*Dedicated to Michi, who always manages to make me hungry with her food posts.
Take every Chinese food experience you’ve had, good or bad. Forget about it. Throw it away in the recycle bin/trash can of your mind.
Now take the key components of every Asian, Pan-Asian, Asian fusion restaurant experience that you’ve had. Take the basic elements, subtract deep-fried, battered foods, but keep the copious amounts of oil. Voila. Chinese food.
So, to talk about Chinese food in China, I have to talk a little about Chinese food abroad, which, to date, I’ve been to maybe some 17 countries and tried Chinese food in most of them. There seem to be some consistencies, blending of sweet and sour, focus on pan frying, some deep fried dishes, with and without batter, use of simple vegetable dishes, hot pot, complex meat dishes featuring marinades, rice and rice noodles instead of wheat flour.
The closest I would say any country has gotten to the food in China would be Japan. There is a simplicity and complexity to the food that only Japan has seemed to have come near replicating.
But still, not the same.
The food here rivals the tastes I’ve experienced anywhere; easily one of my favorite cuisines among the ones I’ve sampled worldwide. The ingredients are usually grown within the locality, extremely fresh (there are rice fields and vegetable paddies everywhere). As wonderful as that might sound, China ranks with India as one of the most polluted countries I’ve been to, making the ground equally polluted.
That, coupled with the tendency for street vendors to use recycled oil from restaurants, which can be loaded with carcinogens, plus a general disregard for hygienic practices, makes the food particularly deadly and potentially disease-ridden.
But does it taste fucking awesome? Yes it does.
So, take, for instance, a fried pancake, egg, meat pastry I had this morning for breakfast. For USD .66, approximately, I had a delicious, spicy, salty egg pasty that kept me going until I shamefully broke down and had Pizza Hut (sometimes, you need a break, you know?) For brunch. Where I’m living, in the south (Guizhou Province) they like spicy. Like, they like it MORE than a friend. Everything and it’s mother has oily, delicious 辣椒 on it.
Now, it most likely had been cooked in recycled, or at the very least, very old oil that may or may not have been poly-unsaturated vegetable oil. But did it taste good. hOMG yes.
Yesterday, I had an amazing, fucking-fry-your-face-off hot noodle salad, wrapped wonton like a dumpling, for half a dollar. Only love can hurt this good.
Will write more (with pictures) as I can. This requires more research. Dick dog out.