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Trying to Understand The Reasons Why Some Foreigners Hate Chinese Food

Oct 10, 2013 Translated by eChinacities.com Comments (36)     Add your comment Newsletter

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Editor’s Note: Chinese food is well-known and beloved all over the world, but often it is the boring dishes that everyone has heard of. What Chinese people consider high cuisine, the rest of the world shys away from, and often not quietly. This article was translated from a piece on ifeng. The reporter tried to uncover the reasons why so many foreigners recoil at foods Chinese people relish. Do you agree with his findings?

It’s explained to us that foreigners love Chinese food; it’s just that sometimes we’re afraid of it.
Chicken feet, pig trotters, and internal organs are all beloved delicacies of the Chinese people, but many foreigners recoil from them. A netizen named “North American Brother Cui” has complained that ever since he married a Chinese woman, these Chinese delicacies have become his “nightmare”. This reporter has arranged interviews with netizens from all over to try and understand the reasons why some foreigners don’t like local Chinese food.

weird chinese food
Photo: Jirka Matousek

Looking back at the next bite

“North American Brother Cui” said, “I can understand if Chinese people love to eat meat, but chicken feet, duckbills, and sow ear… where is the meat in these foods? The family of my wife chows down on these foods with no problem while I look on with astonishment! I like to eat fish, but can’t bear to eat fish heads because I’m scared I will look at my meal in the eye. I don’t want my food to look back at me”

According to one foreigner, the experience of watching a Chinese person eat chicken feet for the first time was so revolting that it induced vomiting, because the sight of a chicken foot reminds them of a human hand. Roast chicken is a favorite in Britain, but the feet are not a part of the meal. Every year several million pairs of chicken feet are thrown into the garbage by the British public.

Netizen “@Travelling in Dreamland Amusement Park” said, “On the way to the airport, I bumped into a German woman and spoke with her for 30 minutes during the journey. She abruptly asked me, ‘Do Chinese people really eat chicken feet?’ I reckon that this question has been on her mind for a long time, and now she finally has a chance to ask it to a Chinese person. I answered yes, and that this was especially the case for young women who would eat them as easily as junk food while watching TV or reading magazines. As I was talking, her face told me she was skeptical.”

Bones, shrugs n’ disharmony

“Asian carp” is how Americans collectively describe the different species of black carp, grass carp, flower carp, silver carp and bighead carp. They like to eat fish that don’t have many bones such as salmon and cod and don’t like to eat fish with many bones like “Asian carp”. Angelina, a woman married to a US citizen said, “Going out to eat with my husband is always a pain; if it has bones, he won’t like it. He also doesn’t like it when I prepare an entire fish for him; the reasoning behind that is that he doesn’t like fish bones; he thinks that food should be able to be eaten straight off the plate.”

Don’t lose your head over this

These “head” foods including chicken heads, fish heads and rabbit heads that some Chinese find very appetizing despite their “heavy tastes” are the same foods that foreigners completely don’t want to eat, often completely rejecting any food that has a head attached. The head is seen as dirty and kind of terrifying.

Dishes stewed with innards such as pig liver, duck blood, cow brain, and anything else made of intestines and blood are also food that foreigners will not eat. They feel that these animal parts are not clean and unfit for consumption.

An Austrian post-doctorate that works with “@Cheng cici” states that he loves most Chinese food, but detests eating blood. “Once, we were saying how ‘duck blood is much better to eat than pig blood’. And then he replied, ‘Despite my thirty years of existence, this is the first time that anyone has ever told me that one kind of blood is better than another kind of blood…’”

“Neither authentic nor local”

A string of street eateries in Wangfujing, Beijing is the site of novel curiosities or fear for many foreigners. Here, one can find skewers of roast sparrows, fried cicadas, fried silkworms, whole snakes prepared in a variety of fashions, fried grasshoppers, and fried starfish…in fact, just about anything you can think of can be found here. Foreign tourists flock here to look at and try some of the ‘disgusting’ things that Chinese people eat.

However, many Chinese think that this kind of Chinese food does not properly represent the mainstream tastes of the general public. As one person said, “there aren’t many Chinese who wouldn’t eat this kind of food…It doesn’t matter from the type of dish or kind of flavor, this string of street eateries is neither authentic nor local.” They went on to suggest that tourists should avoid coming to this street.

