7 Common Misconceptions About Chinese Food and Eating

When it comes to eating Chinese food, there are quite a few stereotypical myths and perceptions surrounding this dining experience.

Living in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, I’ve had my fair share of Chinese cuisine. At least once a week I eat Chinese food, be it in a restaurant or having it as takeaway or cooking it at home. What I’ve noticed is that Chinese dishes aren’t the same everywhere.

Yang Chow fried rice. A popular dish all over the world.

Yang Chow fried rice. A popular dish all over the world | Weekly Photo Challenge: Sweet.

But this is no surprise. Food is tied to culture, and culture is different in every given space. Evidently how food is served around the world is different.

Some of us might be familiar with Chinese food. Chances are we might have tried a wide range of Chinese dishes, and know that Chinese cuisine is more than just a select few popular dishes – that the misconceptions about the cuisine don’t ring true:

1. All Chinese dishes are the same

With more than 1.35 billion people in China, there’s the misconception all Chinese food originates from this one place. However the way Chinese food is prepared varies by region – different location, different availability of ingredients, different styles of cooking. Cantonese cuisine tends to be non-greasy, light and sweet. Sichuan dishes and Hunan cuisine are on the savoury and spicy side. Shanghai cuisine is often pickled with wine and tastes sweet and sour. Shanxi cuisine borders on the sour side and produces aged vinegar. Among the 23 provinces in China, the northern ones are cooler and have an affinity with noodles, and the southern provinces closer to the ocean produce more rice and seafood dishes.

Plenty of Chinese food originates outside of China. For instance, Hong Kong is arguably the home of dim sum. Vegetarian wrap popiah has countless variations all around Malaysia. Though originally hailing from Hainan in China, Hainanese chicken rice has been adapted and regarded as one of Singapore’s national dishes.

In Australia, Chinese food with origins in Asia are arguably westernised to suit local tastebuds. A few times in Melbourne I ordered dark stir-fried Hokkien noodles and they came with carrots, the dish bordering on the sweet side – which never is the case when I ordered it in Malaysia. Also many dumplings I’ve eaten in Australia taste good – but the dumpling wrappers are usually thicker and coarser than that in South-East Asia.

Some dishes are simple, easy to cook.

Some dishes are simple, easy to cook.

2. Chinese food is all about sweet and sour

The more popular Chinese dishes around the world are those that are often nothing short of laden with sauces and bold flavours. They are the dishes that hit our sweet spot so to speak. Dr Laura Pawlak argues our brains are wired to focus on ‘pleasure-seeking’ and its dopamine neurons get activated by the sight and consumption of food. Research on controlling food intake shows certain foods such as salt and fat are potent in making the brain feel rewarded.

Popular Chinese dishes include: sweet and sour pork (fried battered pork dish often served with artificial bright red ‘ketchup’ sauce), lemon chicken (battered lemon chicken) and black pepper chicken (chunks of chicken doused in black pepper sauce).

In reality not all Chinese dishes are battered, crispy and saucy. In reality many Chinese dishes are light and prepared with the minimalist ingredients. Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, garlic stir-fried Chinese broccoli, soy sauce steamed garoupa and steamed Hainan ginger chicken were dishes that my mum prepared at home each week. These dishes might sound plain, but they are perfect when none of us were in the mood to cook up a storm or when we wanted a meal that didn’t make us feel oversatiated.

3. Most Chinese food is spicy

All spice and everything hot and nice is not what Chinese food is all about. At times we might be in the mood for tongue-numbing spicy Sichuan dishes such as classic kung pao chicken (stir fried chicken with peanuts and peppercorns) or ma po tofu (beancurd tofu with broad bean sauce, peppercorns and minced pork). The dishes that I ate growing up weren’t usually spicy – dishes where one actually tastes a cacophony of flavours are opposed to just hot, hot and more hot.

There’s also the notion that many Chinese handle spicy very well. There is currently no conclusive study proving this or showing which racial groups are less sensitive to capsaicin (TRPV1) receptors. Handling spicy is not up my alley and I always avoid eating anything with chilli in it. When I do eat something like a bowl of spicy noodles, a mouthful of water is needed to calm my tongue down after every bite. Many spicy dishes in Australia are nowhere as spicy in Asia and even these dishes I find hard eating.

Different dish, different style of cooking, different flavours.

Different dish, different style of cooking, different flavours.

4. Chinese food is all about rice, noodles and dumplings

It’s true that many Chinese eat rice or noodles with every meal, and dumplings quite often. Some of my Chinese friends say they ‘just don’t feel right’ if they don’t eat rice or noodles for a few days and madly crave it. According to various studies, rice originated thousands of years ago in Chinese history, in particular along various locations including the Yangtze River and Pearl River and has been eaten by many Chinese ever since.

However, rice and noodles take a backseat as hybrid Chinese and Asian cuisine are becoming more and more popular today. These fusion dishes often are created as standalone dishes and it isn’t mandatory for rice or noodles to be served alongside them. I ate rice practically every night up until my university days. These days it’s so easy for me to not eat rice. I’ve gone a few weeks without eating rice and I felt normal.

5. Chinese people eat anything and everything

In China it’s not uncommon to hear of dog, cat and monkey brains being consumed. However in recent times not every living organism is seen as source of sustenance here. There are more and more vocal campaigns against the annual Yulin Meat Festival, a festival where thousands of dogs are consumed. Also, China has an increasing number of families that own pets and keen on pet services.

Eating dog or cat never appealed to me. But eating kangaroo has and I’ve eaten it a few times. The first time I ate it was in Singapore at a Chinese restaurant in an upmarket shopping mall. The kangaroo meat was served in a hot clay pot along with some vegetables, and I remember it tasting very similar to beef.

Takeaway is a popular all around the world.

Takeaway is a popular all around the world.

6. Fortune cookies and takeout boxes were invented in China

Fortune cookies aren’t common in Asia. When I lived in Malaysia and Singapore, rarely were they served after a Chinese meal – wet towelettes were usually given out, and they are meant for freshening up.

Legend has it the fortune cookie was founded in Los Angeles by Chinese immigrant David Jung in 1918; he passed out the cookies that contained Biblical strips to the homeless. Another legend has it that a Japanese immigrant founded the fortune cookie in San Francisco, passing out cookies with thank you notes inside to friends as a mark of appreciation.

Similarly, the cardboard Chinese-takeout container is a uniquely American invention. Also known as an oyster pail, it was patented by Chicago inventor Frederick Weeks Wilcox. Initially designed to hold oysters, these durable, inexpensive and convenient origami-like boxes were later adopted by America’s Chinese food industry. Ordering Chinese take-away in Singapore and Malaysia, my food would either be ready-to-go wrapped in brown grease paper or packed in clear plastic white Styrofoam containers, with sauces and soups bagged in plastic bags.

7. Chinese restaurants are dirty

Now there might be quite a bit of truth to the idea that eating Chinese isn’t the most hygienic experience. In South-East Asia, hawker stalls are commonly set up right beside congested roads. Food is cooked beside the road and patrons dine on the curb.

When I lived in Malaysia, countless times I had dim sum in cramped, dim and dinghy shop houses where oxidised grease was visibly evident in between the floor tiles. Dining in these places, often a bowl of boiling hot water is served along with the cutlery; it is common practice to rinse the cutlery that was sitting on the shelves and might have had cockroaches crawling over it. This is loosely termed the ‘plate washing tradition’ – a tradition to make sure utensils are as clean as possible. Despite the unsanitary conditions in these dim sum places, the food always tasted good and I never got sick.

The ambience of dining Chinese varies around Australia. While there are Chinese restaurants fined for breaching food and hygiene standards, there still exists vintage suburban Chinese eateries opened since the 80s and still trading today in Australia. Also, more and more Chinese/Asian franchises are setting up in Australia such as Papparich and Old Town White Coffee – franchises that are often marketed as modern dining experiences with bright, spacious and airy interiors.

*  *  *

Some foods will always be a treat.

Some foods will always be a treat.

As cuisines evolve, tastebuds change. Each of us usually has a preference for certain kinds of dishes or prefer a certain cuisine cooked a certain way, be they more traditional dishes because we grew up eating them and love them til this day, or more modern, hybrid dishes to whet our adventurous palates.

Aside from westernised traditional Chinese food in Australia, there’s also something called Chinese-Australian cuisine (along the lines of Chinese-American cuisine). Over the years food brought to Australia by Chinese immigrants has been adapted into Chinese-Australian cuisine by the locals, adapted around climate and availability of local ingredients available.

