方禮倫:Authentic Chinese food 中國烹飪

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Food is an important way through which we experience our culture and connect with our home. When we are away from home, familiar dishes and ways of eating, even familiar tastes, are especially reassuring.

In a short BBC video clip, a Chinese student studying in Scotland is shown trying “Scottish Chinese food”. She is served a collection of popular dishes from a typical Scottish Chinese take-away. These include prawn crackers, fried chicken balls, chicken fried rice, lemon chicken and salt and chilli chicken.

The only dish she finds familiar is the salt and chilli chicken. “It’s the same taste as the Chinese,” she says, no doubt with a degree of politeness.

Some of the dishes are truly more British than Asian. But not all. What of prawn crackers or lemon chicken? Both of these dishes would be familiar to anyone from Southern China. She thought they were strange too.

This was not surprising, as given her accent she was clearly not from Southern China. These dishes may well be exotic to her, just as Hubei (or Chu) food may be to someone from Guangdong.

Even a familiar, such as fried rice, means different things to different people depending on what part of China you are from.

For me, certain styles of fried rice is very much comfort food. It’s a link with home, not only to fast food at Maxims or from cha chaan tengs, but to what I’d have at home. It is what I cooked as a student to get me through cold winters away from home, whether in the UK or in Beijing. It is what I still cook today.

But for someone from the North or West, where dumplings and breads are the staple, rice doesn’t have the same resonance.

In the video the traditional Chinese characters on the menu should have been a reminder that China is too large and diverse a place to understand simply as one homogenous culture. Chinese people, though sharing a familiar civilisational identity, are very different in their tastes.

This rich diversity of cultural and culinary diversity is what makes China all the more enticing. It should be celebrated. Showcasing this diversity will also promote a more complete understanding of China and what it means to be Chinese.

This diversity is promoted within China, were regional differences are celebrated. Yet this message seems designed only for internal tourism.

Outside of Asia, and especially in Western countries, the overriding message is driven by politics. China is overwhelmingly presented as a whole. Stressing one China, and one political entity, leaves little room to showcase the many blooms of Chinese diversity, which is generally under- appreciated. As someone who is part Chinese, and more specifically part Cantonese, I feel this is a great disservice to a culture that I love.

The underlying message of the BBC video is that what many people in Scotland, and perhaps the UK, think of as Chinese food is not really authentic Chinese food. This is true. Foods change to suits local tastes and local ingredients. This is true everywhere.

Few Scots would find much familiar in “Xi chaan”(西餐), or Chinese Western food. To think of food in such broad terms is to acknowledge not what the food is, but what it is not: it is not local food. But with sophistication comes an understanding and appreciation of regional differences.

As with all Chinese people I know living abroad, I know where to go to get authentic Chinese food. I know where I can find authentic Szechuan, Shanghai and Cantonese food. I am sure the students in the video are the same, or if they are still relatively new to Britain, will do so in time.

Often this means knowing not only where to go but what and how to order.

When we first went to our local Chinese restaurant we made sure not only to order in Cantonese, so to be clear what dishes we want, but also to tell the waiters to cook these dishes in a way they would in Hong Kong. Thus we are not served soggy wet fried noodles, but crispy fried chow mien(炒麵)as we are used to having back home. Now that they now what we want, we get what we expect — and the food is good.

So a note to the BBC: Prawn crackers and lemon chicken are authentically Chinese. Just understand what is meant by Chinese food.

陶傑點評

這篇「親中」文章,由中國烹飪起,講到中國文化的獨特性和多元性。主題在於:

Chinese people, though sharing a familiar civilisational identity, are very different on their tastes.

艾未未以中指遙對天安門廣場、巴黎鐵塔、維多利亞港、白宮,為何只限於「政治抗議」,而又進一步狹窄至「不尊重中國」?

作者認為:The rich diversity of cultural and culinary diversity is what makes China all the more enticing. It should be celebrated.

其實,Pluralism(多元化)才是世界豐富和諧的保障。

既然大江南北,都有至少八大菜系,只「炒飯」一樣,南北已見多元,為何中國人的政治見解,必須只規定統一的一種?

作者為西方世界對「中國」的認識只流於膚淺的單元化而不值,選擇在最多人明白的口腔飲食層面,講述多角度之重要。在西方,許多人不明白;在遠東,是有人明白的,只不過這些人對權力慾有執迷的壟斷癖好,不願意面對這種討論,只是裝傻。

陶傑英文遊花園

香港和台灣,面臨世紀的變局。海外華人居住西方國家,也數目龐大。如何提升英文程度,克服文化隔閡,加強英文能力,在亂世中至關重要。

許多華人都有合理的職業或專業的英文程度,但如何在原有的中學文法訓練基礎之上,探討高層次的英語文化和表達方式,以備融入英語世界主流社會?

本欄介紹評析欣賞英文的寫作細節,分享經驗,歡迎提出不同的評析角度和心得。

※ 此欄文章為作者觀點,不代表本網立場。 ※
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方禮倫(Evan Fowler ) ,本地出生成長、中英交界的香港人,在劍橋和倫敦大學政經學院畢業。現居英國。 英文怎樣能表達得更好?香港的英文教育,著重文法正確、詞彙廣泛。但除了這兩樣,說好的英文、寫好的英文,還要有某種英語的理性與感性思維。 好的英文必清晰、婉約而有教養,與中文寫作文化略有不同。有時借用英文的文化特色,用於中文,可以別具一格。但若有一日移居英語國家,與以英語為母語的當地人溝通,融入主流社會,摸通英文表達藝術的深層結構,會很有用。 方禮倫的英文筆觸細膩,每週五他會以英文與我們見一次面,講述香港和海外華人關心的事情。除了獨特的觀點,其文筆可供英文寫作學習參考。