“Red burned lion head”

Even when dealing with Chinese food that is praised by almost everyone, like Peking Duck or Kong Pao chicken, foreigners aren’t happy, complaining that many Chinese restaurants only provide menus solely written in Chinese. Either they must blindly choose or must carefully decide by scrutinizing the pictures in the menu and then gesture to the waiter as to what they want. Even if there is an English menu, the translation will often make little sense. For example, “stewed pork meat balls in braised soy sauce” literally translated into English becomes “Red Burned Lion Head”. Who would want to eat that?

Chinese food “low class”

Bing Qing, a special food columnist who focuses on food in the USA states that the presentation, environment and service provided by Chinese restaurants are problematic. Outside of China, Chinese food is considered to be “low-class”. In comparison Japanese food is considered “high-class” cuisine and more likely to be awarded a Michelin star, or two, or three.

Bing says that the penetration of Chinese food culture is very strong throughout the world. For example, in Guyana Chinese stir-fried rice can be seen as part of the common eating habits of the local population. However, Chinese cuisine has fallen behind international trends. Most world cuisine is thought of as fresh, safe, nutritious and healthy, but Chinese food, in the minds of many, remains a greasy, uninventive option and definitely not very good for you.

Source: iFeng

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Keywords: disgusting Chinese food Hating Chinese food

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36 Comments ( Add your comment )

1
comment|40474|63302
Mr_spoon

Spot on. I actually did the whole trial and error thing with the "safe list", just like I did with all the cuisines I've tried. The only "Chinese" (read: Asian) food I had before moving to China was sushis and spring rolls, so I had no idea what to expect or try. I was surprised after moving to China, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Since almost all of my high-school and university lunches were in cheap Chinese restaurants, to me, Chinese food was just the average meal. I would always enjoy eating other kinds of cuisine, and junk food. As of those dishes mentioned in the article, I'm not afraid to say that they disgust me and I STILL refuse to eat them. I absolutely loathe small chunks of meat filled with bones. That's why I've never said, nor will ever say, that I love Chinese food. I really like some dishes, but overall, Chinese food is just ok. On a side note, the reason western-style Chinese food is popular in the west is that it's adapted to western tastes. I mean, I suppose the first Chinese restaurants tried authentic dishes, and slowly refined it to something that would please the locals. That's probably why people try to find those same dishes in China rather than the ones that didn't make it through. (I'm not sure if my point is clear, but you probably see where I'm getting at).

Oct 10, 2013 03:18
2
comment|40488|58569
DaqingDevil

Well explained JayKnox although I am not sure I would agree about the extent of lying. I eat western food at home and cook my own steak and salad, pizza, roast lamb and vegies, spaghetti, BLT's and toasted sandwiches. When I go out I also have a selection of food I do like but I haven't found anything that makes me say "Wow!" My taste for Chinese food back home is certainly a westernized style and I like to eat it. And for sure I won't eat the fish here, the chicken feet, the piggy toes, the black beetles, some of the seaweed and a few other things. I am embarking on my next rebellion soon. Although adept at using chopstix I have a quality plastic fork which I intend carrying everywhere with me in future. (Haha!)

Oct 10, 2013 11:40
3
comment|40500|58569
DaqingDevil

Yeah you're right. Telling a white lie to the locals is an act of politeness. I guess it probably goes both ways. maybe if we ask them do they like tender steak on a regular basis BBQ'ed "properly" they might lie to us and say "yes". Then again........... May I take this opportunity though to mention that the supposedly foreigner section of a supermarket is constantly sold out of product and I can assure you that there are not enough foreigners here to make that happen so constantly. Makes me think the locals might even enjoy or prefer.......nah....couldn't be!!!