As I’ve written The ‘Dimmy’ Dim Sim: A Chinese Or Australian Culinary Item?, the dim sim is an Australian culinary creation and is not to be confused with dim sum. Created by a Chinese chef, the dim sim exemplifies Chinese and Western cuisine characteristics: minced meat (tasting similar to meat in an Aussie sausage roll) wrapped in a crispy or steamed skin just like a dumpling. I’ve never heard of the dim sim until I moved back to Melbourne. It’s not something served elsewhere around the world. Then there is something called ‘Singapore noodles’ in Australia (and also in the UK), a dish consisting of stir-fried rice noodles and vegetables. In Singapore, there is no dish called Singapore noodles and I was so surprised to discover it in Australia.

Too much of anything can be bad for you, and that includes Chinese food. In general, many of Asian descent are slimmer than their Western counterparts – which leads to the belief that Chinese cuisine is one of the healthier cuisines. This isn’t always the case. For instance, there’s greasy fried rice and chilli-oil dumplings (greasy carbohydrates) and fatty sweet and sour pork (cooked with artificial flavours and MSG).

Moreover, in the Western corners of the world, serving sizes of Chinese dishes tend to be much bigger compared to that in Asia. While I can easily finish a serving of fried rice in Singapore, I’ve never finished a serving here in Australia. One serving and plate of food in Australia is double the amount one gets in Asia, probably double the amount of calories consumed especially if one has the entire dish to themselves.

There will always be certain dishes that we'll find comfort in.

There will always be certain dishes that we’ll find comfort in.

Identity is what we eat, and identity is more than just a stereotype. It’s not hard to see why some vehemently question why dishes such as Asian Oriental Salad and racially-cliched titled dishes are still on menus; food media perpetuates casual racism. There’s more to food than how it tastes: a certain dish might be symbolic of a certain way of life or a certain outlook on life. We are what we eat. What we eat is who we are, our identity and who we choose to be. There’s a story behind each dish in regards to where it comes from, how it’s eaten and why it’s eaten. As Nigerian chef Tunde Wey said:

‘To talk about race and food, we have to change the terms of engagement. We should reward not just the finished product of transformation but also the process.’

There’s no right or wrong way to cook a dish, or to enjoy a dish or eat what we choose to eat. But the more we learn to understand the stories behind gastronomic delights, the more we come to know that food is more than stereotype.

What do you know about Chinese food?

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185 thoughts on “7 Common Misconceptions About Chinese Food and Eating

  1. Great post Mabel. Your home-cooked dinners growing up sounded like the dishes Mum would make. Relatively plain, but they were quick to prepare and Mum would have three different dishes every night to serve with a bowl of rice. Mum’s family also owned and ran Chinese restaurants so occasionally we would get a treat with battered pork with sweet and sour sauce. My favourite meals were the labour intensive ones, like pork ribs or wonton soup or bitter melon stuffed with pork mince. My Mum’s jook (congee) is still the best ever.

    I still laugh whenever I hear someone talk about chop suey. If only people knew what they were really getting. Nothing should ever go to waste.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Great post as always. Loved the pictures, especially the one of the jian bao.

    I find that the understanding of the term ‘Chinese food’ changes from place to place too. My mother in law thinks Chinese food is sweet and sour chicken although you’d be hard-pressed to find it in a restaurant in China and it’s something that, as my mother says, ‘only the gwai los would order’ in Malaysia.

    When I was in America, there was something called ‘General Tso’s Chicken’ – invented in America, but ostensibly with Chinese roots. Despite its’ dubious origins, I did love the dish.

    Just as Greek / Middle Eastern food is more than kebabs, so too is ‘Chinese food’ more than sweet and sour chicken or General Tso’s Chicken. The hope is that these dishes will serve to reel the curious in and get them to further explore the culinary world of Chinese cooking!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Hello Mabel. Thanks for the insights, I learned a lot from you.

    1. I suppose it’s the same with any country that there would be regional differences, but particularly with China given its large population and land area. My Canadian favourite poutine originated in Québec, or so I understand.

    Also unsurprising that Australian Chinese food has a westernised spin – I love having bits of bacon or ham in my fried rice but I can’t imagine that to be commonplace in mainland China, even given the Chinese love of pork.

    2. I do like sweet and sour dishes… but I generally only have them in the restaurants as a treat, not as everyday meals.

    3. I would have thought this impression of spiciness applies more to other Asian cuisine, like Thai or Malaysian food. Like you, I don’t cope well with spice at all – even the local dishes which are not as spicy as those served elsewhere. If I happen to take on a dish that’s more spicy than I expected or knew about, it tends to ruin it for me, no enjoyment in eating something that causes me such discomfort. But I know other people love the spice so…

    4. Rice is a staple, certainly, but I’ve never found myself craving it, even fried rice. I eat it, but I’ve never been a fan of noodles – my brother likes them more than I do.

    5. I think this might come from the Chinese attitude of not wasting anything (chicken feet, for example). Chinese and other Asians, whether out of necessity or habit, seem to be quite conservative in their use of resources and that includes food. Rather than throw out left-overs we tend to keep them for the next day, in contrast with what I notice with many westerners. I wouldn’t eat dogs, etc, because of my western upbringing, but I think the mind-set of minimising wastage is a good one.

    Also, kangaroo meat is great (and healthy), but we’ve had that discussion before.

    6. Well, by definition ‘take-out’ seems to be an American term (I don’t know what’s convention in Melbourne but ‘take away’ seems more commonly used in UK and Sydney), so it doesn’t surprise me that such conveniences were invented there. 😉

    7. I was just reflecting on an idea in the last few days, that the Chinese – very generally speaking – seem to chase the lowest costs in order to maximise profits (in contrast to charging high prices for a quality product or service). So in the same way, I suppose that stereotype can apply to Chinese restaurants too. I’ve seen the whole range – low cost, but dingy, seemingly unclean (and maybe unhygienic) cafés, to elite, highly polished, classy, high-price restaurants. Of course, the thing about bacteria is that you can’t see them so even if a place looks clean it may not be.

    Speaking of adaptation, I note that you mentioned your experience of Chinese, Malaysian, and Singaporean dishes in contrast with Australian imitations of them. I suppose I don’t really have ‘Chinese’ food all that often – even when eating Mum’s cooking it’s obviously dominated by her Mauritian upbringing which has notable Indian influences. It might not necessarily be Mauritian in origin, but one of Mum’s many dishes is a chicken casserole kind of thing, with potatoes and carrots, and a hint of curry or other spices – definitely not something I would associate with Chinese cuisine. And I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but dholl puri (a roti-based snack) is something I enjoy when visiting Mauritius (or Mauritian restaurants). http://www.indian-ocean.com/mauritius-dholl-puri-recipe/

    Heh, Singapore noodles. Like French fries? (In terms of naming.)

    Yeah, Chinese food at restaurants can really be quite oily or fatty, which is why I don’t go often. And it’s true that Asians are often slimmer, but there slim and not-so-slim people anywhere. Some westerners might think they’re being hip or cool by eating a lot of Asian or non-western food (whether the ‘genuine’ sort of the Australianised versions). Being a banana, I will often prefer western food to the more exotic and unfamiliar Asian dishes! (eg On my recent work trip to Melbourne I felt like fish and chips instead of the noodles – it was a late-night dinner for me ;))

    I’m not so sure that food menus necessarily perpetuate racism. Maybe you feel this aspect more keenly than I do, but I presume food may be given such titles to indicate the origin, or perhaps the style in which something is cooked. (eg I perfer my veggies cooked well, like in a stir fry, but often western dishes will just have raw veggies as salad). How certain foods are prepared can be indicative of the culinary traditions or style of a certain region or group of people, and certainly the lines are blurring as our world becomes increasingly cosmopolitan.

    Thanks for the information! Just as well I already had lunch as otherwise I’d be feeling pretty hungry now! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Always great to see you come by again and addressing pretty much all the points raised, Simon. There’s always a seat the table here for you.

      ‘regional differences’ You summed up the differences in cuisine in different places so succinctly. Westernisation of Chinese food is particularly interesting. It makes you wonder if, say Asian Australians or Asian Americans, prefer the Westernised version of Chinese food. For me, I like both traditional and modern Chinese food. The only reason I put bacon in the fried rice that I cooked (first photo) was that I wanted some meat in the dish and bacon was the only thing I had around.

      It sounds like you are still game to finish a spicy dish even if it doesn’t tickle your fancy. For me, I can only go as half the dish. No way have I finished a spicy dish to myself in a restaurant.

      Generally I prefer rice over noodles. Happy to eat instant noodles every other day if they weren’t laden with MSG. You make a very good point with being conservative and non-wasting with food. Now that you mention it, takeaway after a meal is so common in Chinese restaurants in Malaysia. The waiters don’t hesitate to ask you if you want to takeaway what you haven’t finished – and that includes fish and pig’s heads which you can actually take home to eat or even feed your pets.

      Chinese lowering costs and maximise costs is something very true, and you applied that very well to Chinese restaurants and hygiene. It also reminds me of cheap labour, another story altogether, but something that many Chinese put up with. One can argue that many Chinese are about doing and efficiency.

