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Differing tastes?


Fengyi
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One of the things that I think I would find interesting about dining in China is a comparison of taste values. Would I consider good, dishes that Chinese relish? Would Chinese laugh at dishes that I find interesting or delicious? I would like to think that my spirit of culinary adventure is sufficient to be able to appreciate some foods that are truly foreign to me. Some day I would like to find out for sure.

Docsconz:

That's a big opinion topic to get into, and one that interests me VERY much. Part of what I seem to get myself involved with in China often has me trying to tour around and introduce other westerners to good chinese food, after they have explicitely given me their 'do-not-eat' list. The list varies in length from person to person, but all people share one thing in common... they are NOT foodies by any stretch and you'll never find them on Egullet. So i can rant away. So what all this has really done is forced me to 'somewhat' figure out which elements in Chinese food are approachable to westerners, and to what level.. and in what order.  Big topic, maybe it deserves its own thread! Anyway through doing all this one sort of gets a clearer view of the specific points where all of our palates are shared and which other aspects require more 'openness' to get. One thing that comes out of this that I find strange and amusing is that most westerners can get around and enjoy the food in Shanghai most of all, whereas most Chinese despise it most of all! Mostly this has to do with them cooking with tons of sugar here. In fact I find that a LOT of food here is similar in many ways to what you can find at those very unspectacular Chinese restaurants in north America. Meat rolled in sugar and deep fried. Anyway, no need to hijack the thread any further... but there's this subtle balance between taste and oh-my-god-what-is-that  that determines palatability(?) for non-chinese. eGulleters have the second part usually figured out quite well. So if you come to China you'll find yourself quickly liking nearly everything!

I find this question fascinating, not least because I have a large multi-cultural family whose taste buds and food atitudes seem to run the whole gamut!!

I had the experience this summer of organizing a banquet at Fangshan restaurant(the Imperial cuisine restaurant in Beihai park in Beijing) for a relative's 85th birthday. The 30+ crowd consisted of people ranging from some 'backwoodsy-types' from Dongbei who'd never been to Beijing before, through some real 'Lao Beijingren' (Beijing Old-timers), to Laowai (i.e. non-Chinese) who'd never been to China before and who were 'steak 'n' potato' sorts.

ACK!

We had a meeting with one of the managers to discuss it - and some really interesting points emerged during our (very frank) discussion. Since Fangshan is quite the tourist place and also the place for Beijingers to show off to out of towners, the manager had seen all sorts. The one firm conclusion was that non-Chinese customers were far cheaper to feed :smile: because of the differences in taste-values and restaurant-culture.

Because of texture issues, a lot of high-end food appears not to be palatable to certain NA or European palates. The manager told us of banquets where over half the sea-cucumber came back uneaten or abalone was untouched (which seemed to hurt his soul!). On the other hand, lots of Chinese would distain such food as 'gu lao rou' (s+s pork) which were of appeal to non-Chinese.

The manager solved the problem by serving different menus to different tables. The menu for the 'NA/Europe table' came out 1/3 the price of the 'Chinese' tables!!! (150rmb each as opposed to 450rmb!!). But each group was happy in the end with their selection (I'm sorry to say I didn't keep the menus :sad: ) on the whole - even the non-foodies!

But the whole process took about 1 1/2 hours of discussion to keep everyone's taste buds happy!! Which I thought was a bit ridiculous really.... it would have been nice to have people there who, like eGulleteers, would have appreciated the really 'Chinese-style' delicacies which were coming out!!

So I can really understand and admire your patience, jokhm!!

I was exhausted by the process!!

But to prove it was all happy: here's a picture of my 'yilao' (i.e. older generation female relative) opening the HUGE peach baozi holder:

gallery_35503_3257_240100.jpg

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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Sorry for the repeated posting, but I have to add that the food I had on the Victoria Cruises trip down the Yangtze (Three Gorges) which was 'chinglish' food aimed at the (mainly) American passengers was truely some of the worst I have ever had in China.

It was slightly ironic, because I had hope hopes of it - since the boat was a 5 star boat- and the food turned MUCH MUCH worse than I had the last time I went down the Yangtze-which was on a crowded, rusty, 'Chinese-only' hulk of a boat....but BOY! the sichuan cooking on board that boat was to die for!

