Chinese food is a special concept altogether

I am now ready to talk about Chinese food and eating in China, having observed and considered what I've seen for quite a long time - about 6 months since I arrived here.

For a person who doesn't eat a lot, it was a hurdle for me to get used to the amount of food and how frequently we need to eat over here. I go along with the 'eat to live' concept, and I perceived the Chinese to do the opposite - 'live to eat' instead for a long time. I still do, but who could blame them, given that Chinese food is so tasty? Very different (better) than what you get in the West, in a Chinese restaurant.

Only recently I had a great insight into the Chinese culture from the point of view of food and eating. One of the most popular greeting in China is the question 'Have you eaten?' A Westerner would be most perplexed by this question say, early in the morning when you meet a Chinese and you're ready to start your meeting on exporting widgets from China, right? You'd think... why are you asking me that? Do you intend to invite me to breakfast or are we going to talk about my breakfast now, or what? But no, that remark is just thrown into the conversation more like an English person would say 'A bit cloudy today, isn't it?'

The Chinese are showing concern for the wellbeing of the other person and the number one source of wellness is, of course, the food we eat. Chinese food is not supposed to be just nourishing, it's meant to be healing as well.

Apart from the flavours, it doesn't have anything to do with the food you eat in a Chinese restaurant in the West, where it's produced on an industrial basis, to feed the appetite of so many fast-eaters as they can seat in their establishment. No, Chinese food (and I refer to the home made variety, which is what you get even when eating out in China) is a well calculated combination of ingredients and natural flavours, cooked just for the right amount of time, on a calculated flame, so that it offers the most nourishing qualities when it comes to eating it. Plus, it must be delicious!

I wish I got to know more about doing it, but for that I would need to be prepared to put a lot more time into learning the ingredients and their qualities and experiment with different ways of cooking them, until I come up with a good result - one that would allow me to invite some friends for dinner one day. Maybe that day will come, but for now, I'm busy about my work instead. I'll keep you posted on this front on this page.

A feast for the eye, before eating it ~ Our Christmas lunch

Many times I've been invited to lunches and dinners and regreted not having my camera with me. On Christmas Day 2012 I managed to save the feast they put on for us. Chinese food at its best:

Left: scrambled egg with tomatoes

Right: deep fried potato cubes

Front: sliced cooked beef, cold

Back: notice the chilli pepper decoration

Fruit salad ~ tasty!

As a main course, with mayonnaise...

On plate: corned beef with cucumber

In bowl: meatballs, deep-fried

You've seen this one before...

Some sea food on this plate

Snake squash in tomato sauce

Tofu squares with meat balls on top

Some greens: celery this time around

I need to check this one out...

Sea fish, very well presented

My favourite: fruit at the end

Sadly, as I was invited by governmental officials to this Christmas lunch, I couldn't take photos of the group, but I can tell you - a funny bunch it was! On the whole, it felt like any other official lunch - nothing made it Christmasy. And there weren't any season greetings exchanged - not until I started with my Western style custom, anyway.

Our Christmas dinner, out with other friends in the evening...

This meal was a totally different one: we went for what's called a hot pot over here. We had to order raw foods from a very large list, by ticking for the item, the amount of it and the type (if this applies, for example for fish). Then they bring out a pot with boiling stock inside, for each one of us. These have a fire underneath, to keep them going until the end of the dinner.

Once all the food we ordered is on the table, on separate plates, we start helping ourselves to bits and pieces from the wide selection and chuck it into the hot pot to cook for a short while, after which we fish it out with chopsticks and eat it, basically...

Although popular in China, I'm not a great fan of this type of a meal, because everything comes out unseasoned, and there's no salt and pepper on the table. I found it difficult to fish the food out of the pot when it tended to sink to the bottom...  Then, in some cases, I wasn't quite sure when the food was cooked, whereas in other cases I had to eat overcooked food - a trial and error game! Maybe you know me - I'm not a very good cook anyway...

Have a look at my New Year's Eve lunch, with other friends, on the events page.