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Another proof of China's progress: Culture of eating well blossomed [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2008-7-17 08:50:32 |Display all floors
BEIJING, China (AP) -- My last houseguest had 13 restaurants on his to-try list, including three renowned for succulent versions of crisp-skinned Peking duck, one popular for its tongue-tingling Sichuan cuisine and a Uighur joint, known as much for the ethnic minority's cumin-spiced lamb skewers as its exuberant floor show.

  "I never thought Beijing would have so many things!" he said hungrily after hours of online research.

Gone are the days when the traditional Chinese greeting "Have you eaten yet?" seemed like a bad joke in the dour capital where, as recently as the 1980s, staples were rationed, state-run canteens dished out the slop of the day in chipped enamel bowls and restaurants were few and far between.

Today's Beijing is packed with eateries at every corner, open at all hours and offering regional cuisines of all kinds -- a reflection of China's stunning economic success after almost three decades of convulsive growth.

And the run-up to the August 8 Beijing Olympics has underscored the quantum leap in the quality and variety of fare on offer, with menus and manners being polished in anticipation of the crowd of 500,000 visitors during the games.

From al dente hand-pulled noodles splashed with bracing black vinegar from Shanxi province in the north, to fingernail-sized chicken pieces buried in a mountain of dried chilies from Sichuan in the southwest, to the rich, sweet braises of the east, there is something to pique every palate. Don't forget the street food -- handmade pork buns, candied fruit and egg, lettuce and crisp fried dough rolled in a freshly made flour crepe, a Chinese burrito of sorts.

And that's just from within the country.

Sushi and sashimi? Ocean fresh. Persian grilled meats and stews? In the heart of the city. Fish and chips? Beer-batter or breadcrumbs, take your pick. Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, German, French, Ethiopian, Spanish, Singaporean, even kosher ... the list goes on.

"Simply put, we've gone from eating just to fill our stomachs to the stage where we are open to the complete pleasures of the dining experience," says Chitty Chung, editor-in-chief of Beijing's Food & Wine magazine.

That includes not only an awareness of a restaurant's environment, the chef's concepts, quality of service, the pairing of food and wine, and nutritional balance, but also a willingness try new things, says Chung, who recommends Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant not only for the namesake fowl, but also for its light modern twist on traditionally heavy Shandong fare.

"People's eyes are opening up and they are becoming more international. They are ready to accept and taste food from other parts of the world," she says. "The choices are far beyond your imagination."

There are more than 40,000 restaurants in Beijing, 90 percent of which are privately run -- a far cry from the few thousand state-owned eateries that were found on the streets during the early 1980s, says He Zhifu, secretary-general of the Beijing Association for Food and Beverage Industries.

They run the gamut from the simple (mom-and-pop dumpling place) to the showy (the starkly modern Green T. House, where dishes are decorated with curling tree branches, and the Whampoa Club, where roast spring onion ice-cream can be enjoyed in a dining room that sits beneath a massive glass goldfish pond) to the bizarre (Guo Li Zhuang which serves the penises and testicles of various animals -- dogs, yaks, ox -- cooked in a variety of ways.)

And some of the tastiest -- and most authentic -- regional treats can be found in the restaurants affiliated to the provincial government offices that have set up in the capital.

In all, Beijing's restaurants rake in more than $4 billion annually and the revenues are still growing, a lucrative streak that has boosted the street cred of the city's food scene and drawn big names despite tainted product scares last year.

Chef Daniel Boulud -- a cult favorite in New York who has grabbed headlines for his $150 ground sirloin burger filled with short ribs braised in red wine, foie gras and black truffles -- has just set up shop in a compound that used to house the U.S. Embassy. Le Pre Lenotre, sister restaurant of the three Michelin-star Le Pre Catelan in Paris, opened to great buzz in the Sofitel Wanda Beijing.

The also-very-French Fauchon is peddling its gourmet treats in a high-end mall and Philippe Starck designed the trippy, down-the-rabbit-hole Lan club and restaurant. Last month, Zagat, a global dining guide with a fierce hold on the American market, launched its Beijing edition.

"Beijing has a concurrence of circumstance at present," says Malcolm McLauchlan, general manager of 1949, The Hidden City, a cluster of ambitious restaurants overlooking the shady courtyard of a former factory.

He checked them off: a rapidly growing middle class, relatively little competition and Olympics-driven tourism.