Oct 10, 2013 19:17
4
comment|40644|63302
Mr_spoon

Spot on. I actually did the whole trial and error thing with the "safe list", just like I did with all the cuisines I've tried. The only "Chinese" (read: Asian) food I had before moving to China was sushis and spring rolls, so I had no idea what to expect or try. I was surprised after moving to China, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Since almost all of my high-school and university lunches were in cheap Chinese restaurants, to me, Chinese food was just the average meal. I would always enjoy eating other kinds of cuisine, and junk food. As of those dishes mentioned in the article, I'm not afraid to say that they disgust me and I STILL refuse to eat them. I absolutely loathe small chunks of meat filled with bones. That's why I've never said, nor will ever say, that I love Chinese food. I really like some dishes, but overall, Chinese food is just ok. On a side note, the reason western-style Chinese food is popular in the west is that it's adapted to western tastes. I mean, I suppose the first Chinese restaurants tried authentic dishes, and slowly refined it to something that would please the locals. That's probably why people try to find those same dishes in China rather than the ones that didn't make it through. (I'm not sure if my point is clear, but you probably see where I'm getting at).

Oct 10, 2013 03:18
5
comment|40648|58569
DaqingDevil

Well explained JayKnox although I am not sure I would agree about the extent of lying. I eat western food at home and cook my own steak and salad, pizza, roast lamb and vegies, spaghetti, BLT's and toasted sandwiches. When I go out I also have a selection of food I do like but I haven't found anything that makes me say "Wow!" My taste for Chinese food back home is certainly a westernized style and I like to eat it. And for sure I won't eat the fish here, the chicken feet, the piggy toes, the black beetles, some of the seaweed and a few other things. I am embarking on my next rebellion soon. Although adept at using chopstix I have a quality plastic fork which I intend carrying everywhere with me in future. (Haha!)

Oct 10, 2013 11:40
6
comment|40654|58569
DaqingDevil

Yeah you're right. Telling a white lie to the locals is an act of politeness. I guess it probably goes both ways. maybe if we ask them do they like tender steak on a regular basis BBQ'ed "properly" they might lie to us and say "yes". Then again........... May I take this opportunity though to mention that the supposedly foreigner section of a supermarket is constantly sold out of product and I can assure you that there are not enough foreigners here to make that happen so constantly. Makes me think the locals might even enjoy or prefer.......nah....couldn't be!!!

Oct 10, 2013 19:17
7
comment|40475|61626
Guest554636

Food safety !!!!! Who gives a bollocks whether it is authentic Chinese food or not. I don't like Chinese food myself, it's edible though.

Oct 10, 2013 03:36
8
comment|40645|61626
Guest554636

Food safety !!!!! Who gives a bollocks whether it is authentic Chinese food or not. I don't like Chinese food myself, it's edible though.

Oct 10, 2013 03:36
9
comment|40476|102513
dom87

really there are different kinds of chinese food? looks all the same for me. Meat chopped the wrong way (with bones) put it into a big pot add some green pepper drown it in oil. lets drown everything in oil yeah i definitly dont like chinese food at all. tough time for me eating here

Oct 10, 2013 08:47
10
comment|40646|102513
dom87

really there are different kinds of chinese food? looks all the same for me. Meat chopped the wrong way (with bones) put it into a big pot add some green pepper drown it in oil. lets drown everything in oil yeah i definitly dont like chinese food at all. tough time for me eating here

Oct 10, 2013 08:47
11
comment|40477|228251
pepo36

i would say i adjusted and adapted to some chinese food and just like JayKnox said i have now my safe list of food i can eat and definitely prefer them to Mcdonald's or KFC if i'm eating out examples of my safe food list are malatang or chaomian however if i eat at home i'm sticking with the western cuisine at some point i was eating BBQ with my chinese friend and he ordered the silkworm cocoons without me noticing....i stopped eating and i almost threw up so yeah it's really tough to for us to eat the same like a chinese person

Oct 10, 2013 09:24
12
comment|40647|228251
pepo36

i would say i adjusted and adapted to some chinese food and just like JayKnox said i have now my safe list of food i can eat and definitely prefer them to Mcdonald's or KFC if i'm eating out examples of my safe food list are malatang or chaomian however if i eat at home i'm sticking with the western cuisine at some point i was eating BBQ with my chinese friend and he ordered the silkworm cocoons without me noticing....i stopped eating and i almost threw up so yeah it's really tough to for us to eat the same like a chinese person

Oct 10, 2013 09:24
13
comment|40490|94343
MSI

Chinese food? The ones in UK are really good but the ones in Beijing are blegghhhh. They all taste similar I think all the cooks graduated from the same cookery class.I am also quite sure they use the same 'flavouring chemicals'. Apart from the nasty taste, they are all so(to the power of infinity) effing oily. Don't even get me started on the food safety and hygiene. Seeing those food stalls along the streets made me want to puke-and I hate the smell too!!

