On the other side of the world, different habits operate, including in gastronomy.
Here is Hong Kong’s culinary mores – what Italians don’t know.
Tea is one of the central elements within Chinese culinary culture. According to the legend, tea was discovered more than 500 years ago by the emperor Shen Nung. History tells that the young emperor fell asleep when he was boiling some water, and some tea leaves fell into the container. He then discovered a new drink; nowadays known everywhere. In Hong Kong, you can find a wide range of teas; among them, Pu Erh Tea, which comes from Yunnan province, is the most common.
In Hong Kong, as in China, it is custom ask if one has already eaten as a form of greeting, to ask how he/she is. This shows how food is central within local culture. In fact, a funny saying tells that within Cantonese cuisine, and in Chinese generally, you eat everything that has legs, apart from tables & chairs or people; everything that has wings, except from airplanes; and everything that lives in water, apart from a submarine.
One of the first culinary “shock” is the liquids: is it custom drink hot water, boiling soups and incandescent teas even when the temperatures go above 30 degrees!
Another thing to highlight is the usage of chopsticks. Various rules are associated to how to behave at the table with chopsticks. Generally, in Hong Kongese and Chinese cuisine, you will eat at round table with a rotating tray in the middle. This is according to the Fēng Shui rules, and you will share most of the dishes.
Everyone has a pair of cream colored chopsticks. On the side of the plate and by the side of the sharing plates you will find black chopsticks that are only used to serve the dishes, not to ever use it to eat directly. Other very important thing: never stick the food with your chopsticks to help you eat! It is considered very bad luck because it reminds of the funerary rituals when the incense sticks are burned.
Dim Sum are a special dish from the Canton region. The word “dim sum” in Cantonese could be translated as “snack”, but literally it means “touch heart”.
Last interesting fact to note: the famous fortune cookies. Commonly associated to the Chinese cuisine in the Western culture, the cookies containing wisdom words are actually from Japan. At the beginning of last century, a chef from Kyoto started its production in San Francisco, with a clamorous success.
At the time, Japanese and Chinese were very much associated in western minds. For this reason, Chinese residents in California decided to appropriate the idea and to also sell the fortune cookies in their restaurants!
Hong Kong offers an infinity of culinary possibilities, and will never stop surprising you, take your chopsticks and go discover new flavors! That’s it for our article about Hong Kong’s culinary mores – what Italians don’t know.