China has a unique food culture compared to the West. For instance, my wife loves noodles. I’ve followed her down narrow Shanghai streets to a well-known won-ton and noodle shop on the corner of Chang-le and Shang-yang Road. The front is open and the ceiling low with each narrow table crowded with Chinese sitting on small chairs shoveling noodles in with chopsticks.
My wife orders a small bowl of noodles with peanut sauce for me and a bowl of blood soup and another bowl of noodles with spicy hot Sichuan peppercorn sauce for her. As she eats, sweat beads her face but there is not one word of complaint—not one sign that she is suffering. Instead, this seriously satisfied look spreads across her face as if she has entered a Chinese noodle heaven.
When visiting Nanjing Road in Shanghai between People Square and the Bund, we always stop at the same food shop where my wife orders steaming hot noodles with the same peppercorn sauce, and I order deep fried, fresh chou dofu (stinky tofu) with the same sauce that causes me to sweat too.
At celebration feasts, a wider variety of food will be served from whole fish, crab, a variety of vegetable dishes and tofu.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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