from cook to cook, is usually served alongside, but most are soy sauce and/or vinegar based. That said, I have filleted then pan fried it and even used it successfully in fish and chips.

 

948501032_steamedfish2021post-steaming.thumb.jpg.a7d0d2076daa400234f8c4ff27d33794.jpg

Steamed Japanese Sea Bass

 

1011109900_seabasswakamecrabroepickledginger2.thumb.jpg.0be2add61a84ba6c27b582795a246b15.jpg

Pan Fried Japanese Sea Bass Fillets with Wakame, Crab Roe and Pickled Ginger

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1156005489_popanoschool.thumb.jpg.1176339e661f54aaa382b2402d998c40.jpg

Snubnose Pompano

 

I posted this in the Dinner 2021 topic a couple of days ago. It is 鲳鱼 (chāng yú),Trachinotus blochii, or Snubnose Pompano.

Pompano is a 21-member family of marine fish, most of which are eaten. The snubnose variety is found in the Red Sea and East Africa to the Marshall Islands and Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to Australia. Here it is farmed on China’s east coast near Shandong province and others. The local supply is again from Beihai.

 

It is sometimes marketed (both here and elsewhere) as 小昌鱼 (xiǎo chāng yú)*, Silvery Pomfret or Butterfish, but these are not true pomfrets, which are a completely different species.

 

109144415_snubnosepompano.thumb.jpg.0a18a30069ac00756c8e712b58627a7f.jpg

Snubnose Pompano

 

Snubnose sold here are around 26 cm/10 inches nose to tail, although they can grow much larger. Their meat is delicious, but there isn’t a lot of it! I will happily eat a whole one myself and still be looking for more. I have been to family dinners where two or three of them were prepared. They are normally steamed, but can be pan or even deep fried after being coated with starch. I use potato starch rather than the monstrous type so favoured by many.

 

pompano.thumb.jpg.6a2207d19480973663cc05c352deb62a.jpg

Pan Fried Snubnose Pompano

 

Probably the best I ever had though wasn’t in China, but was cooked by a Chinese woman on a beach on a Thai island which must remain secret! Actually, it needn’t as it is now totally out of bounds to visitors as part of a protected area and you can’t go there anyway! The fish was fried and covered with a delicious chilli-heavy sauce. I have tried to replicate it, but it has never worked. The ambience was part of the recipe.

 

*The  middle character is wrong. It should be . However, the label and sign writers in the local supermarket regularly get their own language wrong. With 10s of thousands of characters to recall, it isn't surprising. Doesn't help me with identification though, when the name they give is incorrect.

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223506332_YellowCroaker.thumb.jpg.80b189053537002dac0fab88384a6b1d.jpg

Yellow Croaker

 

Here we have a very common fish round these parts: 小黄花鱼 (xiǎo huáng huā yú), Larimichthys polyactis, Yellow Croaker or Corvina. Both wild caught, but more likely farmed, off China’s east coast in the East China and Yellow Seas. These are one of the few fish sold both fresh and frozen, but they are also sold dried or smoked.

 

The fish tend to be around 20-25 cm / 8-10 inches in length. The dried or smoked fish are usually added to hotpots and soups, whereas the unprocessed are shallow fried with spices and herbs. The meat is very delicate and needs handling with care to keep the creature intact.

 

Fans of Korean cuisine may know this one as the salted and dried favourite delicacy, 굴비 - gulbi.

 

1084885571_friedcroaker.thumb.jpg.109eb7f7ceebc2b10bc9f9139eb92977.jpg

Fried Yellow Croaker with Herbs, Spices and Fried Soybeans

 

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      “Yes. We have to go by car.”
       
      Well, of course, they finally picked me up at 8.30, drove in circles for an hour trying to find the guy who knew the way, then headed off into the wilds of Hunan. We drove for hours, but the scenery was beautiful, and the thousand foot drops at the side of the crash barrier free road as we headed up the mountains certainly kept me awake.
       
      After an eternity of bad driving along hair-raising roads which had this old atheist praying, we stopped at a run down shack in the middle of nowhere. I assumed that this was a temporary stop because the driver needed to cop a urination or something, but no. This was our lunch venue.
       
      We shuffled into one of the two rooms the shack consisted of and I distinctly remember that one of my hosts took charge of the lunch ordering process.
       
      “We want lunch for eight.” There was no menu.
       
      The waitress, who was also the cook, scuttled away to the other room of the shack which was apparently a kitchen.
       
      We sat there for a while discussing the shocking rise in bean sprout prices and other matters of national importance, then the first dish turned up. A pile of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies. It was delicious.
       
      “What is this meat?” I asked.
       
      About half of the party spoke some English, but my Chinese was even worse than it is now, so communications weren’t all they could be. There was a brief (by Chinese standards) meeting and they announced:
       
      “It’s wild animal.”
       
      Over the next hour or so, several other dishes arrived. They were all piles of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies, but the sauces and vegetable accompaniments varied. And all were very, very good indeed.
       
      “What’s this one?” I ventured.
       
      “A different wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “Another wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “A wild animal which is not the wild animal in the other dishes”
       
      I wandered off to the kitchen, as you can do in rural Chinese restaurants, and inspected the contents of their larder, fridge, etc. No clues.
       
      I returned to the table with a bit of an idea.
       
      “Please write down the Chinese names of all these animals we have eaten. I will look in my dictionary when I get home.”
       
      They looked at each other, consulted, argued and finally announced:
       
      “Sorry! We don’t know in Chinese either. “
       
      Whether that was true or just a way to get out of telling me what I had eaten, I’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant again.
       
      This all took place way back in the days before digital cameras, so I have no illustrations from that particular meal. But I’m guessing one of the dishes was bamboo rat.
       
      No pandas or tigers were injured in the making of this post
       
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
       
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
       
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
       
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.
       

       
      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.
       

       
      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”
       

       
      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.
       

       
      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.
       

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.
       

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken
       

      Lamb Kebabs
       

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG
       

      Kebab stall
       

      Crab
       

      Different crab
       

      Sweet sticky rice balls
       

      Things on sticks
       

      Grilled scorpions
       

      Pig bones and bits
       

      Snails
       
      And much more.
       
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
       
      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
       
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
       
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
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