Food

An ancient town in Suzhou, China. (iStock)

Cultural historian: Could we have eaten this elusive perch of Lake Tai?

Gathering with contemporaries in Nan Shi Pi Ji, a Chinese garden in Suzhou, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is reminded of a rare perch found in the east side of Lake Tai called lugui (鲈鳜). This was the fish that Western Jin dynasty poet Zhang Han and other ancient literati craved when they were away from home. Served raw or in its modern rendition steamed, the delicacy is almost too good to eat. Did Cheng get a chance to taste it?
A hearty bowl of swamp eel noodle soup.

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai: The ancients loved a good bowl of swamp eel noodle soup

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai enjoys a refreshing bowl of swamp eel noodle soup in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. He reflects that this local dish continues to be made by nameless chefs in a simple shop frequented by unassuming diners. But there’s nothing simple about that broth — simmered down with generations of humble cooking, it’s nothing short of heavenly.
This photo shows Yuan Longping in 2006, at a press event with Chinese media. (CNS)

Chinese academic: Why the CCP honoured Yuan Longping, the 'father of hybrid rice'

China's “father of hybrid rice”, the late scientist Yuan Longping, was conferred the Medal of the Republic by the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese academic Qiao Xinsheng concludes that amid science and technology debates and praises of Yuan's achievements, the CCP's award demonstrates that the true goals of science are to improve the lives of the people.
People walk along an alley in Zhenjiang Xijin Ferry site, said to be the birthplace of Zhenjiang ham jelly. (iStock)

A Chinese deity and a ham jelly with a 300-year-old history

With each bite of Zhenjiang ham jelly, a traditional dish of Jiangsu province, Cheng Pei-kai remembers local folklores and heroes. There was Zhang Guolao, an immortal who dared to try meat accidentally cured with saltpeter, and also national hero Shi Kefa, who defended Yangzhou with his last breath. What would they have thought of today's tourists, nonchalantly trying a slice of ham jelly or two?
A worker operates a harvester machine at a tea plantation in Minamiyamashiro, Kyoto, Japan, on 14 May 2021. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg)

Lessons for China: The powerful position of the Japanese farming industry

Japan’s farming industry occupies a special position in the country’s political, economic and social development. Although farmers are few in number, they wield a strong influence. As a result, a protected farming ecosystem exists in Japan, which has enabled the country to make great strides in organic farming and reducing carbon emissions. The country has also been adept at leveraging its overseas industrial outposts to support its domestic farming sector. What can China learn from Japan’s experience?
A couple use their mobile phones while sharing a bench at a park in Beijing on 21 April 2021. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

A burning issue among Chinese youths: How to escape the rat race?

The terms “involution” (内卷) and “lying flat” (躺平) are trending these days among young people in China who are speaking out against the intense competition and pressures they face. But how many are actually doing something about it? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan digs deeper into the social phenomenon.
People flock to pay their last respects to Yuan Longping at his memorial service in Changsha, Hunan, China on 24 May 2021. (CNS)

China mourns scientist Yuan Longping, the ‘father of hybrid rice’

Following the recent passing of scientist Yuan Longping, “the father of hybrid rice”, citizens in China called for the flag to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect. Yu Zeyuan says that the authorities seem reluctant to do so for fear of setting a precedent. But for a man whose achievements speak for themselves, no pomp and pageantry is needed.
China's food supply has come under question in recent years, with experts raising issues of sustainability. (iStock)

China's changing diet: Should the world be alarmed?

Given China’s huge population and limited agricultural land, the question “Who will feed China?” first gained prominence in the mid-1990s. Revisiting the issue today, Chinese academic Chen Hongbin notes that China has clear plans to maximise its comparative advantage in agricultural production and use a mix of measures to achieve overall self-sufficiency. However, some people outside of China are still alarmed. Chen examines the issue.
Tea fields in Anxi. (iStock)

Exploring Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea with a Dutchman

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls his study tour in Dehua county sampling tea as he visited dragon kilns and pottery workshops. He was delighted to extend warm hospitality to a Chinese-speaking Dutchman who was there to learn about Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea.