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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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A Healthy Place to Eat......Rubbish....(!! or ??)    

By Paul Fox
2219 Views | 10 Comments | 3/30/2014 3:49:02 PM

Sunday.... the only day of the week that many Chinese people have to rest, play, shop and just chill out. Little wonder then that shops and markets are buzzing as throngs of people enjoy their leisure time

As a westerner, if you know anything at all about Chinese people then you will undoubtedly know of their love of food? If you use Weixin (wechat) or qq for example then you will be aware of how many of your friends and contact are habitually taking photos of their lunch or dinner in order to show the world. Recently Gareth Humphries, (Aussiehump), wrote a whole blog on this subject alone

I am in Shanghai now, in a picturesque ancient town called Jiading. The hotel is a mix of old and new styles and right outside the gate is the old Jiading market where what seems like a million people are buzzing around the shops and market stalls. Food is everywhere, from tiny cafes to larger restaurants plus a miriad of small stalls with owners frantically cooking fresh goodies in order to keep the never-ending line of hungry Chinese people at bay

My friend has gone to take care of some family business so I am alone in this place for a few hours. It's not the first time I have been here and so wandering through the streets being constantly stared at (as the only westerner in sight) is actually quite enjoyable. I stopped to take some I-phone pics of the old and beautiful bridges that cross the narrow canals and then some photos of the huge crowd of people milling around this old and pretty market

Young couples walking hand in hand, older couples walking together a few feet apart (obviously married - haha) as well as groups of guys and girls catching up with each other after a week working.....(people-watching in China is wonderful), but most seem to have one thing in common - FOOD!

Growing up in a western country means that we are used to seeing over-weight, fat people in our daily lives, but in China it is different. Fat, overweight, even obese people are so few and far between that you could potentially spend a month here and never see one!  On the occasion that I have eaten Chinese food in a western country it is easy to convince yourself that Chinese food is 'Healthy' because after all - you don't see many fat Chinese people - right?

In the main, Chinese food is arguably much healthier than many western foods. Copious amounts of veggies, seafood and protein are eaten just about with every meal. Even some of the smallest cafes will have live seafood for your choosing that is cooked fresh and then presented for your enjoyment. I am not small by any means but I prefer to stay off the rice and noodles when I am in China and I can often lose 2 or 3 kilos (during the week that I am here) without any conscious effort whatsoever

As I meander my way through the market the smell of freshly cooked food is everywhere, enhanced by the food in the hands of the people as we walk past each other. Cakes and doughnuts. deep fried sticks of 'something-in-batter' all add to the delightful smell of freshly-cooked goodies. It quickly becomes obvious that these stall-holders are doing a roaring trade on what is probably their busiest day of the week.

It is probably fair to say that for the Chinese people enjoying these deep-fried gourmet delights, it is their once-a-week 'treat' and a bit of grease and oil now and again is not going to damage their health (Chinese people as a whole are extremely health conscious) and a little indulgence is not going to make them fat

Many regard us westerners as eating this kind of food day-in, day-out, which is why many of us are so fat in our western culture (especially UK and USA) and perhaps arguably, if we restricted ourselves to eating this kind of 'rubbish food' only once a week, then the fat epidemic in the west would quickly subside.

As I passed a young couple eating squid-on-a-stick, I turned the corner and was immediately faced with a long line of people directly in front of me. The last time I saw such a queue as this was in another part of Shanghai outside a small shop selling freshly roasted chestnuts so I kind-of half expected to discover that this long line of people were also waiting to be served such an arguably 'healthy snack'.....

Alas, as I turned my head to check the name of the shop and see what they were selling, I was faced with the large, familiar 'M'. I stopped in my tracks for a moment as I surveyed the long and growing queue of people. I looked back at the shop just to be certain that it  wasn't the shop next door that they were waiting for - but no.... It was McDonalds!

Is the 'Big-Mac' also going to be the 'once-a-week' treat for many Chinese, or are they going to become addicted to it in the same way many westerners have?

Like the west, McD and KFC shops are springing up everywhere in China as western-style 'fast-food' begins to take a hold. Maybe it is the novelty, maybe it is the taste (though I doubt that - lol), but whatever the reason, it begs the question as to what will China be like in say 10-15 years. Will there be an epidemic of fat people like there is in the west?

I have said it before and I will say it again, I have NEVER had a good western meal in China. Western restaurants that are operated by Chinese offer about as good a quality western dish as you could expect to find when ordering a Chinese dish at a Chinese restaurant in a western country that is operated by a western person - each to their own I say!

One thing I sadly miss when I am in China is a good old-fashioned fish-and-chip shop....Hmm, food for thought I think! 


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#2014-03-30 16:17:46 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Paul, I like the article, but I think the changes you're describing have been in place in the bigger cities in China for a long time. When I arrived in China in 2002, which now feels like a lifetime ago, KFC restaurants had already come into China in droves, and McDonalds was behind but planning to catch up. Likewise Pizza Huts were all over the place already. And there was already a 7-11 on nearly every block.

This was in Shenzhen, but I traveled quite a bit in China in the early years and I think this was true of all the major cities, especially the ones on the east coast. And while I agree with your comments about there being very limited obesity in the older generations, say people over the age of 30 or so, I think if you focus your people watching on the younger Chinese you'll perceive a substantial change has already taken place.

There are certainly a higher percentage of Chinese in their twenties who are showing more girth than is appropriate for good health, and the percentage in the teenage group who are approaching obesity is substantial. The under 10 set appear to me to be in real danger of equaling the same percentages of obesity that adults now suffer in the Western first world countries.