      The dholl puri reminds me of crepes. It looks delicious and must be a treat when you patronise Mauritian restaurants. Sounds like your mum was pretty creative with cooking at home. I think that’s what makes home cooked food special – it may not be like your typical traditional dish, but it has some odds and ends that brings out a taste that you can’t find anywhere else.

      Lol at Singapore noodles vs French fries. Spot on. I haven’t heard about people eating Chinese food to look cool, though. But say if there’s a new Chinese eatery on the block and it is promoted as a modern eatery, I would expect lines to get in – which is what you see with a lot of the newer modern eateries here in Melbourne.

      To be honest I read about racism and restaurant menus while researching this blog post, and thought it would be interesting to include that in this post. You raise valid points, especially the one of food names and origins. Some dishes will inevitably have a certain name because no other name describes them best.

      Always a pleasure to have you, Simon. Thank you always for your insight 🙂

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      • Ha ha, thank you kindly. Nice illustration appropriate to the topic at hand.

        Bacon in fried rice is not a bad thing at all! 😉 I just don’t think it’s typical of Chinese food – more likely to have pork pieces than processed ham/bacon.

        Well, for the last aunts and uncles who were still visiting for my cousin’s wedding a few weekends ago, as a last gathering before they returned home (and also for a birthday celebration for one of the aunts), we went to a local Thai restaurant (and funnily enough met some fellow Mauritian Aussies who overheard us speaking in creole). One of the dishes was rather spicy and I didn’t realise it – it was probably considered ‘mild’ but I found it quite hot, but thankfully not so hot that I couldn’t handle it. It was just uncomfortable for a few minutes thereafter.

        There are non-instant noodles too. 😉 My brother likes having anything of that kind of food, whether Asian noodles, or European pasta. And yes, the good old ‘doggy bag’ – if you can’t finish a great meal, why throw it out? 🙂 Wow, pig heads – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that!

        Yes, ‘made in China’, or made with slave labour, probably. But the demand from the West is there and that encourages what is often (what we in the West would perceive as) exploitation. Chinese and probably most Asians are known for generally being hard-working.

        Dholl puri is savoury, though – the filling is often curried, or so I believe. There aren’t many Mauritians around, but there are some – I know there was a restaurant near my aunt’s place in Montréal. And Mum’s cooking is probably unique that way – I can’t typify it as either Chinese or Indian – or Western, even.

        Heh, reminds my of the hipster mentality. Have to do something different just to be different. Until it becomes mainstream and you have to find something else to differentiate yourself. 😉

        Fair enough. Maybe I generally just assume the best in people when it comes to things like that. Maybe there is some stereotyping involved, but I think most of the time it’s not malicious.

        Thanks again for your welcome. 🙂

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        • That is a good pickup with Chinese food, that it commonly has pork pieces compared to processed ham and bacon. Char siew is something more common in Chinese food instead. Generally I am not a huge fan of pork even in Chinese food. But if it is cooked right then I do actually enjoy it.

          It sounds like quite the gathering at your cousins a few weeks ago. Maybe their company and conversations with them helped you take your mind off how spicy the spicy dish was. Sometimes when you are with good company, you tend to order more food and talk and talk and talk, and eat all of what you ordered. I found that drinking cold milk after a spicy meal helps me, but there are times when it doesn’t work. Hit and miss.

          One thing I don’t like about taking away food if I can’t finish it in a restaurant is having to carry it around – if I am not going home straight away and can’t put it in the car. In that case if I choose not to take away, then it would really be a waste :/

          Lovely to hear dholl puri is savory…and I generally prefer savoury over sweet. Not too sure how big the Mauritian community here is in Australia (you would probably know this way better than me) but with the cultural diversity in Australia, there is bound to be some kind of Mauritian community and culture.

          Unless we’re following a recipe for what it is, let’s just call it delicious home-cooked foodd 🙂

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          • That makes me think of char siu bao, one of my favourites. 🙂

            The MythBusters couldn’t find anything that beat milk for spicy mouth relief. Supposedly the lipids help neutralise the capsaicin.

            Yeah, true. I suppose I don’t go to Chinese restaurants for lunch very often – usually it’s for dinner in which case the next thing to do is go home and put the left-overs in the fridge.

            I understand there are a lot Mauritians in Melbourne and the census indicates Victoria has the most migrants, followed by NSW, WA, and then Queensland. I find that strange as I would imagine Brisbane to be closest to Mauritian weather with its tropical humidity.

            Indeed! It’s just unfortunate that I’m ill at the moment so I’ve lost my appetite (everything tastes funny).

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            • I read someone one of the worst things to calm down a spicy mouth is to drink water. Water makes oil float and doesn’t neutralise it. So the more water you drink, the spiciness will still prevail.

              Interesting to know there are a lot of Mauritians in Melbourne compared to the other states. Maybe it is something about Melbourne that is appealing to them, perhaps in terms of culture.

              Get well soon and then you can taste the dishes you like, and want, to eat once again.

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              • I don’t know that water is all that *bad*. It’s just not that effective – it’s as you describe, once the water is gone the spicy feeling returns.

                Can’t really say. I suppose once someone puts down roots somewhere, others – whether friends or family – are more inclined to join them. For whatever reason my family (near and extended) chose Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane. Others chose Melbourne.

                Thanks. Still waiting for that. It’s hard to have these memories of having food that I like, but finding it hard to eat!

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                • I find that drinking soft drink is a much better way to calm down the spicy tongue compared to water 😀

                  To be honest when I am ill I go and eat comfort food. For instance, dumplings, noodles, crumbed chicken…it just makes me feel better lol.

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                  • Maybe that’s what works for you! I don’t have it so much any more, but I was having difficulty swallowing yesterday so I went and bought a big bottle of soft drink to help keep myself hydrated (much easier than plain water, for some reason).

                    I remember having chicken soup (with a small bit of Marmite/Vegemite dissolved for a bit of flavour) when I was sick while at home. I’ve never been much of a cook so I make do with what I can scrounge together. But I think my taste is slowly returning to normal. 🙂

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                    • It is interesting to hear you say soft drink helps you keep hydrated when you are not feeling well. Growing up my Chinese relatives sweared that drinking Sprite or 7-Up was great for sore stomachs and colds – and not some herbal remedy. Good to hear you are on the mend 🙂

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                  • It’s just the sore throat making it hard to swallow this time. Great story about your relatives, though, in contrast with the ‘traditional Eastern remedy’ stereotype.

                    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dash it Mabel, now I am craving for some Chinese food so early in the morning (more than burger and fries!) 😀 Chinese food is very popular in India and of course completely Indianized. We have big banners that proudly declare themselves to be Indian Chinese Restaurant! My sister comes back craving for that particular Chinese, slightly burnt at the edges doused in soya sauce and garnished with coriander leaves!
    And your description of roadside joints was perfect though i really like the idea of boiling water to wash your own stuff. That would be nice we just stick to dry cleaning with tissue paper and leave our fates to the gods. That said, I have to admit so far I have escaped any major incident (touch wood! 😉 As usual an informative and enjoyable post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I loved this post! I can definitely vouch that Chinese food is much more than just rice, noodles or dumplings. Even at vegan Chinese restaurants, I eat a wide variety of dishes. Just last night I had Mongolian ‘mock lamb’ with vegetables which was delicious. There are so many different spices, flavours and sauces that can change the entire taste of a dish. I find Chinese cuisine to be some of the most creative I have ever come across and never limiting or boring. Such a great blog my friend. Cannot wait to eat dumplings with you again!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is so amazing to have a friend like you so open to see you trying different cuisines! You are right in that different spices and sauces change the dish. With Chines cuisine, ratio of spices and sauces are very important…and I have learnt that the hard way from putting too much of certain condiments in my Chinese cooking! Really cannot wait to catch up again – I always learn something from you when we meet up ❤

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  6. What do I know? A lot more now! Your food posts always have me salivating. Dumplings – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted any so good as you picture here A dim sum restaurant in San Francisco Chinatown wasn’t bad, but I can only imagine the ‘perfect dumpling.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Asia, but I will say that it would be a foodie journey, if so. That and architecture 😉

    I did know the difference in regional cooking, though the Singapore version is one I didn’t realize was as it is, and I’m sure I’ve had it. I used to love the Sichuan and Hunan food, but can’t stomach the spices like I used to. I do grow some mean peppers here, though I don’t eat them :0) The Shanxi food is not likely to compel me – I’ve just not got a taste for sour. I know it’s all part of a healthy diet, but man, I just don’t like it. I have added Kombucha to my regimen however, along with sheep yogurt, which is creamy and good.