Oct 10, 2013 12:38
14
comment|40649|94343
MSI

Chinese food? The ones in UK are really good but the ones in Beijing are blegghhhh. They all taste similar I think all the cooks graduated from the same cookery class.I am also quite sure they use the same 'flavouring chemicals'. Apart from the nasty taste, they are all so(to the power of infinity) effing oily. Don't even get me started on the food safety and hygiene. Seeing those food stalls along the streets made me want to puke-and I hate the smell too!!

Oct 10, 2013 12:38
15
comment|40491|94343
MSI

I was invited to a dinner at a 'supposedly very good restaurant' and had one of the worst nightmares. Somebody ordered the whole ROAST PIGLET - it came complete with the head and eyes (sickly substituted with cherries) and feet. The other dish was a whole steamed fish with its mouth opened and exposed teeth.

Oct 10, 2013 12:45
16
comment|40502|63302
Mr_spoon

If you ever go to a "classy" Hotpot place with Chinese people, tell them in advance that animal brains are a huge no-no for you. I've had that little surprise twice.

Oct 10, 2013 19:21
17
comment|40650|94343
MSI

I was invited to a dinner at a 'supposedly very good restaurant' and had one of the worst nightmares. Somebody ordered the whole ROAST PIGLET - it came complete with the head and eyes (sickly substituted with cherries) and feet. The other dish was a whole steamed fish with its mouth opened and exposed teeth.

Oct 10, 2013 12:45
18
comment|40655|63302
Mr_spoon

If you ever go to a "classy" Hotpot place with Chinese people, tell them in advance that animal brains are a huge no-no for you. I've had that little surprise twice.

Oct 10, 2013 19:21
19
comment|40494|57378
Sinobear

It's not like these "delicacies" are eaten by Chinese on a regular basis, either. I've seen enough people who eat the exact same thing each and every day. What I take exception to in the article is the constant mention of "unclean." What not use the correct term for unused chicken feet, innards, entrails, etc.? We feed those parts to pigs or make dog food out of them. My wife hates paying for beef bones now to make soup after I told her that I could get all I wanted for free from a butcher back home. Each to his/her own taste.

Oct 10, 2013 14:57
20
comment|40651|57378
Sinobear

It's not like these "delicacies" are eaten by Chinese on a regular basis, either. I've seen enough people who eat the exact same thing each and every day. What I take exception to in the article is the constant mention of "unclean." What not use the correct term for unused chicken feet, innards, entrails, etc.? We feed those parts to pigs or make dog food out of them. My wife hates paying for beef bones now to make soup after I told her that I could get all I wanted for free from a butcher back home. Each to his/her own taste.

Oct 10, 2013 14:57
21
comment|40505|257852
tomgee

This is a very interesting article. It shows us that we tend to generalize and make a statement that seems to sound derogatory towards a group of people. Your opening sentence tries to lessen the blow by saying that 'sometimes we're afraid of it'. We should be honest but specific; for example, I could never imagine myself eating pork trotters instead of saying I am afraid of eating Chinese or German foods. I guess I do not have to remind you that pork trotters are delicacy to some Germans as well as it is to Chinese. Just say that we do not like pork trotters or chicken head or monkey brain or any kind of blood. Chinese cuisine, like cuisine from all over the world is a product of evolution and integration with cuisines from other parts of the world. I do not know the name of the spice but it is commonly used in Beijing cuisine; to me, it smells like a whiff from the armpit of a person that has been working hard for the last ten hours. I encountered this spice again when I was eating a Mid-Eastern dish. Later, I found out that the spice is the same and it seemed to have been brought from the Mid-East via silk road. Also, we must understand that China is a large countries with many ethnic groups and some are appealing and some are not to certain individual. May be I can say that most of the non-Chinese did not have the chance to try out even a half of Chinese food that they are not qualified to make judgement on Chinese food. North American Brother Cui forgets to mention that his wife also eats vegetables, fried rice, steamed rice, Chinese perogies, steamed buns, roasted pork, and roasted beef as well. I am a Chinese, I don't like chicken feet it grosses me out. But I like fish head; the Chef at my favorite Japanese restaurant whips it out for me sometimes...after I finish eating the gelatin, sweet meat, eyeballs, and whatever is in there, all you see is a neat pile of bones. I even like it better when he gives me Basashi; it's horse meat sashimi. One of my friend from California told me that if he did not know me, I might have punched me for eating horse. I hate Carp...so many bones and sometimes it tastes muddy and the meat is so soft it feels like eating mush. I like Big Mac, Wendy's Classic, Burger King, and Triple O at White Spot. I can't stand pizzas from Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and Shakey's...but my Chinese, Japanese, and SE Asian friends of mine love them. I hear none of them saying that they do not like of are afraid of American food. The only Chinese that I know of that say they do not like Western food are those who tried out their first Western food in a small crappy 'Western' Restaurants in China. So unless you've eaten at least 80% of all Chinese cuisine, please don't say that you do not like Chinese food or you are afraid of it. We don't say that about cuisine from your land.