It got so bad that, by the third day, we brought it up with the waitresses assigned to our table and they confided that most of the passengers wouldn't touch the 'proper' Sichuan food when it came out so the menus had been modified over time to conform to that.

At any rate - the food was appalling. The 'Chinese Banquet' (so-called) served to us included mashed potatoes even! It was on the level of the worst tourist food - but with Smash :shock:

It is such a shame that this was the type of food that the tourists were gobbling up (and they were!).....and sad.....

Edited by Fengyi (log)

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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I would find that very pandering to tourists tastes disappointing to say the least. One of my main motivations for going to any country, but especially a country like China, would be to eat they best they have to offer. While I am sure a lot of it would require acquired tastes, I would be happy to try, even if I ultimately failed in the acquisition. I do appreciate, however, that this sentiment is far from universal and understand the desire and need to separate cuisines for the majority of foreign travelers. I would like to be able to find ways to avoid that for those who are so inclined.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Oh yes... these tours.. they make me cry.

This happened during a halong bay tour in vietnam.. 2 days cruise. No fish sauce. "so what will you eat?" we ask the staff, while we try to consume our horrid westernacized crud. .. Random confusion and vietnamese yelling ensues.

But this doesn't have to be foreigner-focused. Some of the worst food I had in China was during an 'international' (because myself and two other whites where there) photography competition in Shandong province. We stayed at supposedly fancy hotels and after every superbly large and excessive meal I had to run out to the dapaidang for some streat eats. It was horrifying. And it was geared to the chinese exclusively.

And I think we should focus this discussion more on the actual inherent differences in taste... and more appropriately, our egulleter strategies for fooling these people into eating what we show them.

-- .. yes... beef.... exactly

-- MSG? no msg in the fake chicken powder at all.

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To follow up on myself there..

When I lived in Beijing last year I had many many visitors stay with me from all over.. and I had set up a rough system of restaurants and specific dishes that would gradually immerse the non-adjusted visitors or the tangcu/gulaorou-addicted north americans to the real greats in Beijing. Each meal would delight, impress, and juuuussst slightly freak the person out; all the while expanding their comfort level by ever so much. Usually by the end of a two week period i had the sanitary-obsessed guest eating chuanr on a stool outside surrounded by sticks and bones in the middle of the night. This is all about reformation. Or the best is having someone who previously did not eat fish, was oil-conscious (many of these guests), so-called allergic to spices.. and digging into a shuizhuyu with delight.

I figure these assisted/forced changes are only a little bit bad - part asshole-like, but think about the good! When that person returns to canada/us/anywhere-else, they have completely reformed horizons. When they walk into any restaurant it's like the menu just tripled in size!

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I think it is generally a matter of dealing with acquired tastes and not an innate difference in palate or any physiologic aspect. I can't fully rule out the latter though as sometimes food preferences/cravings do stem from individual physiologic needs. Pica would be a pathologic example of that while a craving for red meat or other iron containing foods for an anemic person would be an example of a compensatory mechanism. Even within a culture food preferences are often age-related with younger ones tending towards more limited food choices. At least some of that may be based on developmental physiology. Therefore, I imagine that it is conceivable that underlying generalized nutritional differences can result in different culinary preferences as well as the reverse.

Nevertheless, for the vast majority of people I believe the issue is more one of experience nd recognition. It is easier to eat what is known. As food items become less "strange" to an individual, it becomes easier to approach, eat and enjoy them. Cheese is a broad class of food items in western culture that often has an acquired component to its enjoyment, especially with stronger examples. I imagine "stinky doufu" would fit into that category within a Chinese cultural framework. Is it common for Chinese children to routinely eat and enjoy that dish?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Yes it makes sense that if we want to look at the root of the cause we would look to the kids and see how they overcome the more acquired tastes. Unfortunately I can't get a single good read out of anyone here on the stinky tofu bit. People just tell me that 'when they were young, we tried it and loved it. And that's that'. And I even pushed cheese into the same question and got the same answer (these were younger chinese though).

I'm sure some people on this board have much better experiences and details to tell on this issue. So how does everyone get into eating chinese food?

I think the scope of Chinese food in general means that it is still something for many Chinese to overcome as well. I suppose we have that with certain foods in canada/US, but not to the same extent - i think.

