Dissing the Dim Sum

So, two days ago, I wrote about food and politics in the US.

Today, I will write a bit about food and politics in China.

Currently in China, there are to big fracases going on that have the populace irritable. One is Japan’s ascention to the UN Security Council, which, because of Japan’s official minimization of the atrocities committed against the Chinese people in WWII, has folks a bit riled up, which is understandable. The second issue that looms large in China today is that there are some Chinese folks, particularly older folks in Hong Kong who are harshly critical of their own government–about the official statement on the subject of dim sum.

That’s right, you heard me. Dim sum.

Dim sum is a tradition of eating small mouthfuls of exquisitely shaped dumplings, noodles, buns, and other little packets, bits and bites of food that are served in teahouses. This tradition is a big part of Chinese culture, particularly in the southern province of Canton, and in Hong Kong, and it is considered almost sacred by families, and particularly, by older men. Teahouses are where people gather to gossip, to visit with relatives and friends, to celebrate events and holidays, or just to have a nosh and some nice conversation.

Well, apparently, the Chinese government has issued a statement saying that some dim sum menu items are not particularly healthy for a person to consume in large quantities.

And it has ticked folks off.

The dim sum items in question tend to be deep fried or contain lard, which, as we all know, is probably not the best thing for a person to eat on a regular basis. Of course, the traditional Chinese diet is much healthier than the Western diet, based as it is on grains and vegetables, with a minimum of meat and saturated fats, and dim sum is a part of that diet.

However, dim sum has never been something that is eaten in large amounts every day.

But, the Chinese government has made a fairly innocuous statement saying that it might be a good idea for people to avoid the saturated fat and deep fried items and instead eat more vegetable-based items and ones that are steamed.

No mention has been made of closing dim sum restaurants or physically restraining people who insist upon eating this stuff. Just a gentle reminder that maybe people shouldn’t eat it all the time.

And people are really riled up over the government telling them what to eat and what not to eat.

Now, if it were me, and I was in the Chinese government, I would probably lay off dissing the dim sum, and instead issue a warning about how hazardous American style fast food can be to one’s health and well-being. Because, really, the food at teahouses usually starts out with recognizable ingredients, but the processed gloop that makes up McDonald’s food has been shown to be deliterious to health both in formal studies and in the film, “SuperSize Me.”

Considering how fast KFC and McDonald’s are growing in popularity in China, I would say that the foods from those chains are probably putting more Chinese citizens at risk than the dim sum delicacies that are served in traditional teahouses.

Of course, not only is the health of China’s people in danger–their tastebuds are at risk as well. And that is a greater threat, as far as I am concerned. I would hate to see the glories of Chinese cuisine tossed aside for the convenience of fast food. It would be horribly sad.

But that isn’t a scientific fact; it is only my opinion.

10 Comments

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  1. Honestly, I can’t think of anything to add. My reaction was the same as yours when I first read that article. Besides, who really eats dim sum on a daily basis? The average is 3-4 times a month for me.

    As for McDonalds, I never did figure out the purpose of that de-foaming agent in the chicken nuggets. Every time I hear anyone talking about how good *insert fast food item* is, I feel sick to my stomach.

    Comment by Allen Wong — April 30, 2005 #

  2. There are apparently some older men who go have dim sum nearly every afternoon, but I doubt that they are eating much more than a few mouthfuls of dumpling and drinking a lot of tea.

    And the fact that a lot of them probably walked or biked to the teahouse probably cancels out the effect of anything they would eat.

    And McDonald’s. Ick. I cannot stomach it anymore.

    But then, I am that way about most fast food. It just makes me sick, and sometimes there are dire physical results to that illness.

    Apparently, I am not the only person who has had this happen. I think that it has to do with acclimatization–I am not used to eating heavily processed foods anymore, so they make me ill.

    I guess that could be seen as a good thing….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — April 30, 2005 #

  3. Well, hmm. I have to say that the traditional Chinese diet is more or less healthy depending upon who or where you are. You are quite right that Chinese cuisine is glorious, and I love dim sum much more than anyone contemplating conversion to Judaism should, but my Chinese ex-husband, while quite the gourmand when it came to dim sum, was fond of some really horrendous peasant dishes that involved a great deal of fat.

    Given CJD issues, he never did convince me to eat the spinal cord of anything, but this was a boy who thought bacon needed oil in the pan. I’m sure all that fat is great if you work in the rice fields all day, but he didn’t.

