Thursday, March 17, 2005

My take on Chinese food

Chinese Slimming

Joke I’ve just stolen from somewhere else …

Customer: Worcester sauce crisps please.

: Sorry, can't, it's off the shelves - cancer scare.

: Oh right, Chinese chicken wings?

: Ah, that's the same, cancer scare.

: Hamburger Relish?

: Cancer scare.

: Cottage pie?

: Yes. wait, cancer scare.

: So, they're all off the shelves because of a cancer scare?

: Yes.

: (Sigh) Just give me a packet of fags then.

: Certainly. £4.50 please.

What with the avian flu and carcinogenic food dye scares that have hit the newspapers lately it’s looking like Chinese food is a big no-no for the time being. Hopefully the Metropolitan Police are ahead of the game on this one and arresting any brown people openly wearing feather-filled puffa jackets or carrying bottles of soy sauce on the streets of London.

It's about time I suppose. Chinese food, like Chinese medicine, has been heavily romanticised in this country over the years. We like to think that it’s somehow more authentic, more exciting than our Western junk.

The reality is a little different. One and half billion people get through an awful lot of resources awfully quickly and, before you know it, all the steaks, metal cutlery and aspirins have run out; leaving those one and half billion people to get by on a diet of insects, reptiles, animal feet and stale cabbage. All eaten with twigs and flavoured with condiments; mass-produced in enormous factories in Shanghai.

And when the Chinese do get a crack at proper animals, they handle them with levels of dispassionate cruelty only ever seen elsewhere in cartoons.

... oh, and of course Spain.

(Everyone knows the nastier you are to an animal the better it tastes when you eventually put it out of its misery and eat it. Those guys in Guantanamo must be extra specially yummy by now)

I’ve bought food products from Chinese stores where the shopkeeper has gently blown the dust of the labelling and handed them to me like prized antique family heirlooms.

Right now, there’s a collection of packets and bottles sitting in my kitchen which are chemically identical to shoe polish and sporting sell-by dates like ‘Best before end of 23rd Dynasty’.

I love it.

There’s nothing like the thrill of cracking open a ‘new’ bottle of soy sauce produced by exotic sounding companies like the Hun Wao Food Production Corporation; originally bottled some time in the early 1990s and left forgotten in a 40ft container in Jakarta for a decade before finally being shipped to a Chinese supermarket in Soho and my tummy. Slurp slurp.

What other race on Earth could possibly dream of boiling fish heads and rotten oysters into a pungent brown gooey paste then sticking it in sauce bottles with a claimed shelf life measurable in decades? Mmmm, tasty.

Mind you, they seem to do well on it.

1 comment:

Ian said...

I can endorse chickens feet, bit of a palava to extract the flesh from sinew and bone, but tastes OK, and inexpensive. Got to have good teeth though.