[Henan Province, China] Random Observations and Musings

We are a week into a month long stay here in Zhengzhou and the surrounding areas. Locals claim this is the birthplace of Chinese culture. We are to the west of the main city, right outside the current rebuilding/modernization zones, although we’re told next year construction will begin in this area, too. The cafeteria-style food we eat almost daily is similar to what I’ve had in homes here. (Sadly, I didn’t take pictures of the home-cooked food.) I thought others might find some of my observations interesting. I’ll keep adding to this thread.

Three observations so far:

I’ve been surprised how much tomato and potato is eaten here. I see almost none in Chinese food around the United States.

Great congee is a true art. It’s very common here but haven’t had a good one yet.

I don’t even know what some of the greens are, one even looks like lettuce, but the greens here are really good.

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Thank you! I do find it interesting.

Although I haven’t been to Zhengzhou I have been to a lot of other places in China on my 3 trips. If it weren’t for the intense pollution (to which I’m highly sensitive, anaphylaxis high-risk) I would see more of this country. I had thought about seeing Tibet again, and visit (small) places or regions that have less pollution.

Fish is always served with bones. We’ve had at least three different types of fish here. I only recognized beltfish.

Soup is never made with stock. My Chinese cookbooks always call for chicken broth, beef broth, etc. Here, they just use water. Sometimes a few pieces of meat on the bone are thrown in, but often not.

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Here’s a typical breakfast for us here:

Various types of bao, sometimes filled, sometimes not.

Soy milk.

Forgot what it’s called, but I’ve had it in the States many times.

Tea eggs.

A type of “meatball”, although this one is vegetarian. Like a falafel. Could not find out what the primary component is, though I think it’s a bean.

Tofu.

Scallion pancakes. If yours come out chewy, that’s how most of them are here, so it made me feel a lot better.

Some type of spicy pickle. Reminds me of achar.

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There’s a sizeable Muslim minority (most are Hui) in this region. Lamb noodles are one of my favorite items from the halal eateries. They pack it in plastic bags to go. I got the one all the way on the left of the menu, second from the top (costs 9 RMB.) Very heavy, though.

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My 4th city in this province (in Luoyang right now) and restaurant meals are always served with hot water. Not tea, just hot water. Pic is from yesterday (40+ degrees Celcius with humidity).

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Any idea why that is? Cold water seems to be much more appropriate in that kind of heat and humidity.

First, I haven’t had cold water even once in 3+ weeks here. I saw it last week in downtown Zhengzhou, but in the area we are, everyone drinks room temp (very warm room temp) bottled water, or hot water when we go out to eat.

I will ask a few people to find out why. I was told “it’s the traditional Chinese way”, but I’ll get a better explanation.

Also might be a safety issue for tap water; energy consumption for refrigerating or serving ice for bottled beverage.

Oh, I get people not drinking cold water since refrigeration is probably until recently, not a big thing in that part of the country. But I am just a bit surprised that people is drinking hot water versus rather warm room temperature water. Tea, maybe.

@BoneAppetite ok i didn’t consider the safety aspect. if that’s the case, hot water makes sense.

Where we are, refrigeration is only for the essentials, like meat. Sometimes bananas are refrigerated, which i don’t get, but will ask about that, too. We are in what I call China present. A 10 minute walk is a new development (China future) which is like another world. A 20 minute walk is China past, which is also a different world (zero refeigeration). The pace of “progress” here is unreal. I can’t even explain it. Our area will be demoliahed and modernized starting next year.

Anyway, you guys were pretty much correct. I have quite a few first generation Chinese Americans with me, so I took a survey. First, traditional belief is that warm to hot water is better for you. In fact, when their parents visit from China, they never drink cold water. The exact philosophy behind it is not something this generation understands. Second, tap water is a no no here. (That includes ice.) Water must be boiled to be safe for drinking. So i asked why not boil it, cool to room temp, then refrigerate, (for the less traditional Chinese people.) Because there is a trust issue. Hot water is proof that the water was boiled.

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Old “China Hands” would remember thermos bottles of hot water that equipped rooms in hotels where each floor had an attendant stationed near the elevator.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold