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Kung pao chicken: the poison for Chinese but the meat for foreigners

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Kung pao chicken by Corrado Michelazzo of Shanghai's Va Bene Xintiandi. Yes, even Michelin star chefs love this poor man's chicken dish.
位于上海新天地内的华缤霓意大利餐厅的Corrado Michelazzo大厨烹饪的宫保鸡丁。是的,即使米其林星级厨师都喜欢他做的宫保鸡丁。

It conquered the palates of generations of Westerners who grew up with Chinese restaurants down the street. Expats stroll around China in T-shirts emblazoned with its four characters. Facebook pages sing its wonders.
它征服了一代又一代的随着街上中国餐馆一起长大的西方人的胃口。在中国街头漫步的外国人在t恤上都印着这四个字。Facebook上也歌颂着有关这道菜肴的奇观。

This mystic food is the simple gong bao ji ding (宫宝鸡丁) — chicken fried with chilies and nuts, better known to non-Chinese as kung pao chicken.
这道神秘的菜肴就是一道简单的宫保鸡丁—–将鸡肉、辣椒和各种坚果放在一起用油煎炒—-外国人更喜欢叫这道菜为kung pao chicken(宫保鸡丁)

However, Chinese generally shun the dish.
然而,中国人通常不喜欢点这道菜。

They are baffled by its popularity abroad, and don't want it to represent their cuisine.
他们因为这道菜在国外受到追捧而不愿意点它,并且他们都不想让宫保鸡丁代表中国料理。

Kung pao chicken is the most culturally divisive dish of China.
宫保鸡丁从文化的角度上来说,是道最不纯粹的中国菜。

So what's with the love-hate thing?
那么什么引起了这件让人爱恨交织的事呢?

To explain this conundrum, we asked three prominent Shanghai chefs to chime into the debate — at their own peril.
为了解开这个谜题,我们邀请了三位有名的上海主厨,让他们“冒险”参与讨论。

Our panel of experts included Wang Lishi, manager of King Kong Eatery on Changle Lu, the home of legendary kung pao chicken soup noodles; Anthony Zhao, chef and cuisine consultant at Ultimate Food Concept and kung pao chicken connoisseur; and Corrado Michelazzo, Michelin-star Italian chef at Va Bene Xintiandi, who also enjoys a bit of Chinese food every now and then.
我们的专家小组包括长乐路金刚餐馆的经理Wang Lishi,金刚餐馆制作传奇的宫保鸡丁汤面条;终极食品概念的主厨和烹饪顾问Anthony Zhao,他也是一位烹饪宫保鸡丁的行家里手;还有位于上海新天地内的华缤霓意大利餐厅的米其林星级厨师Corrado Michelazzo,他喜欢时不时地品尝下中餐。

Collectively, the panel came up with the three explanations for the kung pao controversy.
总体上,我们的专家小组针对有关宫保鸡丁的争议,提出了三种解释。

The chicken breast explanation
鸡胸解释法

It’s no secret that Chinese would rather eat cartilage, bones, skin, bowels or any other (by overseas' standards) inedible bit of an animal, rather than a fleshy piece of meat.
众所周知,比起一整块肉,中国人更喜欢吃软骨、骨头、皮、动物内脏或任何其他(海外标准来看)不能吃的一些动物。

According to Zhao, Chinese are reluctant to eat the meaty chicken breast, which is the main ingredient of kung pao chicken.
根据Zhao说的,中国人不喜欢吃鸡胸脯上的那一大块肉,这块肉正好是烹饪宫保鸡丁这道菜的主要原料。

"Chicken breast in China is usually dry and tasteless," he says. “People here prefer the meat next to the bones because it has some juice.”
“中国人通常觉得鸡胸肉又干又没什么味道,”他说。“这儿的人喜欢吃骨头附近的肉,因为这些肉鲜美多汁。”


Michelazzo agrees.
Michelazzo同意这种说法。

“Chinese customers generally don’t like chicken breast,” he says. “Chicken in China tastes too much like poultry for them. I have to import chicken from Japan for them to eat it.”
“中国顾客通常不喜欢吃鸡胸肉,”他说。“对中国顾客来说,中国的鸡肉吃起来太像家禽。我不得不从日本进口鸡肉提供给他们。”

