2018-08-09 / Front Page

Georgia red clay tradition holds true even in China – ‘just bless it and eat it’

By JANE ELLYN AARON


Handmade noodles are often found in Chinese dishes, but as stand-alones they can be found tossed in oyster sauce or other oils and served with a light gar­nishing. Handmade noodles are often found in Chinese dishes, but as stand-alones they can be found tossed in oyster sauce or other oils and served with a light gar­nishing. “Home is where you hang your hat,” or so I was told once by one of my favorite uncles. And, with that notion I have willfully turned my life upside down and moved to the other side of the world – Chi­na, to be precise – with my loving husband. Now living in a city near Shanghai, population 10 million plus, it’s far and away from our rural roots steeped in Georgia’s rich, red clay. While there may not always be sunshine, regardless, ex­ploring completely different ways of living is always interesting, if not bizarre at times, and offers what could possibly be one of the greatest tradeoffs – new perspec­tives. Of course, with that being said, home will never be farther than our hearts.

Meandering down the street, it’s not long before a strip of colorful food stalls unfolds before me, and line after line of people zigzag out from the front of the stands. Kebabs of meats and fruits, assorted vege­tables, noodles, rice cakes, steamed buns, known as baozi, and even the infamous “stinky tofu” are steadi­ly purchased by passersby, as the vendors offer a completely unique smorgasbord of “street food” sta­ples to temp the taste buds. While street food is only one area of edi­bles that has put China on the map, its traditional dishes are also just as mouth-watering.


Pork Wontons, a Suzhou, China, specialty has a very simple, light flavor, and is garnished with green onions in the broth. Pork Wontons, a Suzhou, China, specialty has a very simple, light flavor, and is garnished with green onions in the broth. Which brings me to my point; if you’ve never tried the food in China, you should, it’s unlike any cheap take-out restaurant in the South that asserts that it’s serving “Chinese” cuisine. Some dishes may come close, and you might stumble upon something authentic once in a blue moon, but I promise you, you’re being robbed of a spec­tacular eating experience at the fa­cade labeled the “Golden Dragon” – for the most part.


Quail eggs, along with other eggs, can very often be found boiled in a seasoned brined, skewered, and then served as a quick, filling snack on the streets of China. Quail eggs, along with other eggs, can very often be found boiled in a seasoned brined, skewered, and then served as a quick, filling snack on the streets of China. Now, dash those dreams of end­less lo mien and sesame chicken, and fix your mind on delicately hand rolled noodles and meat-filled dumplings (sometimes referred to as wontons); homemade, rich broths; succulent cuts of pork and beef seasoned in a wide medley of salty, savory, and sweet flavors; steamed, sautéed vegetables; fresh fruits; and of course, sticky white rice – a staple of every meal.

You can also rest easy knowing someone’s grandma put her foot into it, cooking with love in every dash of ingredient.


China is famous for it’s steamed buns and rice cakes, many of which come cutely decorated. Other rice-based snacks take on a traditional look and can be found wrapped in bamboo leaves and other natural packaging. China is famous for it’s steamed buns and rice cakes, many of which come cutely decorated. Other rice-based snacks take on a traditional look and can be found wrapped in bamboo leaves and other natural packaging. While China may not naturally offer the diversity of food options that the United States does, being the “mixing pot” of cultures that we are, it completely dominates in its blending of traditional Chinese meals, while also mixing in other spicy and flavorful influences from India, Indonesia, and even the mid­dle east, as Western China directly borders India, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, with Afghanistan and Pakistan as close neighbors. Thusly, it shares not only blended peoples, but also food heritages in the forms of curries, special breads and wraps, spec­tacularly seasoned vegetables, and other traditional foods.


A heaping portion of sticky, white rice, dotted with assorted vegeta­bles and a side meat comes as typical lunch cuisine in China. A heaping portion of sticky, white rice, dotted with assorted vegeta­bles and a side meat comes as typical lunch cuisine in China. Not to mention, it also imports cuisines from all the other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Viet­nam, and more.

For the record, however, if you’re craving western food, there is basi­cally every big chain restaurant in China too, from McD’s to the Col­onel himself, they just add a slight asian twist to the dishes. And, in major cities, thanks to growing tourism and economic plans, you can basically pick what country you’d like to dine from.

However western food also means western prices, upwards of $10 a plate, and if you go the Chi­nese food route, you can expect to pay anywhere from $.10-$5 a plate on average. It’s a real money-saver, and it’s usually worth, literally, ev­ery penny.


Mutton and other lamb-based dishes are just as popular as pork in China. This particular ensemble has seasoned, fried lamb, spicy pep­pers, ginger, and garlic – which packs a flavorful punch. Mutton and other lamb-based dishes are just as popular as pork in China. This particular ensemble has seasoned, fried lamb, spicy pep­pers, ginger, and garlic – which packs a flavorful punch. So, to those of you shaking your head in disbelief and thinking “they do not, they eat intestines and livers, and other things like that,” you, my friend, are also not wrong. There is also the option to embrace what a close – and Chinese native – friend of mine dubbed “barbarian world” consumption. From the ex­tremes of chicken feet and stomach lining to typical fare like rice and steamed buns, there is no ceiling as to what can be eaten here – seri­ously, on occasion my food stares back at me.

But, while basically any part of an animal is fair game for eating, there isn’t a plant or vegetable un­der the sun that hasn’t also been turned into some sort of edible ensemble. So, I promise, there are plenty of savory dishes that don’t involve vital organs, curdled balls of duck blood, or phalanges – but truth be told, each and every one of those dishes has an unbelievably good flavor as well.

Well, at least the dishes I myself have been brave enough to try… and I’ve tried a lot (though I’ll spare you the details, since I know not everyone has an iron stomach).

At least to rural America, there are huge misconceptions about China that need to be addressed, the food included. The massive country promises amazing flavors to those brave enough to try; spicy foods that will knock you on your butt; delicate, simple, and intricate­ly hand-crafted creations for milder audiences; and many other options for the foodies in-between.

So, for the skeptics and adventur­ous alike, here’s my biggest point of advice: don’t worry about it, simply do what we do best down South whenever food is concerned – just bless it and eat.

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