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3 Weird Dishes in China That Are Actually Delicious

A street of an Italian Chinatown

A street of an Italian Chinatown

China features a rich variety of food. Chinese cuisine is maybe one of the most misunderstood in the world, as generally the majority of people who refer to it are used to think about the dishes they can commonly find in the Chinese restaurants in their local neighborhoods or - even worse - are used to think about dogs, bats or other animals that only very few minorities of the whole Chinese population actually eat, mostly in rural areas.

Chinese food is actually sharing many similarities with Italian food when it comes to being misunderstood by many people or when it comes to similarities like the richness of pasta recipes, the variety among different regions or the attitude of Italian & Chinese people towards food, considered as something very important and even symbolizing conviviality. Still, there is another big similarity between Italian & Chinese food: we both have certain kinds of dishes that may be considered ‘weird’, even if they are actually delicious. This article will focus on some of the Chinese dishes that are actually delicious but still not considered by people who are afraid to eat them.

Stinky Food: Smelly But Delicious

When it comes to certain kinds of food that smell but are delicious, people who don’t know them get eventually scary when it comes to try them. Some typical examples of smelly but tasty food are certain kinds of cheeses like blue cheese. Italy features ‘gorgonzola’, which is a very smelly blue cheese. When it comes to China, a very famous example of smelly food is stinky tofu, which is a popular street food made of fermented tofu you can find in several cities like Changsha, the capital of Hunan province in China. Stinky tofu is something most Westerners are afraid to eat due to its strong smell: the fact is that it is really delicious and, actually, is one of the dishes I mostly miss when I’m not in China (even if luckily I can still find it packed at some Chinese groceries, it’s not as spicy as the one prepared at the moment on the streets of Changsha but I still enjoy it). The funny fact is that not only most Westerners would be afraid to eat stinky tofu: also many Chinese people are afraid to eat Italian cheeses and especially blue cheeses like ‘gorgonzola’ (some of them believe it is rotten and cannot be eaten). The fact is that when it comes to this particular kind of smelly but good food, most people are afraid to eat those they don’t know, so we can say both Italy and China share another thing in common when it comes to food.

A piece of stinky tofu

A piece of stinky tofu

Chinese Century Eggs

Try to preserve eggs (especially quail eggs are popular) in a mixture of ingredients like clay, salt and ash for some months and you get the so called century eggs, characterized by a black and creamy yolk. Many Westerners are totally scared when it comes to even mention these eggs, despite this it is totally safe to eat them and I add the fact they are also really delicious, especially when served with fresh tofu and sage like in the picture below.

Chinese century eggs with fresh tofu

Chinese century eggs with fresh tofu

Hotpot

This is maybe my favorite dish of the whole Chinese cuisine, even it is not really a dish, but more a way of cooking. Hotpot is a sort of fondue: a broth is put a the centre and then raw ingredients are disposed around the table: these ingredients may feature meat, fish, vegetables like lotus root, mushrooms and tofu. This way of eating is funny and enhances conviviality, as there is not only the experience of eating together, but also of cooking together before eating: eating hotpot requires more time than eating already cooked dishes and this results in more time also spent at the table with friends or family.

A Chinese Hotpot

A Chinese Hotpot

Still, this way of eating is considered weird by some Westerners, despite hotpot is maybe one of the most typical protagonist of the Chinese food scenery. Also Sichuanese hotpot is very spicy and this is still something not all people are ready to try, even if spicy hotpot is really delicious.

© 2021 Alessio Ganci

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