Oct 10, 2013 20:20
22
comment|40529|255695
Guest2301262

"Then bathed in oil and some clearly identifiable Brown Salt Sauce".....That is if you are in luck. Could be gutter oil, fake or questionable origin brown soya sauce (Chinese hair).

Oct 11, 2013 09:45
23
comment|40566|255695
Guest2301262

....lol.....you do need a huge sense of humor to live a happy life in China. BTW, I can't remember which article I saw you writing you enjoyed teaching, in response to expat26's (I think that's him) 'you aren't respected as an EFL teacher because of the low pay' comment ---- you are a natural, born good teacher, no doubt about that. Your students are lucky.

Oct 12, 2013 14:19
24
comment|40656|257852
tomgee

This is a very interesting article. It shows us that we tend to generalize and make a statement that seems to sound derogatory towards a group of people. Your opening sentence tries to lessen the blow by saying that 'sometimes we're afraid of it'. We should be honest but specific; for example, I could never imagine myself eating pork trotters instead of saying I am afraid of eating Chinese or German foods. I guess I do not have to remind you that pork trotters are delicacy to some Germans as well as it is to Chinese. Just say that we do not like pork trotters or chicken head or monkey brain or any kind of blood. Chinese cuisine, like cuisine from all over the world is a product of evolution and integration with cuisines from other parts of the world. I do not know the name of the spice but it is commonly used in Beijing cuisine; to me, it smells like a whiff from the armpit of a person that has been working hard for the last ten hours. I encountered this spice again when I was eating a Mid-Eastern dish. Later, I found out that the spice is the same and it seemed to have been brought from the Mid-East via silk road. Also, we must understand that China is a large countries with many ethnic groups and some are appealing and some are not to certain individual. May be I can say that most of the non-Chinese did not have the chance to try out even a half of Chinese food that they are not qualified to make judgement on Chinese food. North American Brother Cui forgets to mention that his wife also eats vegetables, fried rice, steamed rice, Chinese perogies, steamed buns, roasted pork, and roasted beef as well. I am a Chinese, I don't like chicken feet it grosses me out. But I like fish head; the Chef at my favorite Japanese restaurant whips it out for me sometimes...after I finish eating the gelatin, sweet meat, eyeballs, and whatever is in there, all you see is a neat pile of bones. I even like it better when he gives me Basashi; it's horse meat sashimi. One of my friend from California told me that if he did not know me, I might have punched me for eating horse. I hate Carp...so many bones and sometimes it tastes muddy and the meat is so soft it feels like eating mush. I like Big Mac, Wendy's Classic, Burger King, and Triple O at White Spot. I can't stand pizzas from Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and Shakey's...but my Chinese, Japanese, and SE Asian friends of mine love them. I hear none of them saying that they do not like of are afraid of American food. The only Chinese that I know of that say they do not like Western food are those who tried out their first Western food in a small crappy 'Western' Restaurants in China. So unless you've eaten at least 80% of all Chinese cuisine, please don't say that you do not like Chinese food or you are afraid of it. We don't say that about cuisine from your land.

Oct 10, 2013 20:20
25
comment|40661|255695
Guest2301262

"Then bathed in oil and some clearly identifiable Brown Salt Sauce".....That is if you are in luck. Could be gutter oil, fake or questionable origin brown soya sauce (Chinese hair).

Oct 11, 2013 09:45
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