Chi­nese bread is weird

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Lisa Linssen

One ques­tion I am be­ing asked fre­quently in China is whether I like Chi­nese food and if I pre­fer south­ern or north­ern cui­sine. Yes, I like the food, and gen­er­ally speak­ing I pre­fer dishes from the south. Of course, there are cer­tain dishes that my taste buds do not en­joy, such as “stinky tofu” and chicken heads. But there is one par­tic­u­lar dish very com­mon in the north that I just never man­aged to get used to.

Man­tou (Chi­nese steamed buns), is a cloud-like bread that is a pop­u­lar sta­ple food in the north. I re­mem­ber the first time I tried man­tou. It was dur­ing a visit to Shenyang, the cap­i­tal and largest city of China’s north­east Liaon­ing Prov­ince. It was at my school’s can­teen and I thought it was a sim­ple bread role like we eat in the West.

As a China new­bie at the time, I didn’t know how to pick up such a big piece of dough us­ing chop­sticks, so I sim­ply pierced right through the man­tou with my chop­stick. Slightly ex­pect­ing it to taste like bread, I am sure one could tell the dis­ap­point­ment on my face when I found it was just pure, taste­less dough,

Its not that I find man­tou dis­gust­ing, it is more like I don’t un­der­stand it. While you can add sauce to rice to give it more fla­vor (and rice is so much hand­ier to eat with chop­sticks) I find dip­ping man­tou in sauce very messy, as the soft dough im­me­di­ately be­comes soggy and falls apart.

I un­der­stand that there are dif­fer­ent sizes and tex­tures of man­tou; the smaller, softer and fluffier ver­sion is served at nice restau­rants, while the “work­ing man’s lunch” is a very large – up to 15 cen­time­ters – firm and dense ver­sion of man­tou. My first man­tou was this kind; I re­mem­ber chew­ing on it for a long time.

In fact, both are not re­ally to my lik­ing. Its not only that I think man­tou tastes like noth­ing, but I also can­not ap­pre­ci­ate its tex­ture. The cloud-like ap­pear­ance just con­fuses me for the same rea­son I also do not like cot­ton candy, which looks great but is a very un­sat­is­fy­ing eat.

And due to my gen­eral dis­like of man­tou, I also do not en­joy eat­ing baozi (thick, dumpling-like buns stuffed with fill­ing). Some­times I feel like I am the only for­eigner in China who does not like baozi. When­ever I tell peo­ple this they are amazed and ask me how I can even sur­vive in China with­out gorg­ing on baozi.

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