    Your photographs are exquisite, and oh, how I wish I could taste them as easily as viewing them. Lucky you! And you made me smile when you said, “I’ve gone a few weeks without eating rice and I felt normal.” People do have their stereotypes, even within a culture, it appears!

    Pleasurable read as always, Mabel! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe you have had good Chinese food, Bela. Not all good Chinese food comes from Chinatown and Asia 🙂 Ahhh…the perfect dumpling. I don’t think I’ve ever had that, lol. So many dumplings are just so good.

      I too am not a fan of sour. A combination of sour and spicy would be something I’ll really not want to eat. Hope the peppers over there in Hawaii are used to whip up some delicious dishes others around you enjoy.

      Thanks for your kind words on my photos. I do feel food photography is my weakest kind of photography. Thank you for supporting ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A brilliant way to dispel the myths around Chinese food Mabel! Any food of a particular place changes its taste with the people who cook it! With all kinds of foods going global, Chinese food too has been adapted according to the likes of the local people. Even when the Chef of a particular restaurant changes, the flavour of food seems different. Many times we have asked to verify especially at our favourites places.

    I think there is a lot of variety in Chinese dishes, which can be only understood if we try them. I too have always associated Chinese food with rice and noodles though the starters are quite filling. Probably we feel that some grain has to be a part of food. All other points you have discussed are connected more with the kind of taste one develops, some like their food more spicy and others prefer sweet and sour. It is interesting to know about Fortune cookies, which are only served in Chinese restaurants.Thanks for this interesting post, I liked learning more about Chinese food. 🙂

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    • Even when the Chef of a particular restaurant changes, the flavour of food seems different.’ You are spot on, Balroop. When one is passionate about cooking food, almost always they will put a personal spin on it. Chinese food adapting to location isn’t always a bad thing. While a bit of cooking traditions and tastes might be lost, Chinese culture is still brought to the fore – stereotypical or not. Maybe one day I will get to try Chinese food in India 🙂

      Starters can indeed be quite filling. In Western countries and including here in Australia, sometimes I find starters are big portioned enough to be a light regular meal for me. Love your sharp observations about my post, Balroop. Always appreciated.’ Thank you for your support my friend.

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  8. Nope. Not all Chinese food are the same. Some – like our Malaysian and Singaporean ones – have a fusion twist into it, incorporating elements from other culture as well. I don’t think Fried Hokkien Mee or Fried Rice actually exist as a meal in China? There are some dishes that are available in China, but not in Malaysia.

    “Also many dumplings I’ve eaten in Australia taste good – but the dumpling wrappers are usually thicker and coarser than that in South-East Asia.” – Now I get it; no wonder the dumpling skin that I get here tends to break easily when I am boiling it. =/ Never faced it with the ones I can find back home.

    “When I lived in Malaysia, countless times I had dim sum in cramped, dim and dinghy shop houses where oxidised grease was visibly evident in between the floor tiles. Dining in these places, often a bowl of boiling hot water is served along with the cutlery; it is common practice to rinse the cutlery that was sitting on the shelves and might have had cockroaches crawling over it. This is loosely termed the ‘plate washing tradition’ – a tradition to make sure utensils are as clean as possible. Despite the unsanitary conditions in these dim sum places, the food always tasted good and I never got sick.” – Oh, God, yes! The hawker stalls – gosh, you remind me of the food street in Muar and Penang. I don’t know; sure, it struck me as unhygienic to eat next to a drain or something, but somehow the vendors are smart in choosing their locations as well. My parents used to drive down to Chinatown KL to this place near Hong Leong Bank for a plate of Fried Hokkien Mee. It was in an alleyway, and you could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there. I made it out of there alive too. =P

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes! Chinese Malaysian food does have fusion twists to them. I think fried rice in China is different, cooked in a different style in Malaysia. Also I just remembered yu sheng and yam ring dishes in Malaysia – don’t think they are well-known in China either, and there are different variations in different Malaysian restaurants.

      Haha. It is amazing how thin dumpling skin doesn’t break apart that easily, and they are usually more chewy than the thicker ones here in Australia (which can border on tasting like dough if they are really thick). Lol, I think it’s commonsense to think it’s unhygienic to eat by a drain especialy one with running water. That Fried Hokkien Mee place sounds awfully familiar. It makes me think of Restoran Kim Lian Kee, which has roadside sitting and upstairs sitting. I ate there once. Amazing noodles and the other dishes were amazing too.

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      • Yu sheng – I definitely have not heard about that dish. I read an article on Facebook that suggested that yee sang didn’t even come from China; it originated from Malaysia. =O I reckon it doesn’t break easily due to our humidity – and the thin texture allows it to stretch a bit further?

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  9. We wage all kinds of wars. The one that grabs most media attention is the war against religion. The war against food stays unnoticed, lurking in the periphery. When people say “I hate Chinese food” or “I hate Indian spices” I wonder if they really “hate” the food or the culture of the people who eat that food. What is there to hate any food that’s loved by millions of people. You are entitled not to like it, but hate?

    I love street food and eat it once a week. There are hundreds of vendors in NYC. Though they follow strict hygiene guidelines, I have seen bugs and flies. In a nutshell, when you’re local most things are ignored; but when you travel overseas you might develop a superior idea of self. I understand that nobody wants a stomach bug, and one must be careful about one’s restaurant/vendor choices, but one must not act like one’s from a clean place. There’s no clean place (even high-end restaurants in NYC were fined for critical violations).

    I like this tradition: “…often a bowl of boiling hot water is served along with the cutlery…”

    Thanks for a well-written post, Mabel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t we all wage all kinds of wars. Food does seem to get put under the backburner a lot, always in the shadows. It deserves more credit.

      What a great question: when we hate food do we hate the dish or the culture? Hate is such a strong emotion. Taste is one thing, but we can still appreciate a dish even if we aren’t fond of it – by letting others eat and love it, and respecting their choice.

      Very humble of you to act like no one is beneath you, Mahesh. No one is better or beneath each other and we all got something to learn from each other. Hope you have enjoyed many occasions eating street food in New York. Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thoroughly enjoy my eat outs, Mabel, especially at street vendors. More than the food (which is great), it’s partaking in the little conversation and learning about their culture. Food has always been about sharing, not just in the literal sense.

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  10. Another great piece Mabel 😊. I do like ‘Chinese food’ although I wouldn’t want to eat it every night. When we lived in Singapore, the one thing we planned was to eat local food from day one – we were sick for a week 😂 but after that we never suffered the stomach bugs our fellow expats did. I like to try most foods when I travel and here in Australia we like to eat variety of different cuisines and it is amazing the variations found in the flavours of what is supposed to be the same dish. I guess that is the appeal of places like Maccas and KFC – you know what you’ll get anywhere in the world. Take it easy Mabel? Thanks again for a great article. Stay warm 😊👍🏼

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    • That was very adventurous of you to eat local food in Singapore from day one and for a week too. You did adapt very fast 😂 Hope you found some favourites and would love eating them again. Lol, fast food certainly has its nuances. For instances, KFC zinger flavour tastes much more spicy in Singapore, and in Singapore KFC serves congee ‘jook’ and a mean cheese fries (I really miss this) 😊

      Thanks, Andy. I do need to stay warm. It’s hovering just below 25’C here these days 😊

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      • I’m back in Singapore for a 10 day visit in a couple of weeks Mabel – I’ll be sure to try the KFC cheese fries 😉 Im looking forward to a lot of food 😀 – I love ‘Toast Box’ for breakfast on occassions… mmmm their peanut butter on toast with a good Kopi !!

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        • Happy holidays and safe travels to Singapore, Andy. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun, and maybe catch up with some familiar faces 🙂 Yes, if you can try the cheese fries. You will not be disappointed 😀 I prefer kaya on toast…and though I am not a coffee drinker, I wouldn’t mind having a sip of Kopi right now because from memory, it is a good drink 😀 Also Mr Bean in Singapore serves amazing soya drinks, beancurd and pancakes. Now you’re making me want to book a trip back 😂

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  11. Very interesting post, Mabel. I was fascinated by all the myths you refuted. I didn’t know the Dim Sims were an Australian invention. I do know that most international dishes are modified to suit the palate of the area. I’ve never considered Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian or French (or any other cuisine) to be racist – more an appreciation for food relative to its origins, even if it has been modified rather than an original. When I was in New York I passed an “Australian” restaurant. Some of our exotics like kangaroo, crocodile and possum were on the menu, none of which are common to menus here.

    I would have to say I enjoy Asian food, be it home cooked or restaurant bought. I have been cooked the most delicious meals by Asian friends both here and in Beijing, and have also had wonderful restaurant meals in both places.

    I was amused that you were able to go without rice for a few weeks and still feel “normal”. We usually have rice as an accompaniment to a meal a couple of times a week. I’ve never thought about it being normal or not. 🙂 The fried rice meal at the top of your post looks delicious, as do all the others, especially the greens in the last photo. Stir fries are something I’m pleased we’ve inherited from our Asian neighbours.

