An Chinese addition to sensei's node The Slow Death of the Japanese Meal

Chinese food has always been less elegant than Japanese cuisine. Hong Kong has its staple of steamed fish, vegetables and rice. Shanghai has their simple cold dishes, spicy vegetables, chicken and soup. The North has man tou and hot pot. Chinese cuisine was much more utilitarian, in a way. However, each region did have its elegant deviations. Cantonese dim sum. Shanghai seafood. The imperial cuisine of Beijing. Food in those varities was an art. I see sushi-making as an art, just like making dim sum.

Recently, the emergence of Chinese fast food has had an eroding effect on Chinese cuisine just like in Japan. Ignoring the Western mutations of Chinese food (chop sui and all that), the mass-production of Chinese food has changed its preparation from being an art to nothing more than an industrial process.

A prime example is the Maxim Corporation line of dim sum restaurants. Maxim, originally a provider of pastries and cakes in Canton, has established a line of fast dim sum restaurants. A bad idea, since dim sum requires attention to be made well. The result? Mediocre, if not horrid tasting dim sum, at rock-bottom prices. It has its own niche in the market, but I would never patronize a Maxim dim sum restaurant.

The production line ethos has been applied to many other cuisines. I can find frozen Sichuan food in any other supermarket. Add spicy sauce for flavor. Hotpot? No problem, add the powder into boiling water and toss in some ingredients. Convenient and cheap it is, but it is slowly eating away at the beauty of some of China's most unique regional cuisines.

Good food is still readily found in China, it's just expensive. Chinese home cooking seems to be strictly utilitarian. Like McDonald's, but tastes much better. I don't think that will ever be changed by the industrialization process. But in the market for regional cuisine, fast food has hit fairly hard. If fast food begins to replace Chinese home cooking, then it is all over for Chinese food.

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