Did you guys know that?
The CIA’s online world factbook has a bounty of interesting numbers on China. As I read the list of China’s bordering countries- Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia (northeast), Russia (northwest), Tajikistan, Vietnam- I think about everything it’s done for the Chinese food culture. Naturally the variety of cuisine varies in every country, but in a land as large as China, you’ll see the influences of these neighbors trickling in from every one of its fourteen borders.
Mexican food has such a large place in today’s American diet. Tex-Mex, Baja California cuisine, and Southwest style flavors- I can only imagine what our diet in the States would be if we were not flanked by two countries, but rather, ten or twenty. And no offense Canada, but your contribution of Poutine isn’t quite on par with Mexico’s gift of Nachos (but it’s okay, because you gave us hockey).
Only when I moved here did I see evidence of the Western Chinese muslim population, looking more Arab than any Chinese person I had been accustomed to seeing. In Guangzhou they sell nuts and dried fruit from their wooden wagon carts next to the subway entrance, and keep the city’s muslim restaurant count high.
The DiploMan and I stopped in at one of these quick-eats joints a few weeks ago. Pointing to a wall of a pictures lit under a fluorescent light tube, we selected a couple of hearty rice and noodle based dishes. It was certainly different than any Chinese food I had eaten in the past, but still had a familiarity that I suppose any beef and noodle dish does in referencing my food memory bank. Maybe it was the satisfaction of an oily plate of noodles, but I could see how Western China survived centuries of turmoil and conquests off of this stuff.