    Thank you once again for sharing your perspective. I always learn so much.

    Wishing you a very Happy Chinese New Year. Enjoy the celebrations with your family and friends.

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    • I also didn’t know dim sims were invented in Australia until after a few years of moving back here. Goes to show that if it’s food, we will take an interest in it no matter where it originated from. Your trip to New York sounded very interesting, and it must have been surprising for you to find out they served Australian exotic foods on the menus in Australian-themed restaurant. Probably catered towards the locals.

      Also sounds like you have wonderful friends of Asian descent and are very happy for you to share in their food and culture 🙂 A big part of Chinese culture and eating is about sharing – most dishes are designed to be shared and passed around the dining table, and it’s common to eat at tables that are round-shaped to we can all look at each other.

      It is very kind of you to say that of the fried rice and greens photos. Thank you so much. I cooked both dishes by myself and did a bit of a photoshoot at home 😀 Rice is a great source of energy, and good to hear you enjoy it. Many more rice dishes and stir fries for you to come.

      Very kind of you for the well wishes, Norah. Thanks again. Hope you are enjoying the festivities and wishing you prosperity in the upcoming lunar new year 🙂

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      • Yes, yes, yes, to all your statements, Mabel. That sharing part of Chinese culture, sharing food around a big round table with lots of excited discussions is just wonderful. What a sense of togetherness it engenders – so much better than families sitting with a meal on their laps watching TV as happens far too often here.
        I’m impressed with your food photos as much as your cooking. I’m getting hungry again, thinking about them again. 🙂
        I hope the festivities are off to a good start for you. Best wishes to you too, Mabel.
        PS. I couldn’t seem to tag you in FB for some reason. I don’t know why it happens but I couldn’t find a solution. I wondered if you saw the little video I made of your post. It got many views. I hope some new traffic went your way. 🙂

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        • Apart from TV dinners, eating fast, quick, in and out seems to dominate Australia’s eating culture. This seems to be especially so in the corporate world where lunch breaks can be as short as 20 to 30 minutes.

          I’m enjoying the Chinese New Year so far. Always an exciting time 🙂

          Not too sure why you’re unable to tag me on FB. If you’re trying to tag my page/blog page (not the private account), that should be okay. I noticed you tagged me in your post on Thursday. But I haven’t seen the video yet. It is very kind of you, thank you 🙂

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          • I don’t think many of us are mindful enough when eating. We do it because we have to rather than to savour it.
            I have lots of trouble with tagging in FB. I could tag you in that post but not in others – and have no idea why.
            I’m pleased you’re enjoying the festivities, and they’ve only just begun.
            Enjoy!

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            • Exactly. Many of us view eating as a chore when it can be so much more than that.

              I liked Readilearn’s page as my page. Took me a while to figure out how to do that 🙂 Hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed the festivities. Plenty of that in Melbourne over the last few days.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hi Mabel,
                Thanks for liking readilearn’s page. I’m pleased I’m not the only one who struggles with some of FB’s ways. 🙂
                I’m pleased you’re enjoying the festivities. 🙂

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  12. As you say, the “Chinese food” I got as a child in the U.S. was completely westernized. It’s nothing like the dim sum I’ve had as an adult, nor my husband’s pot stickers or pan fried tofu. It’s been — mostly — a joy to eat decent Chinese food as an adult, even if I did discover I held the chopsticks backwards.

    My husband’s rule of thumb on any Asian cuisine is pretty standard: “If my wife is the only white person in the restaurant, the food is authentic.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m guessing at least some ‘Chinese food’ in the States doesn’t taste half bad…

      Your husband is spot on and when picking a Chinese place to eat, that’s how I measure the standards. If the restaurant is full of Asians, then it has the tick of approval 😀 Even if the restaurant is half patronised by Westernisers, I will think twice.

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      • I knew it! I knew there was an Asian “White People” Restaurant Rating System. Like stars awarded to movies, only in reverse: 0 White People means this place is authentic and awesome, while more than 5 white people gets a thumbs down!

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        • ‘Asian “White People” Restaurant Rating System’. You got it. You get the points for naming the naming system and Andy…is right. The system applies very well to dumpling joints. If you hear the wait staff talking and better yet shouting in Chinese or Cantonese to each other, even better.

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  13. Excellent post! I do kind of wish that it was all about dumplings because I adore dumplings. And it’s funny, part of my homesickness is missing American ‘Chinese’ food although I love what I’ve learned and tasted in ‘Chinese’ food since I’ve been traveling about. Enjoy the foods of the season ..,Happy Lunar New Year

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  14. As a Chinese person, it’s quite hard for me to know the origin of a lot of Chinese food because I mainly grew up eating whatever dishes my parents made at home. We did eat out sometimes but only at select restaurants and a lot of times we were picky about only eating certain dishes we enjoyed, like Hong Kong style pan fried noodles. Even one dish such as this can vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some have a combination of veggies, mushrooms, baby corn and shrimp on top of the crispy noodles. Other places put American broccoli instead, or just mushrooms. It’s weird how much a single dish can vary. Interestingly, I have heard that corn and broccoli were not actually used in traditional Chinese dishes and the addition of them is because of American influence.

    I have to keep myself from frowning when I hear about “sweet and sour chicken” from a takeout place. I know that dish is considered “Chinese food” to some Westerners, but I definitely do not because it is a dish that seems to cater to Western taste buds only.

    Rice was a definite staple I ate with almost every meal growing up. As a kid when I was first immersed into this way of eating, it was hard for me because I didn’t understand how I could be expected to eat a full bowl of rice in addition to other dishes. My dad kinda overdid it, in my opinion, by putting so much rice in my bowl. It was pressure that I don’t think my parents knew I had because they were so focused on the idea of “finish everything for a meal”, plus my dad’s affinity for always wanting people to eat a lot. They had their ideals about food but they never clearly explained it to me at the age I was at. It was alwys just an unspoken thing where I was supposed to listen to my parents when they told me to do stuff. Nowdays I don’t care and take to filling my bowl with however much rice I feel like eating. It gets old really fast that sometimes my dad is like, “you eat so little” or “you have so little rice”. I’m not exactly angry when he makes these comments because I’m used to him being this way, but at times I feel like an outsider in my family’s own culture because to them, it’s normal for an elder or parent to frequently say stuff like that even to a young adult person. And it’s like, I don’t need you fussing over me like I’m a hen that needs fattening up.

    Maybe I am lazy with cooking or just like simple meals. At home I’d rather just steam some veggies to eat with rice. The Cantonese char siu bought from the restaurant is an easy way to get meat into my diet, but it can be too salty. I never eat the skin on the meat either. Some of my favorite veggies are watercress, water spinach, boy choy, and gai lan (also known as chinese broccoli?).

    I used to like eating snails but I don’t now because I feel creepy looking at the snail body before I eat it lol. It makes me feel like I’m eating a bug. I do eat chicken feet, duck tongues, and frogs, though. That’s about as “weird” as my food choices are, but I would never want to try snake soup. During the dinner parties I went to as a kid, a delicacy that was served there was shark fin soup. I later found out when I was older that in many places, it’s advertised as shark fin soup but it is not actually shark fin. I never knew if what I ate was the real deal or not. I hope not because how the fins are “extracted” from sharks is quite cruel. As for the cat and dog meat… I will never be on board with that. I have had two pet dogs in my lifetime and can’t ever see them as a food source. I get that I sound hypocritical since I do eat other types of meat, like beef and pork and chicken. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about it and I am interested in veganism and eating healthier but to actually make that lifestyle choice takes a ton of work and consistent change which I’m not fully equipped with.

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    • The ‘Chinese’ food you ate in restaurants while growing up actually sounds delicious. The pan fried and cripsy noodles reminded me of dishes I also ate as a kid (my parents liked ordering it) – sizzling pan fried noodles, veggies and sauce served on a flat wooden board, and it is called ‘pan yee mee’ in Cantonese. Maybe that was also what you had.

      Interesting you mention corn and brocolli are an American influence. You get corn and peas with Chinese fried rice all the time.

      Haha! I also wondered how I was supposed to finish my bowl of rice along with the other dishes my parents served and ‘you eat so little’ was also something I heard over and over again from the folks. There’s the ideas that we should finish our food as a way of showing our love for our (Chinese) parents who put in time and effor to cook for us – hence they might feel frustrated when the kids don’t to finish what is offered.

      Don’t think you are lazy when it comes to cooking. Like you I also like my meals simple. If I am preparing a meal just for myself, I like to get the cooking done in under half an hour. Rice is not too hard to cook – you can cook in bulk and put it in the fridge, which then becomes great for making fried rice. I’m not a huge fan of pork but I do like duck, and when I eat the duck skin I make sure to pull away any fat there is first.

