On a day not long ago, I was having a discussion with a friend who had been born and raised in China. Some how, the topic of authentic Chinese food surfaced and a long discussion followed. After the discussion ended, I knew I had to write an article to share the information I had learned.
The difference between American-Chinese food and authentic Chinese food is vast. According to my friend, the “Chinese food” in America pales compared to the foods found in China. The most likely causes for this is lack of authentic ingredients only available in China, the strict regulations of the Food and Drug Administration, and the fact that American-Chinese food is purposely altered for American tastes.
We've all heard of some of the "strange" foods eaten in China but how many of these dishes actually exist? Of course you would find fish, chicken, pork, and beef dishes on the menus of restaurants in China similar to the dishes you find in American Chinese restaurants, but also many exotic and unusual dishes are available that are exclusive to China and Asia. Here are a few of the delicacies most commonly consumed in China (and most misunderstood in the West) with a low probability of being found in the US:
Snake meat dishes - This is one of the most popular Chinese delicacies. Many of my Chinese friends have mentioned at various times that they have sampled snake meat.
The breed of snake used varies from city to city but water snake and python are popular choices. At many restaurants, the customer is able to pick out their own live snake to be prepared, but due to an overly-large demand for the meat and controversy over the treatment of the animals, this practice and the general consumption of snake meat has been banned in numerous Chinese cities.
Snake meat is considered tremendously healthy by the Chinese and many dishes are prepared with snake meat including medicinal soups and main courses.
Dog meat dishes – Yes, dog meat is consumed in China. But we aren’t talking about your standard stray dog or just any dog found on the street (including someone’s lost pet). The Chinese take care in raising their animals for consumption. In typical cases, the dogs are well bred and treated humanely.
While this may seem cruel to Westerners, keep in mind that what's morally acceptable and right is objective and differs from culture to culture, society to society.
Rat/mouse meat dishes – As with the dog meat situation, the rats and mice consumed in China are not the same rats you would find in your attic or running around in the sewers. The rodents used in traditional Chinese cuisine are a special breed and they are raised from birth to insure purity. They are used like any other meat in dishes. They are often used in main courses and soups.
This list is incomplete and there are many, many Chinese delicacies not listed here. We'll save those for other articles!
Dare to try?