Prior to the boom, the few and far between restaurants offered just a limited number of dishes. They opened late, closed early and were staffed by servers who seemed to take pride in being as disagreeable as possible. Their favorite phrase was "mei you," loosely translated to mean "we're out." Definitely no Haagen-Dazs, McDonald's or Starbucks.

State-run food stores offered a limited choice of essentials, like meat, flour, oil and eggs. Milk, yogurt, bread, bottled fruit and bai jiu -- China's version of moonshine -- were plentiful. But that's it.


"Now we can eat whatever we like without seasonal and geographical limitations," says Xu Yimin, editor-in-chief of Chinese and Foreign Food magazine, who lists the delicate but juicy dumplings of the Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung as his favorite.

"Although food prices keep going up, peoples' love for tasty food hasn't changed," he said. "Eating has become a culture."

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Post time 2008-7-17 11:21:00 |Display all floors
I don't feel good reading this article because I am suffering from high food prices.

"Simply put, we've gone from eating just to fill our stomachs to the stage where we are open to the complete pleasures of the dining experience," says Chitty Chung, editor-in-chief of Beijing's Food & Wine magazine."
---yes open to the complete pleasures but the majority people can't afford the pleasure.

"Now we can eat whatever we like without seasonal and geographical limitations," says Xu Yimin, editor-in-chief of Chinese and Foreign Food magazine,"

----many categories of food have to be transported from far away. As fuel costs go up, transportation and storage costs also go up, so why I can expect there'll be affordable non-local food for me to choose.

I can't even afford eating barley bread to fill my stomach, say 1 kilo every month but I can afford to have a can of beer every week which I don't need. Barley is used in that bread and beer. Why a piece of barley bread without an aluminium can is expensive than a can of beer?

In some ways, poor people have to suffer high-rising food costs not only because of less agriculture produce due to natural diasters, climate change...but also because of

1. using food crops for enthonal
2. using food crops to feed farm pigs and poultries
3. using food crops to make luxury products like beer

The wheat output this year around the world is more than last year. I may expect wheat price will not keep rising. But the people in the market tell you that because the shortage of corn, livestocks farm owners have to buy wheat to feed livestocks. So don't expect I can eat noddle the same price as last year.
Vision without action is illusion---Y.J.

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Post time 2008-7-17 14:50:43 |Display all floors

milk-irrigated melon etc.. progress?

What more important to talk about is not " proof of China's progress".
China's progress on some aspects are too far now. More important to talk about is the low incomer Chinese do not benefit as much as those elites or tanguan in the past 30-year development.

Yes more variety products for people to choose from if they have enough money. Remind them of this they'll feel grateful. But if you tell poor people in China that there're milk-irrigated melons and milk-treated cucumbers on the markets for you to choose, they'll reply : I can't afford milk. Why you waste milk to irrigate melon?
milkmelon.jpg

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Post time 2008-7-17 17:44:05 |Display all floors
"People's eyes are opening up and they are becoming more international. They are ready to accept and taste food from other parts of the world," she says. "The choices are far beyond your imagination."

The shipping causes the demand for fuel. Are there solar energy driven ships or planes for transporting food now?

Here the photo shown fruit festival display in S. China this month.
fruitfigure.jpg

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Post time 2008-7-17 18:24:25 |Display all floors
Originally posted by seneca at 2008-7-17 09:04
‘Gone are the days when the Chinese traditional greeting 'have you eaten yet' seemed like a bad joke...' = CD Voice.

Not sure why you said that; it never sounded like a joke to me.


It seemed like a bad joke in the 1980s when "staples were rationed." It never sounded like a bad joke to you because you moved to China some 20 years later.

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Post time 2008-7-17 18:53:49 |Display all floors
Originally posted by amyamy at 2008-7-17 14:50
What more important to talk about is not " proof of China's progress".
China's progress on some aspects are too far now. More important to talk about is the low incomer Chinese do not be ...



Yes, there is a fine line between exotic variety and plain decadence (look at the Weimar Republic). However, Beijing is a city with well over ten million people (and yes, they have different incomes but that's not what this thread is about). Beijing has more than enough ordinary restaurants for regular people (and regular water irrigated melons), but that's not what this article is about. Paris, London or Tokyo also have plenty of interesting restaurants that most people in these cities can't afford. Should we abolish truffles simply because not everyone can afford to eat it?

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Post time 2008-7-17 19:02:37 |Display all floors
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