      It has been a while since I’ve heard of shark fin soup. I also ate it quite a bit when I was a kid. It was always on the menu when it came to Chinese banquets and weddings in Malaysia and Singapore. Didn’t know that they might not have been the real deal. These days it’s a dish that’s become less and less common, and a lot of people I know don’t eat it.

      Eating healthy is no doubt great for our fitness. But no reason why we can’t have treats every no and then. Sometimes it is comfort food that will make us better when we want to feel better.

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      • I prefer my mom’s pan fried and crispy noodles that she sometimes makes at home over eating it in a restaurant. It is my favorite. The food portions in homecooked Chinese dishes are more plentiful and taste better. I had a bad experience eating pan fried noodles at a restaurant and it was terrible. The noodles were soggy and not even a little crispy and there were barely any veggies on top. Having bad experienced eating out makes me reluctant to try new restaurants in fear the food will not be to my expectations.

        The dish I have encountered often is chao hefen. For some reason I don’t like it that much. I grew up eating a lot of zongzi (sticky rice dumplings). My grandmother used to make them in the summers she visited. I had the kind that could be fried in a pan on both sides and eaten with a drizzle of soy sauce or some hot sauce. There was also the kind of zongzi that was made to be eaten dipped in sugar. Thinking about it now is shocking because of all the sugar I dipped the zongzi into with each bite lol. Another favorite dish of mine is tangyuan, thanks to my mom’s cooking skills. I sometimes helped her roll the tangyuan into little balls after she mixed and kneeded the rice flour powder with enough water. I enjoyed having cooked tangyuan in soup but also sprinkled with sugar. My parents have both made hot and sour soup before but it seems it can vary.

        I could go on with naming the Chinese dishes I like eating lol. Lotus root soup is delicious. As a kid, I didn’t even know what the heck I was eating. Same with jinzhen soup, which has the edible dried petals of the day lily flower. As an adult, it is a little funny knowing I have eaten flowers before. Probably the strangest soup is hot and sour soup. My dad cooks it the Chinese way by adding the common ingredients such as wood ear, bamboo shoots, sliced tofu, mushrooms, and egg. However, my mom uses ingredients influenced by the Vietnamese hot and sour soup, like pineapple, tomatoes, and bean sprouts. Her soup is light in texture without the stickiness of my dad’s, though both soups can be spicy. I had no idea there was a difference between the two soups until I was much older.

        It is weird how food is such a big part of Chinese culture. Sometimes I feel I complain too much about the parts I don’t like and forget about the good things. It would have really helped greatly if my parents had been more of the explaining type of parents and using logic and reasoning rather than expecting me to do whatever they say just because they instructed me to do so.

        About having too much rice, a last alternative I often used in childhood was to dump my leftover rice (from my bowl) into my bowl of soup. That way I could finish the rice by cheating lol.

        I would love to eat healthier but you’re right that treats can be so yummy (in moderation, of course).

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        • Crispy noodles are always yummy, if they are actually crispy. Like you, I also found that some restaurants serve crispy noodles as soggy. There might be too much sauce or the noodles are the kind that is designed to absorb sauces or get soggy easily – and some people prefer that. Sometimes I feel like eating crispy noodles is just like eating junk food 😀

          Chao hefen! I’ve eaten quite a few variations of it growing up, and my family called it hor fun. I would eat a dish with those flat rice noodle which also had crispy noodles underneath – and it was called yuen yong noodles. Could never get enough of it. It does sound like the zongzi and tangyuan were quite a treat for you, and your parents were encouraging of you to eat it (I think that’s the case with many Chinese parents, encouraging their kids to eat Chinese food). Maybe you still remember how to make these sweet treats today.

          Lotus root soup was also a big part of my childhood and my mum would make it once a month. I absolutely loved eating the round lotus pieces with holes. Sounds like you had a lot of Chinese soups growing up, and they were all very much enjoyable. It reminds me of birds nest soup (predominantly made out of bird’s spit) and I couldn’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. On one hand iIliked the sweetness but on the other hand, sometimes that was too much for me. Rice in soup always came across as disgusting to me, lol. Still can’t stomach that combination til this day. Funnily enough I have no problem with noodles in soup.

          Food is a big part of any culture, but I think more so to Chinese culture but it has strong ties with family and the value of sharing and togetherness.

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          • I once mistook pan fried noodles for a bird’s nest because of the roundy shape of the whole noodle clump lol. I have never had bird nest’s soup. It’s interesting that it really is made from mostly bird spit. I didn’t know this until I heard it in passing while watching a chinese historical drama but at the time I wasn’t sure if the bird’s nest was a real dish or a fictional one, haha. Yeah, rice can get incredibly soggy in soup so I can see how it could be gross to eat that way. I don’t mind the taste too much. The soup part is funny because growing up I didn’t drink the soup after finishing the noodles in it as I didn’t get the point of it.

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            • Lol I can see how a clump of crispy noodles can resemble a bird’s nest. Sometimes what disappoints me is the clump of noodles looks crispy, but when you bite into it comes off as stale or soft.

              I also didn’t finish the soup in noodle soups growing up. My parents always pestered me to finish it, saying it’s the best part of the dish with nutrients.

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  15. What a lot of great information, Mabel. Thanks for this informative, intelligent summary on Chinese food. I wasn’t introduced to Chinese food until I was 30! Fell in love instantly, and prefer to eat it with chop sticks. Do you?

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  16. This is a great post. I could relate it very well because in India the Chinese food is always very spicy. What we usually get here is rice, noodles and Manchurian as Chinese food. From what I have seen from my travel to Macao and HK where sizeable Chinese population lives, the food is not so spicy. Rather it is very healthy. But then again, each region has it’s own variation. Because Indians in general eat and consume lots of spices, the Chinese food becomes spicy! Ther’s a popular joke that even Chinese will not be able to relish the Indianised Chinese food.

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  17. Chinese food is extremely popular here in India. I can myself cook a few dishes, namely, pepper chicken and sweet and sour chicken 😀 Of course, like all other countries, the authentic Chinese dishes are improvised to suit the Indian taste buds. The Sichuan or Szechwan cuisines are more popular as Indians, on an average, like spicy food and this variety originating in the SW China, I think, is most spicy. Bengalis are especially fond of Chinese food and you can’t even imagine that numerous food joints and big star-marked restaurants in Kolkata have different types of Chinese dishes on their menu-card 😀

    There is a speciality restaurant named “Mainland China” serving an exclusive à la carte menu with premium pricing. If you ever visit Kolkata, pay a visit here definitely.

    Anyway, I’m feeling hungry now 😛

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    • You sounds like quite a competent chef, Mani. Maybe I should come over and you can cook even more 😀 Hehe, spicy Indian food, spicy Chinese food. Maybe I won’t be able to handle spicy Chinese food in India lol. But sounds like plenty to choose from in Kalkata so maybe I will be able to eat some of it 😀 Thanks for the recommendation. Will keep it in mind. Hope you got some food to eat 😀

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  18. At the outset sorry Mabel for landing here once again late, but late has nothing to do with the platter you have served here and I was savoring every bit of the spread, though it was themed around Chinese Food, but so much of variety and choice you have put on the table, it is difficult to take a pick. Indeed Chinese food are very popular in India and I am also a big fan of the Noodles and the Chicken that is so deftly stirred by the expert cooks dotted across the major lanes and by lanes of India cities, and it is tangy and it gives the taste bud the teaser for any foodie. I keen trying authentic Chinese food which is less spicy and have the original flavour intact.

    I agree Mabel, cuisines and culture go in tandem, and the same Chinese stuff goes through so many transformation process across different part of the world, and you have so beautifully captured the finer changes that it is from the heartland of China to America to Malaysia to Australia, Cantonese to Shanghai, kung pao chicken to ma po to fu, you need to be foodie to get the taste and trend in proper perspective. Food is such a tempting subject, the more we talk, the more we become hungry, and I am trying to pick up the dishes from your wonderful spread and attempting to make a perfect meal out of it for the Sunday brunch. I agree Maniparna, Kolkatta is a paradise for Chinese food and as walk the streets your taste buds get the fire and you need to be ready to make the maximum out of those fast food joints.

    Yes with age, and place we reside and the people we interact, and the change in lifestyle we change our choice though our love for some patent dishes remain, but food goes with the company of friends we mingle and the travel we do, we add so much new food for thought to our repository. There is so much to what we eat, as so rightly pointed out our identity has its connect to the food we eat and we have our preferences and we add new flavours.

    Wonderfully written as always and I am straightway landing onto my dinning table to try few of this dishes you have so tantalizing described.

    By the way belated Happy Valentines Day, I thought of reading the post and writing, and got as usual entangled in some business work. Hope you had a great V Day.
    Take Care!!!
    Have a Great Sunday.
    😀

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    • No need to apologise, Nihar. A lot of the time life outside of the blog world is indeed fascinating and we have to attend to it.

