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The food that Chinese EAT while westerners DON’T

As we all know, food culture is different all over the world, even different among the country. There are lots of Chinese food that you might consider is Weird, however, some of the weird food is really not that common in China. In this article, I will talk about the common food in my city Guangzhou, which you will feel Surprised, or ewwwww…

Turtle Jelly (Gui lin gao)

As a Cantonese, we have it as a desert. Excuse me? A desert made of turtle? It is made from the powdered turtle shell of Golden coin turtle and a variety of Chinese herb, particularly Glabrous Smilax. Turtle Jelly looks like black or dark brown jelly, it’s not sweet or even slightly bitter, but we put syrup or honey in it. You could find it in the herbal store, supermarket or some pharmacies.

It is well known and popular in the southern China, as we are easily “yeet hay/internal heat”(this is a concept in traditional Chinese medicine. Normally people with excessive internal heat would easily get inflammed, sore throat, toothache, acnes, etc). The turtle jelly is the herbal product for clear and relieve the heat. We called it balance in the body, when you got so much heat, you will have something cold like turtle jelly. And this “cold” doesn’t mean the food is cold, it’s more like Yin and Yang, Heat and Cold, internally.

We have this desert for more than 800 years, but nowadays, we don’t put turtles in it as they are very expensive. Most of the turtle jelly now is vegetarian, if you ever go to China, you could give a try.

Turtle Jelly (Gui lin gao)
Turtle Jelly (Gui lin gao)

Bird’s nest (Yan Wo)

We don’t eat all bird’s nest! This requires a particular species of swiftlet, and the birds build the nest with their own saliva. The Bird’s nests are dry when harvested. We boil the nest in the water, it will turn jellylike in the soup, it looks like rice noodles. Add some sugar, normally is rock sugar. It is a desert for us.

Why do we eat it? The nests contain protein and collagen, it helps smooth skin and speeds up recovery. It is traditionally used as a beauty food, because of the difficulty of collecting and limited amount of the nests, it is very expensive.

The bird’s nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup. As the high price, not so many people can afford. If someone ever invite you, don’t say no, it’s real delicious and good for you.

Bird's nest (Yan Wo)
Bird’s nest (Yan Wo)

Pacific geoduck (Xiang ba bang)

The geoduck is native to the coastal waters of western Canada and the northwest United States, as we eat it, we actually cultivate in Southeast coast. In Chinese, we called it “elephant trunk clam”, and it’s an animal! It might look like something, but it’s a shellfish live under the sand. It’s also expensive because of its living habit.

I think it won’t be only Chinese eat it, but anyway, it’s popular dish in my city (seaside or close to the sea), you can easily find it in the restaurants or seafood markets. It’s rich in protein and helps balance potassium and sodium. People especially have weak immune system, it’s recommended to eat geoduck.

Pacific geoduck (Xiang ba bang)
Pacific geoduck (Xiang ba bang)

Sea cucumber

I didn’t even treat it as a weird food until my colleagues were so amazed that there’s sea cucumber in my soup. I thought it was a drama, but they asked me whether it’s animal or vegetable. Sea cucumber is a marine animal with leathery skin.

According to the American Cancer Society, although it has been used in traditional Asian folk medicine for a variety of ailments, “there is little reliable scientific evidence to support claims that sea cucumber is effective in treating cancer, arthritis, and other diseases” but there is research being conducted to determine “whether some compounds made by sea cucumbers may be helpful against cancer. (From Wikipedia) For Chinese people, we really believe in the value of medicine. For instance, its cells recovery and cancer clearance function, moreover, it has the name of “Ocean Viagra”.

Sea cucumber
Sea cucumber

Chicken feet

I love chicken feet and trotters (pork feet), not only because they are tasty, but they’re also fulled with collagen. As a Cantonese, chicken feet (we called phoenix claws) are one of the famous breakfast(Yum Cha, morning tea) dish for us. We usually cook it with peanuts and beans.

Westerners love fillets or steak as there’s no bones at all, but Chinese people love bones. There’s one time I was chewing the chicken leg, my colleagues was shocked and asked me why I was eating bones. 🙀Well, it’s the gristle, it contains collagen and it is crunchy. Apparently, the reason why we love chicken feet is there are lots of gristle in it.

Chicken feet
Chicken feet

Scorpions

Yes, the one with toxic narrow tail. South-Asia normally deep fried, but we cook it in the soup. I quite like this soup to be honest (Please continue like me). In south of China, it’s quite hot and we get the “heat” very easily, and I got acne on my face. My mom used to cook some soups for me, and the scorpions soup is one of them. Detoxification is the main function of this soup.

Scorpions
Scorpions

Century egg (Pi Dan)

The century egg is made by eggs in a mixture of clay and rice husk, waited for serval months. When I was a kid, we eat it a lot with the porridge, as preserved food becomes one of the factor to active cancer, I don’t eat it so often, plus I don’t like porridge. The only porridge I like is this one, century egg and lean pork porridge. The egg tastes so weird to me as well, only taste good when it sliced into the porridge.

Century egg (Pi Dan)
Century egg (Pi Dan)

Tremella (Yin Er)

Tremella (we called it “silver ear” in Chinese) is a species of fungus, it is so similar as wood ear. They both good at health, but we cook it in different ways. Tremella is used in sweet dishes, while wood ear is more popular in Chinese cuisines. Tremella is a health food as well, it helps healing dry coughs and clearing heat in the lungs. It tastes plain unless with sweetens.

Tremella (Yin Er)
Tremella (Yin Er)

Hasma

It is a desert ingredient made from the dried fatty tissue found in the frogs. Hams is prescribed to treat respiratory symptoms, though scarce. Furthermore, It is also used to improve the look of skin. Cantonese cook it with papaya and rock sugar, good Cantonese restaurants normally has it in the menu.

Hasma
Hasma

Snake

It’s my favourite. We have different ways to cook snake, even hot pot it. And the taste is just fresh and nice. I don’t like snake the animal, but I like snake the food. Snake is fulled of nutrition, as well as its medical used. Likewise, we eat the scorpions, also the vipers.

Snake
Snake

Crocodile

Crocodile is believed to cure coughs and prevent cancer. As we don’t have so many wild one to eat now, we cultivate them as well. We cook it in soup or cuisines, the taste is not so much different from pork.

Crocodile
Crocodile

Dytiscidae (Long Shi/ seoi gaat zaat)

I have never tried it. We usually have the seafood section in the restaurants to let customers know the food is all fresh and was alive. And this insect is there swimming in the water with its many feet! If it is first time you see it, you will think this restaurant is gross. However, it’s medical used for frequent urination at night, especially the kids wet the bed at night so much, the doctor might recommend this dish. lol

Dytiscidae (Long Shi/ seoi gaat zaat)
Dytiscidae (Long Shi/ seoi gaat zaat)

We also eat animals’ organs, snails and frogs, but I guess it’s normal around the world, so I only picked the special Cantonese food here. Well, some of the northern Chinese might not be able to accept it. 😛

Most of the food that Chinese eat are with the reasons, either for medical used or healthy diet. Food is a culture in one country, if you get to know more about the reasons why we eat this or that, then you will understand more about us.

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