One final point: I read a couple of years ago that Australia had then passed the USA as the most obese population on earth, and based on my visits home to my beloved Canada, I can assure you that Canadians are not far behind. Just to take some of the heat of the USA and UK ;)

#2014-03-30 20:05:07 by Barry1 @Barry1

@paulfox1

Talking about food, the last time I was in China, there were watermelons everywhere. Street vendors selling them on the side walks were in particular abundance. Every time I felt hungry, I'd buy a small melon, get it sliced into quarters, then walk down the street with my face plastered into it, spitting out seeds out onto the sidewalk and enjoying myself immensely. :)

Another memory I have is being in a square in Shanghai filled with at least a couple of thousand people, all walking hurriedly about their business. At 187cm tall, I gazed around, noting how short everyone appeared to be. I then proudly said to my friend, "I think I must be the tallest person in Shanghai.... certainly I'm the tallest person in this pedestrian mall!"

My lady friend giggled and gazed admiringly at the tall, statuesque person (that's me, folks!) who was accompanying her on this particular afternoon.

Another time I was in the back streets of Xuzhou holding my video camera up to take some shots of a very interesting street stall, where a middle aged lady had all manner of assorted, traditional looking goods for sale. Suddenly she saw that she was being videod however and started shouting and gesticulating wildly at me - she wasn't happy!

Being the brave person that I was, I scarpered quickly down the street, noting to myself not to act like such a stereotypical tourist in the future. From then on, I tended to turn on my video camera and take shots of all the street venders by casually sauntering past them whilst holding the camera sideways. This also kept my lady friend happy, who was always nagging at me that I generally always took shots of the "poorer" parts of China, ignoring the richer, well to do sections.

Ahh, memories of China, eh? I can't wait to return there on 26 May for a 31 day holiday.

The lady friend I'm meeting there has said she'll know within 3 to 5 days whether we're right for each other or not. If the answer is yes, she'll then take me to her home town.

If the answer is no however, she'll take me to the nearest fast train station, help purchase a ticket for me to wherever I want to go and once the train arrives, I'll then be on my own.

Whatever happens, I'm sure a CLM blog article should be able to come out of this forthcoming adventure somehow. Watch this space.

#2014-03-31 22:13:42 by Grace172 @Grace172

Well, not all the McD and KFC food are junk food. For example, when my bf was here, we often ate in Mck or order McD food to deliver. Because he doesn't like Cantonese food too much. But when we order McD's food, our orders were different. His orders were often double big mac, French fried and coke, and sometimeds he order ice cream too. My order was always a grilled chicken sandwich(not the deep fried one), a big cup of corns and coffee. As I do not like too sweet food and drink,neither ice cream nor coke. And I don't like any deep fried food neither French fried nor chicken/fish filet, So I ate less oil than my bf. Well, in fact my daughter and I eat much more than my bf every day. He worried his shape because both my daughter and I are thin. So he ate less than us tried not be fatter than us a lot. He always wonder and asked why we ate so much a day but we could still keep good shape. We eat a lot of rice, noodle, meat (including the fat meat) chicken, fish, egg and green vegetable fruits. I think that's because we both like green vegetables. We eat a lot vegetable, middling rice or noodles and little meat every meal. And the cooking way often steam or boiled never deep fired, less oil, less salt, less sugger. And we like tea too. So even though we eat a lot a day we won't gain weigh. My bf said he likes salad too. But the salad he made with the salad sauce which contain a lot of oil. And the bread he made contain a lot of butter. And the spaghetti and lasagna have a lot of oil too. And he like to eat a lot of meat and cheese but little vegetable. He likes beer and ice cream as well. That's reason why the western people are fatter than us I think.
But now many Chinese Children do not like green vegetable but french fried, they like deep fried food and sweet, so I believe they will be as fat as western people when they grow up.

#2014-04-01 18:08:59 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

Haha, Always makes me laugh when I see someone order a huge "BigMac, Large Fries and a DIET COKE !"

#2014-04-01 22:13:47 by sandy339 @sandy339

I think one of the attraction in travelling is the local special food. When I traveled, I always went for the special local restaurant to try something new.
Of course, after a while, I would be very homesick and miss the homemade foods. :)

#2014-04-03 17:04:50 by Grace172 @Grace172

@paulfox1
A fat American boy said that the balance diet meaned that one hand hold a BigMac while the othe hand hold a large bag of French Fries.;)

#2014-04-09 03:40:49 by bmccull @bmccull

I have always found KFC in China to be western food with Chinese characteristics. Whereas McD food is western with McDonald's characteristics - and a menu in Chinese!

#2014-04-18 13:11:29 by Chicano @Chicano

Having lived mostly in Guangdong Province, off and on for about 8 years, China food that is home cooked is the best.

Guilin noodles are my favorite, followed by fried baby ells, lightly batter shrimp on tea leaves and Zhanjiang chicken and of course Sechuan dishes. I'm not into hot pot dishes.

I'll be returning soon for another long stay. I'm retired with pensions and plenty of free time.



#2014-07-13 14:58:32 by zqy2014 @zqy2014

@Barry1

Hi Barry: I have to say you are so humorous person and all your experience in China is so funny through your expression. I am so enjoyable on reading your articles.. Thanks for your sharing on your Chinese story.

#2014-07-14 17:25:07 by Barry1 @Barry1

@zqy2014

"I have to say you are so humorous person and all your experience in China is so funny through your expression"

Thank you for this, Zqy2014. You are a very kind person. Although I should say that this particular article was written by Paul Fox, who is an even funnier and more witty person than I am!

So well done to you, zqy2014 - and well done also to Paul! (y)

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