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[...] So how does everyone get into eating chinese food?

To us Chinese, Chinese food is... Food! :laugh::laugh::laugh:

:laugh::laugh::laugh: Probably the most profound words to come from you in a long time. Totally agree.

In the immortal words of the Immortal Lao Tse: Shit happens!

You are BOTH hilarious, and I agree with BOTH of you! :laugh::laugh::laugh:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Interesting, but is it true? I find it difficult to believe that there aren't foods that are highly regarded in Chinese culinary circles that aren't acquired tastes and that all Chinese kids eat all kinds of Chinese foods equally. If so, what is the secret? :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The star anise filled cuisine of Xi'an is probaby not popular with all Chinese. I know my parents and I were repulsed by it while visiting there. Anise, and its cousin licorice, often has a polarizing effect on people.

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It's funny, I actually find myself more open to eating "weird" Chinese/Asian things than I do "weird" Western things.

For me, it's an association thing. For example, there is really only one thing I absolutely, under no circumstance, will never eat: mayonnaise. I hate mayo. I've hated it since I was a kid. I can't get near the stuff. But organ meat smothered in fish sauce and stinky tofu? Bring it on!

Chinese and Japanese are by far my two favorite cuisines, and as I really began to explore them, I kept digging deeper and deeper to try to find the "real stuff," and go beyond the boring Americanized Chinese food that is widely available. It just so happens that the more authentic stuff is also more foreign to Western taste buds, but to me, as someone with an honest interest in Asian food, that's all the better.

And because I have no childhood associations with things like stinky tofu or chicken feet or Japanese natto, I have no reason not to like them. The first time I tried all those things, I thought they were great, and I continue to eat them.

A lot of my friends shy away from this kind of stuff though - I think because they have no real interest in Chinese food, they are fine with remaining complacent and eating things like fried rice and potstickers, while I eat intestine. These are mostly people who like one kind of food, and eat the same stuff pretty often. I can't say for sure why I am open to eating just about anything, and other people won't budge from their routine. Maybe it's just because they don't see food as an event to be enjoyed, but rather as a task.

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There's plenty of stuff that many Chinese people don't care for, but I think the difference between Chinese and a lot of people from Western cultures is that we are a lot less squeamish about the foods we eat. With a good number of Americans, for example, they have to overcome both psychological barriers as well as taste barriers in order to appreciate something like sea cucumbers. Whereas for Chinese the only problem is with taste. We have no problems with the idea of eating strange animals, organ meats, etc.

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There's plenty of stuff that many Chinese people don't care for, but I think the difference between Chinese and a lot of people from Western cultures is that we are a lot less squeamish about the foods we eat. With a good number of Americans, for example, they have to overcome both psychological barriers as well as taste barriers in order to appreciate something like sea cucumbers. Whereas for Chinese the only problem is with taste. We have no problems with the idea of eating strange animals, organ meats, etc.

My sense is that for the mature Chinese palate that is largely true - at least for foods from within their tradition. Is that the case at all ages? When are certain more strongly flavored foods introduced to children? How do most Chinese adapt to non-Chinese cuisines? I trust that their is little that they would be squeamish about eating from an ingredient POV, but what about flavor or textural profiles? What kinds of things will most Chinese from China as opposed to ethnic Chinese who were raised in Western culture not eat?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What kinds of things will most Chinese from China as opposed to ethnic Chinese who were raised in Western culture not eat?

The question you are seeking a solution for should NOT be structured around ONLY the Chinese and their implied weird and exotic food pecadilloes. The question is cultural, generational and geographic. You eat what others of your peer group eat. People, including the Chinese, can and do adapt because we are not hardwired to prefer only certain types of foods. In fact maybe we are more adventuresome in our approach to food than most ethnic groups as I believe that coming from a civilization that is cursed with a history of great famines, we had to adapt or perish. A common question coming from the Chinese upon encountering a new plant or animal is "Is that good to eat??" The ensuing conversation would be a discussion on what way is best to cook the creature or plant. :laugh:

Gawd, I learned to love mature cheeses, didn't I?? I would even approach a hot dog once in a while ...on the verge of starvation.

