We eat because we are hungry or craving something ‘nice’ but not always exotic. What we put into our bodies is very important although we don’t always keep that in mind, which is not a bad thing though. Occasionally, trying something unfamiliar is where it becomes interesting, because you never know what you will discover.
Why do we love food so much?
The most obvious reason would be because it is essential. We need to eat in order to stay active. It provides energy and all the other nutrients our body needs in order to function properly through day to day activities. Therefore, food basically keeps us alive. Although studies shows that the body can survive for 8 to 21 days without food and water. This is more than 2 weeks of survival.
Unless you’re going through some real life poverty, no one would starve themselves this much because we just adore the thought of eating. People that enjoy travelling love exploring exotic foods. China is globally known to be the number one country with the most exotic food trends.
The Food Culture of China
“Rice” is right at the top of the list. Southern China is the rice farming areas. People are known to eat steamed rice. While in Northern China, which is a wheat farming area, the focus lies in eating flour-based food, like noodles (another popular food trend in China), mantou and dumplings. A typical Chinese meal usually consists of rice, soup and three to four side dishes. Dishes are made of seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood or bite-size portions of meat or poultry.
Sushi is one food trend that has become a worldwide phenomenon. People from all around the world adore the taste of sushi and it comes in a variety of choices: Nigiri, Sashimi, Maki, Uramaki, Temaki, Alaska Roll, and The Dragon Roll. Additionally, people in China eat all kinds of animal meat – pork, beef, mutton and any other animal meat that you can think of.
The food in China’s symbolic meaning derives from superstitions or traditional beliefs in eating to invoke/celebrate blessing. A meaning or “power” is associated with foods through food name pronunciation, food shape, colors, food and history/legends.They are greatly judged by other countries due to their interest in food choices, but when it comes to cultural customs surrounding ‘what people eat’, only that culture would understand why. They are, after all, known to be the ‘number one exotic food country’.
A traveller in China gives advice: ” If I have one piece of advice, it’s to get outside your comfort zone. “
10 Exotic Food Trends in China
Never would have thought eating an eyeball would be considered as food, until China showed us otherwise. It Tuna Eyeball consists of a hard exterior, known as the sclera, which holds the lens, the iris, and gelatinous fluid. It tastes similar to squid and comes with severed muscles and fish fat around the eyeball. The eyeball is boiled, seasoned and served. Beyond the best reason to eat fish—they taste marvellous. It has nutritional advantages as well. The eyeball is said to stimulate brain cells and stave off memory loss, courtesy of a pair of unsaturated fatty acids called DHA and EPA.
This is considered to be one of the world’s scariest foods. The thought of having it in front of you as a dish ready to be eaten is bizarre enough!
It is a popular dish in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (it is referred to as the national snack food of Taiwan). There is a huge emphasis on the ‘stinky’ part because the smell is unbearable, but people in China ignore the smell. Stinky Tofu is made up of a mixture of tofu combined with fermented milk, vegetables and a meat or fish-based brine. In order to make it really stinky, it is best to leave the brine (a high concentration solution of salt) to settle in for a few weeks or months before using it. Stinky tofu is a good source of isoflavones, compounds that provide a number of health benefits. It is a unique dish, however, in that it also contains good quantities of the isoflavonoid equol. This dish is often served in small cubes, which are put together by street food vendors.
According to BBC Travel stinky, tofu was invented by accident in China hundreds of years ago when a struggling tofu merchant opened his container of unsold goods after several days to discover that his bean curd and soy milk mixture had started to ferment. Eventually, the merchant took a bite of the Tofu and realized that it was actually not that bad – it was tasty. He decided to start selling and it soon became a Chinese sensation. It was so popular that China’s Empress Dowager Cixi added it to the list of imperial foods served at her Qing Dynasty palace.
China is considered to be very creative when it comes to food, but worms, as a dish, are a first. Once the silkworms have spun their cocoon, they will eventually enclose themselves inside it and then it’s time to extract what’s necessary. Silkworms are not actually worms. This animal is not really a worm, but the larval form of the silk moth. The famous “silk” that the insects produce is spun to make their cocoons. Each cocoon may contain a single strand of silk one mile long, but the larval form of the silk moth.
Silkworms are a traditional delicacy in north-east China. It has a crunchy exterior that reveals an interior with a taste and texture like mashed potato. The silkworm is a good source of protein, lipids, minerals, and vitamins. It is considered to be a good source of nutrients for humans. It is best prepared by being fried in oil. They’re crispy, slightly fishy, with a buttery aftertaste. Additionally, silkworm’s can be used for many different reasons: they can be used as healthcare products, medicines, food additives, and animal feed.
Chinese Cockroach Soup
Eating cockroaches in China is seen to be completely normal. They breed an army of cockroaches in order to prepare them for their food. Cockroaches add a different kind of flavour to their dishes which makes it unique compared to normal soup.
