When I first got here, I was excited about the food. Despite leaving behind croissants, I would be otherwise living in a place with affordable culinary opportunities. I would eat 当地 food from the street and explore fine nuances of Chinese food that elsewhere consisted only of the rainbowed variety between orange and lemon chicken. And the famed 小龙饱! I’d finally get a taste of authenticity.
You know where this is really going. As it turns out, the Chinese food system makes the American industrial food system look clean. In fact, I’ve even started to write down a fun list of the foods about which I keep hearing to avoid.
- Oil (street food): In Senegal, I scoffed at food poisoning. Meat left under the sun for hours? Strength training for my digestive system! I would eat what the locals ate without being an ambiance chump. I carried this same attitude to China. When I heard about gutter oil, again I scoffed. Carcinogenic bleached oil made from garbage or eponymous gutters? Surely no one could stoop to that level. Then I started noticing that the locals didn’t eat from the street carts.
- Lamb: Because it’s actually rat/mink/fox marinated in nitrates and red dye.
- Beef: Because is it lamb, beef, or rat/mink/fox marinated in nitrates and red dye?
- Pork: More than 15,000 sickened and dead pigs were found in the Huangpu River. However, this may actually be an improvement since these pigs were likely confiscated properly whereas usually, pigs who die of disease are sold on the market anyway.
- Chicken: You may have heard about the Avian flu.
- Eggs: The common chicken egg comes from a chicken cloaca. See #4. However, some eggs aren’t eggs at all!
- Beijing Duck: A duck is a bird. See #4.
- Noodle Soup: China’s tap water has heavy metals in it. You can’t boil heavy metals away.
- Bottled Water: Just the ubiquitous red-capped nongfu brand. It hasn’t followed national standards for bottled water and has been found to contain unacceptable levels of arsenic and cadmium.
- Rice: I know, Asian people are supposed to love rice. But not when half of the domestic supply could be tainted with cadmium.
Okay, so it’s really not that bad.* Just avoid all forms of animal protein, be careful with your water, and don’t eat rice.
…Have you actually tried doing this in China?
Last week I found a mosquito drowned in the 青菜 I got from the school cafeteria. I’m still eating there. I don’t know what else to do besides start shelling out for expat groceries.
*Also, ignore all of the food scandals from previous years – expired baozi, exploding watermelon, leaded baby formula, etc.