The question is centered around China and its food compared to the "west" because much of what is eaten in either place is very different from the other. There is no implication of weirdness or "exotic food pecadillos". Your explanation about the expansiveness of palates in China makes some sense and can certainly be extended beyond China. Many European culinary traditions enjoy eating many things that most Americans would gag over such as most forms of offal. I am sure that is true in other parts of the world too. However, it is your statement that you "Learned to love mature cheeses' that I find particularly interesting and getting to the crux of the question. By the fact that you said you learned to love them, I take it that there was a bit of an experience curve to it and that it did not happen all at once. The same would be true for most Americans and possibly Europeans when it comes to mature cheeses. They are an acquired taste. Even your statement about the hot dog addresses the question and confirms the observation that often what is routine in one culinary culture is alien to another.

I am not looking to ascertain which cuisine is "superior." or any other subjective value comparisons. As a non-Chinese American with an interest in Chinese cuisine and a desire to know more and understand it better, I am curious as to how far these differences extend. I know that the differences can be overcome and different cultures can approximate an understanding of others with effort. I also know that China is a very large country with many distinct regional and ethnic traditions and that what may apply to one tradition does not necessarily apply to others. Obviously this is a very complex question, but to the extent that generalizations may be valid, I think it is an interesting one.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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As a child I disliked stinky tofu and most kinds of Chinese pickled vegetables but have now come to enjoy them. I believe many Chinese children react the same way.

One major barrier for Westerners with Chinese foods is texture. I've been told repeatedly by Westerners that they like the flavor of something but are "grossed out" -- as an aside, I find this expression extremely childish -- by the texture. On the other hand I've ever heard of any Chinese rejecting Western dishes because of texture -- then again, I'm not even sure what the Chinese word for texture is; help me out here.

Edited by Kent Wang (log)
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The question is centered around China and its food compared to the "west" because much of what is eaten in either place is very different from the other.

Different yes , but mainly in the preparation as 95% of the ingredients are the same. We Chinese are not a complicated people and we all abide by the same admonishments that all mothers from all races and cultures lay on their children "Eat it, it's good for you", (implicit is the threat "or else!!) . If a particular dish seems strange and a kid decides that he really doesn't care for it, nothing much is said about it because it won't go to waste. Eventually we all grow up and our tastes change and we learn to actually like foods that were offensive when we were young, whether by deliberate attempts or by osmosis from watching others eat the stuff with relish. For example, as a child my daughter abhorred the idea of eating olives, but now in her adulthood she craves them as much as I do.

But jaysuss you ask complicated questions, too much analysis and introspection usually destroys my appetite for a certain food/dish.

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But jaysuss you ask complicated questions, too much analysis and introspection usually destroys my appetite for a certain food/dish.

:laugh: So I won't ask about your favorite foods! :raz::smile:

Thanks for answering, Ben and others. I guess that the timeframe of palate develoment is not different between cultures. It is just the food they are trained to eat and enjoy, the acquired tastes are different between cultures. That is what I had thought. Admittedly the small sample of this discussion is not a scientific study, but it does make sense.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Let's talk about something less exotic than stinky tofu, pig brain or chicken feet. Let's look at some more common food items.

So what is it so special about Sweet and Sour Pork (or many of its variations)? When I worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in San Diego over 20 years ago, this dish was (probably still is) the most popular dish. Probably at least 1 out of every 5 parties would order it. (Or Almond Chicken for that matter) A big blob of red color with pungent smell and sweet taste. Do Chinese eat it? Sure we do. Just probably far less frequently as the Americans. In fact one would't even think of recommending this dish to Chinese patrons.

How about Cantonese style steamed whole fish with shredded green onions and ginger spreaded on top and a dash of soy sauce (or any fresh (live) shellfish cooked in a similar manner)? Chinese see this as a "luxury" (one would definitely order it and eat it if there is no economic constraint). Most Americans: they wouldn't know what to do seeing the fish head on the plate with the eyes popped out.

Is it texture thing? I think it is just an excuse disguising the underlying fear of the unfamiliarity. Do Americans eat Chinese squid dishes (especially the ones cooked with shrimp paste)? Most would avoid it, complaining the squid is too rubbery. (Note: no batter) But the same group may have no problem eating Italian "calamari", breaded, deep-fried, dipped in marinara sauce.