    And frankly I think the biggest menace to Asian tastebuds out there is Spam, as in the meat product from Hormel. Spam and rice, there oughta be a song about it.

    Fast food is disgusting. Yet once every month or two I get a compelling craving for some foul Mcitem, which doesn’t go away until I actually eat it. Why is that?

    Comment by Azalais Malfoy — April 30, 2005 #

  4. “Fast food is disgusting. Yet once every month or two I get a compelling craving for some foul Mcitem, which doesn’t go away until I actually eat it. Why is that?”

    Simple, it is the McHeroin they add to everything. Sure, they call it other things like de-foamer, flavor enhancer, customer loyalty assurance program. It’s pure McHeroin, because the didn’t think “Big Smack” would have the appeal to the public.

    Comment by Bryian — April 30, 2005 #

  5. Well, now, everyone will eat fat if given the choice and the chance, and yes, a lot of traditional recipes from China are swimming in fat. Like braised pork belly, for example. That is so totally fat city.

    But when I say traditional Chinese diet, I am talking about the diet of the majority of Chinese peasants over a period of centuries. This diet relies heavily on grains, vegetables, fish and chicken with meat and fat as very rare treats.

    And when you think of pork belly as a treat–it makes sense. It is something that the average Chinese peasant would only eat once or twice a year, so of course, they craved it and loved it and ate every luscious bit of fat there was. I would too, if I was a peasant. (well, I would too if it was in front of me, which is why I am not scrawny–but that is neither here nor there.)

    So, in the absolute, yes, the “traditional Chinese peasant diet” is healthier, by far, than fast food of any sort and the typical “traditional American diet” of the past century.

    In the particular–well, you are right–in these affluent days, lots of Chinese and Chinese Americans will eat whole bunches of fat, not only because they like it, but because they can. Just like we Caucasian Americans can afford to stuff ourselves with all sorts of stuff that is wretched for us all the time–because we are affluent.

    As for using oil to cook bacon–gah.

    Your ex-husband needed thwapped with a frying pan for that one!

    As for why you crave the McFood, I cannot tell you. I do still eat at one fast food place–Popeye’s Chicken, and I crave it now and again, but I don’t see anything wrong with eating any fast food as a once a month sort of thing.

    Fried chicken once a month will not kill me. If I ate it every day, I would be as big as a house and my heart would probably just jump out of my body and expire on the floor.

    The same is probably true of you and McFood. If it is a once a month thing–no worries.

    If it is every day–look out!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — April 30, 2005 #

  6. BigSmack!

    Heeheehee.

    Actually, Kiri, if it is once a month, it could be hormonal. Hell, everything else gets blamed on women’s hormones, why not that? ;-)

    But really, I like the McSmack theory best.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — April 30, 2005 #

  7. Heh, “Mc” and “i” can be applied to anything as a prefix, it seems.

    I haven’t touched fast food for around 9 months now. My refusal to eat fast food makes it hard on me during roadtrips and the like. My parents can’t stand it, especially when I complain as they eat Subway. :P

    Bacon? Am I the only one who finds bacon too strong and salty?

    Comment by Allen Wong — May 1, 2005 #

  8. I am weird about bacon.

    I tend to eat only the really good, thick cut, no nitrite stuff that is home cured. It tends to be less salty and have more meat flavor than the regular bacon you get at the grocery store. It is very meaty, chewy and is like the stuff I grew up eating from my grandparents’ farm.

    Yeah, road trips suck if you refuse to eat fast food. Been there, been doing it for years. It isn’t easy.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — May 1, 2005 #

  9. Two things: if anything is going to imperil Chinese taste buds, it’s the trillions of cigarettes that they consume. Go to any restaurant and you’re bound to see tables puffing away. And if there’s anything the goverment should be warning about, it’s those (but they never will).

    Secondly: it’s pretty funny to me that people would get mad that the government would tell them what to eat or not eat… considering that they have no problem that the government tells them to do so many other things.

    Comment by Astrid — May 5, 2005 #

  10. It is part of why I posted this item in the first place–the irony of folks getting up in arms over warnings about dim sum, but not so much about civil liberties or the lack thereof.

    And yes, tobacco is a big issue in China right now–and has been for a very, very long time.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — May 22, 2005 #

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