Cockroach soup is best prepared by first removing the wings and the legs, because the body is what needs to be used. Next, you need to boil some rice and add vegetables to the mixture in order to make it nice and crispy. Then, add 3 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a separate pan and fry the cockroaches for about 30 seconds to one minute. When everything is ready, then place the cockroaches on top of the rice and it will be ready to serve. People in China enjoy this soup because it is considered to be healthy and it is high in protein. These roaches that are being used are kept in facilities where they can be fed tonnes of garbage through a tube. Just the thought of these bugs escaping sounds like chaos.
Additionally, cockraoches are ground and stuffed into pills and advertised as a cure for all manner of stomach, heart, and liver ailments.Cockroach medicine is believed to produce wonderful results.
Thousand-year old Egg
Don’t let the name fool you. The egg does not take a thousand years to prepare. The name derives from the fact that the preparation process of the egg takes a while. It’s a dramatic emphasis, because it is additionally known as ‘a century old egg’. It does not smell as good as normal food, but most exotic dishes in China have an unpleasant smell to it yet it still tastes okay.
The thousand year old egg is a duck or chicken egg that has been preserved by soaking the egg in a brine of salt and lye. It is considered a delicacy in China and among Asian populations in the U.S. The curing process of this egg was improved to create a richer flavor and turn it into the Chinese delicacy they are today.
Duck tongue is a Chinese delicacy. It can be found at dim sum restaurants where it may be prepared by stir frying, deep frying, or braising. The tongue may seem small and insubstantial, but its flavor is intensely ducklike. When freshly fried, duck tongues are positively absorbed with a crisp surface and a creamy, slightly fatty interior that melts in your mouth.
Most of these Chinese dishes are eaten due to the nutritional benefits that they offer. It includes zinc, iron, choline, and vitamin B12. This meat is considered especially beneficial for those recovering from illness or for women who are pregnant. The duck tongue is more of a main course because it is considered to be a full meal due to the portion of meat. It is predominately a vehicle for juicy pockets of fat. It has this slimy/oily texture, placing an emphasis on the ‘juicy’ part of its description.
This is not your average chicken! It does not get cooked on the stove, but instead people use mud and charcoal to cook it.
The chicken starts off by being stuffed with different sorts of chicken herbs. Next, you will marinate the chicken with dark soya and sesame oil. Then the wrapping process starts – wrap the chicken with 2 layers of butter paper and with 2 layers of brown paper. Along with a single sheet of heat-resistant plastic before everything is tied up tight with raffia string. Now the chicken needs to be covered in clay and when that is done, the slow cooking process can begin.
There is a big taste difference compared to the standard way of cooking chicken where the taste won’t pull through as much as it does doing it the traditional way. This parcel should then be placed in hot charcoal and covered with heaps of ash over the clay. One can use a fan to control the heat while the chicken is being cooked for exactly 6 long hours. The idea behind the traditional way is that the flavor of the chicken comes out stronger. Therefore, it is the best way to preserve the taste and aroma of the chicken. Finally, use a shovel to dig out the parcel and crack it open with a hammer or any hard object, then unwrap it and it will be ready to be served.
Beggar’s chicken is widely served in Hangzhou’s restaurants. The best one for tasting beggar’s chicken is Louwailou Restaurant, where it costs 168 yuan.
Fried Bee Pupae
It is rich in nutrition (high protein and low in fat). The best way to prepare fried bee pupae is to give them that golden brown look by frying them in hot oil.
Start off by heating up the oil and then place the honeybee papa in the oil. Keep in mind that you should not take them out until they float right down to the surface of the oil. Next, get out a clean pot and add them in there, add salt, green onion, bruised ginger, chili, and peppers into the spot, and stir-fry them for round about 1 to 2 minutes. Then they are ready to be served. There are many additional ways of preparing this dish – stir fried, steamed, cold fried and it can be baked into crispy cakes. It has a buttery, fatty and unique taste.
The pupae itself is used in Eastern medicine for multiple reasons: to fight bacteria, strengthen internal organs, anti-ageing, smooth the skin and enhance female beauty. Additionally, it improves health and endurance, and reduces muscle fatigue.
Turtle Shell Jelly
Turtle shell jelly is also known as Tortise Jelly. It is a well-known Chinese dessert that has a slime-like texture.
It is traditionally made from various types of a turtle’s bottom shell and various herbal products. Most turtle jelly comes from ordinary accessible turtle species to keep the price low, but some extremely expensive options are available and are made using ingredients from the golden coin turtle. Some people believe that eating this on a regular basis can improve the skin by giving it a healthier complexion.
Chinese people will come up with the most extreme ways of preparing and preserving food. They eat almost every part of the animal – including the brain of a pig.
Preparing the dish is more simple compared to other dishes. Take the brains, add in a few scoops of curry paste, mix in some finely shaved kaffir lime leaves, and then season with salt. It feels soft and something similar to the texture of thick yogurt or tofu-like. Pig brain is quite tasty because it has this delicious savoury taste.
Cooking and preparing food in China is pretty unique compared to other countries. More effort and time is placed into preparing these dishes, especially when looking at traditional recipes. Although not everyone will agree with these dishes, they have a special place in China.