Would they dive in eating "to fu fa"? No way! Yet the same person may have no problem eating yogart or crème brûlée.

What texture thing?

I have 2 Caucasian sister-in-laws in the family. I have observed them in family dinners over the years and found:

What they will eat:

- Cantonese Fried Chicken (a favorite in fact)

- Cantonese Roast Pork or BBQ Pork

- Thick steak stir-fried with gailan

- Scallops deep-fried in batter and sprinkled with salt and pepper

- Sweet and Sour Pork (another favorite)

- Capitol Pork Ribs

- Chow Mein (may be it resembles spaghetti?)

What they won't eat:

- Crabs stir-fried with ginger and scallions (can't take the crab meat and shell in sauce together)

- Salt and Pepper Shrimp (because they are cooked with shell on with seasoning outside - hard to peel)

- Rice noddles, whether it's in soup, stir-fried or steamed

- Scallops sauteed with mixed vegetables (no batter)

- Steamed whole fish with shredded ginger and green onion and dash of soy sauce on top

- Braised sea cucumbers (too soft?)

- Braised abalone (too chewy?)

- Jelly fish (taste too bland? Too rubbery?)

- Mix seafood sauteed with vegetables in a bird nest (they will eat the bird nest - because it is fried potato)

Well, of course two individuals cannot represent the American population at large. But they are good examples to illustrate the culinary cultural differences.

Can texture be a good explanation for all these? Or it's more like "I won't eat anything that require me to spit out bones, skin, shells at the dinner table, or anything that doesn't resemble chicken, beef, pork or shrimp?"

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Let's talk about something less exotic than stinky tofu, pig brain or chicken feet.  Let's look at some more common food items.

So what is it so special about Sweet and Sour Pork (or many of its variations)?  When I worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in San Diego over 20 years ago, this dish was (probably still is) the most popular dish.  Probably at least 1 out of every 5 parties would order it.  (Or Almond Chicken for that matter)  A big blob of red color with pungent smell and sweet taste.  Do Chinese eat it?  Sure we do.  Just probably far less frequently as the Americans.  In fact one would't even think of recommending this dish to Chinese patrons.

How about Cantonese style steamed whole fish with shredded green onions and ginger spreaded on top and a dash of soy sauce (or any fresh (live) shellfish cooked in a similar manner)?  Chinese see this as a "luxury" (one would definitely order it and eat it if there is no economic constraint).  Most Americans: they wouldn't know what to do seeing the fish head on the plate with the eyes popped out.

Is it texture thing?  I think it is just an excuse disguising the underlying fear of the unfamiliarity.  Do Americans eat Chinese squid dishes (especially the ones cooked with shrimp paste)?  Most would avoid it, complaining the squid is too rubbery.  (Note: no batter)  But the same group may have no problem eating Italian "calamari", breaded, deep-fried, dipped in marinara sauce.

Would they dive in eating "to fu fa"?  No way!  Yet the same person may have no problem eating yogart or crème brûlée. 

What texture thing?

I have 2 Caucasian sister-in-laws in the family.  I have observed them in family dinners over the years and found:

What they will eat:

  - Cantonese Fried Chicken (a favorite in fact)

  - Cantonese Roast Pork or BBQ Pork

  - Thick steak stir-fried with gailan

  - Scallops deep-fried in batter and sprinkled with salt and pepper

  - Sweet and Sour Pork (another favorite)

  - Capitol Pork Ribs

  - Chow Mein (may be it resembles spaghetti?)

What they won't eat:

  - Crabs stir-fried with ginger and scallions (can't take the crab meat and shell in sauce together)

  - Salt and Pepper Shrimp (because they are cooked with shell on with seasoning outside - hard to peel)

  - Rice noddles, whether it's in soup, stir-fried or steamed

  - Scallops sauteed with mixed vegetables (no batter)

  - Steamed whole fish with shredded ginger and green onion and dash of soy sauce on top

  - Braised sea cucumbers (too soft?)

  - Braised abalone (too chewy?)

  - Jelly fish (taste too bland?  Too rubbery?)

  - Mix seafood sauteed with vegetables in a bird nest (they will eat the bird nest - because it is fried potato)

Well, of course two individuals cannot represent the American population at large.  But they are good examples to illustrate the culinary cultural differences.