      Once again you do have a lovely way with words – the platter I have served here and you are savouring and lapping up each bite 😀 So Chinese food in India is on the spicy side, but yet it sounds like there is an evident Chinese element to it. Sounds like you have tried quite a few Chinese dishes and especially along the laneways – which sounds like quite the adventure.

      It sounds like you are more of a foodie than me. You are so right to say that food is such a tempting subject to think and write about. All of us have some kind of relationship with food and we need to food to survive. Each of us are bound to have our preferred and favourite dishes. Food and eating might be mundane and trivial but there is so much behind the act of dining. Hope you found something to have for brunch or lunch during the weekend…maybe it was Chinese food, and if it was not, there is always next time.

      Thank you for reading the their comments. They would be honoured to know that you had a look. Interaction is a great thing. Not only do we learn but there’s every possibility of a connection. Again you nailed it when you say there is so much to eat these days, and hence always so much new food for thought (so clever of you to come up with this 😀 ). So many modern eateries are coming up these days, serving both sweet and savoury and everything in between. It is literally impossible for us to keep up – eating out and trying new dishes comes with a price, price tag and health-wise. Sometimes eating simple and going back to one’s roots is not only more practical but comforting too.

      So kind of you to wish me a happy Valentines. To me, every day should be V Day 😀 Hope you got the work done, had a good weekend and have a good week ahead 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • The irony is that we also have become health conscious, and even though the choice is expanding in rapid pace it is difficult to to the catch up game…many joints are seriously working in blending health with taste which is tough combination and with Chinese food though it is relative easy compared to the kind of rich and spicy food that emanates from India. In fact our tongues are so attuned to the tangy taste that unless there is that tinge of spices deeply soaked we don’t feel out stomach filled.

        With the some wonderful food Apps we are spoilt with choices and things are at our home in no time, and as more and more time we spend in digital world we have less time on dinner table or the kitchen, we are on the go in the virtual world and we enjoy munching while immersed in the digital space.
        Lot to dissect when we have food and eating, such an integral part of our life and lifestyle, we can resist so much not further and we do the work on weekend so as to get that extra bit and get a new grab while on the go in the street food joints.

        Thanks so much Mabel as always for your wonderful analysis.

        Have a great week ahead.

        😀

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        • So true that health and fitness is more on our minds these days. Some Chinese dishes are certainly milder than others. Plain white rice often helps balances out the stronger, bolder flavours. Spices aren’t all that bad. But sometimes it gets too much for some of us.

          Food apps have indeed changed the way we eat these days. It is such a convenient way of getting food and satisfying our hunger fast. So many different kinds food available to you, traditional and modern.

          Always glad to see you stop by, Nihar. Looking forward to visiting your end soon 😀

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          • Indeed Mabel, in India initially many food apps lost the track but now few have withered the initial challenges and are doing pretty well, and it has caught up like wild fire and there are so many varieties in food in India from region to region, from place to place it varies and we have a plethora of choice at our finger tip at a click.

            Organic food is also high on the agenda and people are trying their hands in new stuff that are coming up and there is good innovation in the way food has been prepared and the way it gets served, it is tempting and there is this package and digital marketing that makes it double delight and weekends are like feast in home…

            Though now a days it is taking little more time for me to visit your place as I keep good time to go through your in-depth food for thoughts and I don’t want to loose anything in a hurry…
            Love our beautiful conversations and looking forward…
            😀

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  19. I think your post made me yearn for some good dim sum Mabel! I’ve eaten chinese food here in the US as well as in China and in Australia. IMHO it’s ALL delicious 🙂 As for sanitary, it’s well-known that the more germs you’re exposed to (except the deadly ones of course) the better your system manages it. I love the idea of the hot water for rinsing the silverware but I’ve never gotten sick from any food other than one time in NYC at a fantastic and expensive Italian restaurant which gave me food poisoning. Go figure!

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    • There will be dishes that we won’t like, but for most part food can certainly taste good all over the world. Sounds like you have had good luck with delicious Chinese dishes. So true, the more germs you are exposed to, the more you build immunity. It’s like you generally can’t catch the exact same cold twice, but perhaps different variations of it. Hopefully no more food poisoning for you, Tina. One time is enough 🙂

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  20. Fortune cookies were invented in the US? Well now I am shattered. What a fabulous post, not to mention delicious. I think I have the stereotype that a great deal of Chinese food is sweet and sour. Thanks so much for the culinary tour Mabel. Should we expect to see more cooking on your blog in future?

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  21. Thanks, Mabel, for your detailing on Chinese food. It served to refresh memory of my non-vegetarian days which are now a clear 15 years behind me. My favourite was the Chinese Chop Suey, as offered by Chinese restaurants in India, a dish made of meat, eggs and veggies bound in a thick sauce that is served along with rice or noodles flavoured to Indian tastes. Of late, there is a lot of concern about the usage of ajinomoto as a taste-enhancer. In view of its carcinogenic property, upscale restaurants make it a point to display that the ingredient has not been used in the preparation of dishes. The fact is I used to relish biting into Chinese food whenever occasion permitted it.

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    • Sounds like you had your fair share of Chinese food many years ago. There are many Chinese dishes that are vegetarian, so maybe you will get to try them at some point. Ajinomoto is a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes to give them flavour. True that is isn’t very good for us. It’s why I never used it in my cooking and try not to eat out every single day, but it’s encouraging to hear not all restaurants are putting it in their dishes.

      Always look forward to your visits, Raj. I always think ‘Mr Philosopher’ is here when you pop up in the notifications 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Great post, Mabel. There are definitely myths to debunk about Chinese food. I think the biggest being what Americans think of Chinese food as being authentic Chinese food. When we were back in Hawaii, we decided to give Panda Express a try. PE is a big fast food Chinese chain and always had a queue,so I thought let’s see especially after living in Asia for so long.

    We ate it and thought, okay. This is Americanized Chinese food, fine. But the funny part was coming to the realization that all the dishes probably tasted the same 😛

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    • I have heard so much about Panda Express, and heard that it is popular with many Asian Americans. Maybe it does serve good food and at least a popular variant of Chinese cuisine.

      Lol, I think you are right on Chinese food tasting the same for some part. Here in Australia some Chinese shops taste the same – the flavours literally taste all the same for the same dish. Maybe it’s the MSG or ajinomoto in these dishes.

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  23. My knowledge of chinese food is about zero. I do try it every now, well the americanized chinese food and then and just like you I’ll stay away from the spicy stuff. Just can’t handle it unless it like a “beginner spicy”. Just spicy enough to clear your sinus and leave you with a running nose.

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  24. Your post take me back to our trip to China in 2015. We haven’t visited Malaysia or Singapore yet. But I know how different Chinese cuisine is as you travel from Shanghai to Guilin. It was quite a surprise! I love dumplings and used to have quite often in Shanghai.
    Hope you had a wonderful New Year celebration with family and friends! Hugs!

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    • Sounds like you had your fair share of dumplings, Cheryl. Maybe Basil are more than you 🙂 When in doubt with Chinese food, dumplings is a safe choice. It is a good New Year and wishing you well for the year ahead ❤

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  25. Pingback: Sweet – New Playground – What's (in) the picture?

  26. I must say I never really knew much about Chinese food till I got together with my wife. Sure my best friend is Chinese and his parents had a restaurant so I always thought that the food there is pretty much what they would serve in China.
    Only when I visited China for the first time I realized how wrong I was. Ofcourse my wife also cooked several times a week but I never really made the connection/ saw the difference between the westernized Chinese food in the restaurants and how different the food was my wife made.
    Here in Germany we seldomly go to Chinese restaurants as the ones we can reach have just standard European/ Chinese menus. In Helsinki we would know where to go but alas we are so far away from there now.
    Oh and that reminds me that my in-laws were surprised how little meat I as a European actually eat compared to them!

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    • It must have been quite a shock to see and taste Chinese food for the first time in China. But I guess sometimes with food, it is food and taste the same unless it looks completely different and tastes like you have never tasted before.

      Lol, I didn’t know Helsinki had Chinese food. It doesn’t strike me as a place serving non-Western cuisine. Then again, the world is so diverse these days.

      Haha. Maybe less meat and more carbs for Europeans 😛

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  27. Wow, thanks for this wonderful education on Chinese food, Mabel! It’s interesting to learn the variations of menu offered depending on the country it’s being served in. Personally, I’m a minimalist eater, not preferring heavy foods, sauces or batters. I’d say my favorite of all is Cantonese style. And good on you for braving those roadside stalls and eating there. I know I’d be taking a pass. LOL ❤

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  28. Chinese food is so varied. Where does one start when talking about it. By the way, you did a great job in this post. I’ve had Chinese food of various cuisines in the United States, in the Philippines, in Vanuatu, Hong Kong, and Singapore. (Yes, even in Vanuatu, a tiny South Pacific country. During the colonial period, the British imported Chinese laborers who later stayed on in Vanuatu and raised their children and grandchildren there. Their restaurants serve Cantonese food. In recent years, a few Chinese have immigrated to Vanuatu, and their restaurant shows a more modern and varied influence.)