Can texture be a good explanation for all these?  Or it's more like "I won't eat anything that require me to spit out bones, skin, shells at the dinner table, or anything that doesn't resemble chicken, beef, pork or shrimp?"

I think for many Americans texture is important, especially if it is with an unfamiliar ingredient. I think most people regardless of their culture prefer the familiar to the unknown. So while the texture may be the same as with something familiar, in a new context it becomes threatening. Americans do have an aversion to fish bones, as it is drummed in at an early age that fish bones can be dangerous and something to watch out for. Clearly it is not the bones per se as we seem to have no problem with chicken bones or ribs :laugh:.

I think the premise of this thread is interesting not just to explore what Chinese eat that Westerners tend not to but the reverse as well. What is strange and unpalatable to most Chinese that westerners take as a matter of course?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think the premise of this thread is interesting not just to explore what Chinese eat that Westerners tend not to but the reverse as well. What is strange and unpalatable to most Chinese that westerners take as a matter of course?

Cheese is the most obvious choice, although it's become a lot more popular with the younger generations. I also know a lot of Chinese who don't care for marinara sauce. If you order spaghetti w/ tomato sauce at a Hong Kong cafe that serves western-style foods, the sauce it comes with will be almost ketchup-like in taste. Finally, I know many Chinese who can't stomach cumin, despite its common use in certain Chinese regional dishes.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I think the premise of this thread is interesting not just to explore what Chinese eat that Westerners tend not to but the reverse as well. What is strange and unpalatable to most Chinese that westerners take as a matter of course?

I cannot give you a generalization. That would be unfair.

I would give you my observations on my parents-in-law and my father's eating habits. They are typical of the older Chinese generation. All 3 of them grew up in rural Chinese villages. Though most of their lives were spent in big cities (Hong Kong and Sacramento), their food choices seem to be wired to their childhood upbringing.

- No Cheese of any kind, soft or hard, mature or not, just no whatsoever

- No milk

- No cheese cake

- No catsup

- No pizza

- Spaghetti (resembles chow mein?) is okay, no tomato sauce. No Alfredo sauce either.

- No mayo

- No mustard

- No horseradish

- No hot dog

- No hamburger

- No "salad" (raw lettuce, raw carrot, raw cucumber, raw tomato)

- No raw onion

Would that give you an idea? The list can go on and on! Would their food preference be different if they grew up in the USA? Most definitely I think.

This middle age Chinese, Yours Truly, who grew up in the modern city of Hong Kong would take most of the items in the above list: except mayo and cheese cake! I don't like cheese cake. In fact, I don't like sweets of most kinds... :raz:

But that maybe just me...

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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People, including the Chinese, can and do adapt because we are not hardwired to prefer only certain types of foods.  In fact maybe we are more adventuresome in our approach to food than most ethnic groups as I believe that coming from a civilization that is cursed with a history of great famines, we had to adapt or perish. 

I think the premise of this thread is interesting not just to explore what Chinese eat that Westerners tend not to but the reverse as well. What is strange and unpalatable to most Chinese that westerners take as a matter of course?

I can only speak from personal experience, but it seems to me that Asians, including Chinese, are by and large not very willing to embrace different cuisines and foods. One manifestation of this has already been referred to above - Chinese tour groups being fed almost exclusively Chinese food on overseas tours. This is not just limited to Chinese from mainland China. This applies to Chinese from SE Asia as well. I have even heard stories of Chinese tour groups complaining about having to endure Western-style breakfasts and demanding that the tour guide provide Chinese fare (such as congee) instead.

Another example is when I accompanied a number of Chinese clients on an overseas business trip (to the West). Our host provided a three-course lunch every day, and a number of meals featured specialities of the area. I was delighted. On the other hand, my Chinese clients complained about the food and generally did not like it. And they went to the same Chinese restaurant every night for dinner.

Similiarly in Beijing, when we entertain Chinese clients, we would invariably choose a Chinese restaurant. I have been told (by my Chinese colleagues) that this is because they are much more comfortable with Chinese food.

Again, this is just a personal observation, and I do not have any explanation as to why this is so. Perhaps it all boils down to not wanting to leave one's comfort zone?

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