    In the 1980s, I traveled with my husband on a business trip to China that took us from Guangzhou in the south all the way up to Changchun in the north and many stops along the way. Not surprisingly, the food was different in each place. I love eating Chinese food when I’m traveling because there’s so much variety and everywhere you go there’s the possibility of eating enough vegetables.

    We had friends in Manila who were from Bangladesh. They insisted Manila had no good restaurants. I think they were used to the Chinese restaurants in Bangladesh which adapted their food to suit Bangladeshi taste.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Nicki. Your experience with Chinese food is refreshing. Didn’t know that Vanuatu was home to Chinese food too. Sometimes where we go, we take a bit of our food and culture with us, and it’s probably a comfort thing.

      ‘everywhere you go there’s the possibility of eating enough vegetables’ This is so true of Chinese food. The common stereotype is that Chinese food consists of a great deal of meat. In reality, vegetable are almost always on the menu – and they are what many Chinese people lean towards.

      A few other commentors mentioned there is something called Indianised Chinese food in India, and this cuisine is on the spicy side. From what your Manila friends told you, sounds like this may be the case as well with Chinese food in Bangladesh.

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  29. Great post as always, Mabel. The food pictures are so mouth-watering! I love Asian cuisine in general as I come from Asia myself. Growing up in Nepal, I don’t remember going to specific Chinese restaurants but we do have everyday dishes that have Chinese influence. For example, chicken chill – a sweet, spicy chicken dish is very popular in Nepal. We also have our very popular dumplings too – known as momo – which are said to be originated from Tibet. There are many other dishes from Tibet that are hugely popular in Nepal. Here in Europe, my experience has been different. I’ve had the opportunity of tasting home-made Chinese food a few times and they were definitely tastier than the restaurants where they seem to adjust the flavors to European taste. In Poland, bar orientalny as they are called (‘oriental bars’) are found in every city and tow and people call the food Chinese, but majority of the times, there’s no Chinese person working in such restaurants. They are just a mixture of East Asian dishes that are adjusted to Polish taste. Many Poles wrongly assume that Chinese food is what they find in these omnipresent local eateries. Having been exposed to Chinese foods in many places, and tried out home-made food made by Chinese friends, I can say that Chinese food is definitely not all the same and generic.

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    • ‘dishes that have Chinese influence’. I like that saying. The sweet and spicy chicken dish in Nepal sounds delicious. Interesting to read there is a strong Tibetan influence on food over there. The proximity of the regions could be why.

      Lol, oriental bars and no Chinese person working in such places in Poland. If that is what some people like cooking and eating, nothing wrong with that and localised foods can certainly hit the spot for some. Also not to say those who are not Chinese can’t cook Chinese food or Chinese influenced food 🙂 Now you got me thinking of how the ‘Chinese’ food in these bars taste and if home-cooked Chinese food does taste better. From my experienced eating Chinese food localised for white Australians, these dishes tend to taste the same. Maybe it all depends on our tastebuds and what we each prefer tasting and eating at the end of the day.

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  30. So your mother found favourite weekly dishes to make for your family: “Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, garlic stir-fried Chinese broccoli, soy sauce steamed garoupa and steamed Hainan ginger chicken were dishes that my mum prepared at home each week.”

    Vancouver and Toronto offer a fairly broad range of Chinese restaurant cuisines. Not sure all regions are represented. Probably at least 80%.

    The Chinese dishes I prepare at home are not from cookbooks/anything written down. They are what I’ve learned and like from my mother: steamed beef, chicken or port slices with salted turnip/ginger root, steamed savoury egg custard with meat slices inside etc., certain consommé soups, stir fried butternut squash with ginger root, onion, garlic and mushrooms are optional. https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/butternut-squash-chic-carrying-on-stir-fried-memories/
    My invention with beet greens:
    https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/stir-fried-laziness-beet-greens-in-chili-garlic-soy-bean-sauce-with-tomatoes-ginger-and-noodles/

    For those of us who have lost a lot of Chinese speaking fluency due to assimilation, food definitely remains a cultural familial connection for us. Chinese gastronomy has a long fabulous history of origins, techniques, word idioms.. I would suggest the gastronomy is on par with French gastronomy because Chinese cooking has had a strong influence on its neighbouring countries for centuries. I realize people love the clean pure aesthetic of Japanese cuisine with its own methodologies, philosophies and rituals. However given the sheer size of China it has given the world a legacy of more highly contrasting regional cuisines. Chinese gastronomy is worth preserving.

    I suggest Fuschia Dunlop’s book which she spends time describing it. There are other books I have which I have to dig around.

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    • While I was growing up I think my mum prepared what was easiest, some of her favourite dishes and what she thought the kids would eat. In a way, I think she did want me to connect with Chinese culture through Chinese cuisine.

      Lovely to hear a variety of Chinese cuisine in Vancouver and Toronto, and also that you created Chinese dishes yourself from scratch. The ones inspired by your mother sounds delicious. Haven’t heard of butternut squash in Chinese cooking but it soudns like a great combination.

      I think you are right in saying that Japanese cuisine comes with a clean pure aesthetic – neatly presented cuisine, constant use of fresh ingredients, light sauces, easy on sauces and the uncluttered Japanese dining experience.

      Word idioms. Each Chinese dish is often characterised by a certain Chinese name, and that name often has speaks volumes of what the dish is about and where it’s about.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I didn’t know much about Chinese food before moving to China! In Spain it was hard to find an authentic Chinese restaurant, all the ones in my hometown served the usual dishes adapted for foreigners (and Spanish people pour an orange sweet and sour sauce on the fried rice!! That sauce is put on all tables so people can add it to whatever they want. I have never seen it in China). Also, before coming here I had no idea Chinese food also uses spicy. Spanish people are mostly not used to spicy flavours and there were no spicy dishes on the menu in Chinese restaurants. Well, all my memories are from many years ago, I think now it is easier to find authentic Chinese food, at least in bigger cities.

    These past days in Malaysia I noticed that portions were smaller than in the Mainland. In China, it is said that portions get increasingly bigger as you go up north. As I am more or less in the middle, I guess I get middle size portions here, haha. But I thought in Malaysia portions were a bit small.

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    • When I think of Spain all I can think about is paella lol XD Lol orange sweet and sour sauce on fried rice. Some people think a dish is boring if it doesn’t have sauce! Speaking of orange sauce, I do like the orange plum sauce that is served with duck.

      Malaysia portion sizes can be small. Usually after eating a main meal, there is room for dessert and drink XD

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  32. Many of those misconceptions apply to Indian meals as well – especially the spicy part, as I normally hear of in my conversations here.

    I think all nations which have many sub-nationalities (so to say) have their own way of making and enjoying food.

    To me, I just love your hakka noodles (Indian style). But then they are quite spicy, so I ask to be taken that part out, which normally they can’t do since it is supposed to be Indian style…so that’s a mess for me!

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    • Indian style hakka noodles. It sounds like a very unique Chinese dish in India. I take that it actually is delicious 🙂

      Didn’t know you aren’t a huge fan of spicy…or maybe it’s just certain kinds of spices that doesn’t suit you. For me, if the chilli is mild, I can handle with quite a few glasses of water 🙂

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  33. When I was in Manila, I was exposed to a wide variety of Chinese cuisine because there are a lot of excellent Chinese restaurants and noodle houses about, and even litle stalls in groceries. I love best the sea food dishes – fish stemed in ginger and soy sauce, crabs swimming in olive oil and garlic, etc., the dim sum, and the soupy noodles. When I came over here in the US, I was shocked by the kind of Chinese food that I experienced. Maybe, it is because I am not in a cospomolitan place where I cannot avail of ‘authentic’ Chinese flavor like the one I tasted back home. Then again, now I wonder how authentically Chinese Chinese cuisine in the Philippines was. Chances are, like the so called chinese fare hereabouts, those in the Philippines have somehow adjusted to suit Filipino taste buds.

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    • Noodles houses. I haven’t heard that phrase for a long time 🙂 The little stalls you speak of remind me of hawker stalls selling delicious Chinese food right beside wet markets in Mlaaysia.

      It sounds like you loved the food in Manila regardless if it was authentic Chinese cuisine or not. It is still a form of Chinese cuisine at the end of the day. Sea food is delicious, and hope you had some unforgettable crab dishes over the years…and also some good Chinese food in the States 🙂

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