Outside of China, however, breast meat is among the most requested and expensive part of a chicken. This helps explain the success of kung pao chicken among foreigners.
然而在中国以外的地方,鸡胸肉是一只鸡身上最受欢迎和最昂贵的部分。这也就解释了为什么宫保鸡丁这道菜在外国人中受欢迎。

“I also had a prejudice toward chicken breast, but then I tried one in Boston and thought, 'Hey, this is nice and moist,'" says Zhao. “No wonder Western people really like chicken breast.”
“我同样对鸡胸肉有着偏见,但是当我在波士顿试过一次以后,我就想,鸡胸肉挺可口多汁的,”Zhao说道。“难怪西方人喜欢吃鸡胸肉。”

The intense sauce explanation
浓郁的调料汁解释法

One of the most important features of kung pao chicken is its starchy, syrupy sauce.
宫保鸡丁最重要的特征之一就是其黏糊的,甜甜的调料汁。

Michelazzo says Westerners appreciate the dish for the balanced taste of the sauce.
Michelazzo说西方人因为这种调味恰到好处的料汁而喜欢这道菜。

“The sweet-and-sour flavor and starchy texture are typical of Chinese restaurants in the West,” he explains. “We like to associate those qualities with Chinese cuisine, even though that might not necessarily be true of Chinese cuisine here.”
“西方的中餐馆的显著特点就是提供这种糖醋味以及富含淀粉的菜肴,”他解释道。“我们喜欢把这些东西与中国菜结合起来,即使这对正宗的中国菜来说是完全没有必要的。”

Zhao makes the point that the distinctive sauce might be a reason for local aversion to the dish.
Zhao指出,这种特别的调料汁也许正是当地人不喜欢这道菜的原因。

"To many Chinese, kung pao chicken is too saucy and intense, and you can only accompany it with rice," he says. "Very few Chinese would eat the dish by itself.”
“对很多中国人来说,宫保鸡丁调料太多,口味太重,你能吃就着米饭吃下这道菜。”他说道。“很少有中国人会光吃这道菜。”

One anonymous marketing expert says it is increasingly common among young Chinese to suspect restaurants that use intense sauce — such as is used in kung pao chicken — do so as a means to cover the taste of old meat.
一位匿名的市场专家说越来越多的中国年轻人怀疑餐馆之所以用味道这么浓郁的调料汁—比如宫保鸡丁这道菜中所用的—是为了遮掩不新鲜的肉散发出的味道。

While rejecting that notion ("We always use fresh chicken"), Wang Lishi of King Kong admits that the intense taste of kung pao chicken makes it increasingly unpopular among young Chinese.
拒绝接受这点(“我们总是使用新鲜鸡肉”)的金刚餐馆经理Wang Lishi 同时承认,宫保鸡丁的重口味使得这道菜在中国年轻人中,越来越不受欢迎。

“Around 10 years ago, to most Chinese, Sichuan cuisine only meant kung pao chicken and a handful of other dishes,” she says. “Now young people want something more delicate and unusual when they eat Sichuanese fare.”
“大约十年以前,对于大部分中国人来说,川菜仅仅意味着宫保鸡丁和其他少许几个菜,”她说道。“当现在的年轻人吃川菜时,他们想要品尝一些更精致的、更特别的菜。”

 

The cultural pride explanation
文化自豪感解释法

Yet there is a deeper and perhaps more interesting answer to the kung pao dilemma. Kung pao chicken is a dish that stirs memories and feelings among Chinese that are not always positive.
然而,对于宫保鸡丁面临的窘境,这还有一个更深层次、更有趣的答案。宫保鸡丁是道能唤起中国人回忆的菜,但是这些回忆却不总是积极的。

Zhao explains that when the first restaurants opened their doors after the country's economic reforms, they all served simple dishes like kung pao chicken.
Zhao解释道,当中国实行经济改革,首批餐馆开张营业时,这些餐馆都提供一些简单的菜式,如宫保鸡丁。

“At the time, chicken was rare and pork was the common staple, so we regarded kung pao chicken as special,” says Zhao. “But now, eating chicken is the norm, and people's tastes are evolving toward more complicated and sophisticated dishes.”
“那个时候,鸡肉很稀少,而猪肉是常见的食物。因此,我们认为宫保鸡丁是道特别的菜。”Zhao说。“但是现在,吃鸡肉变成很普遍,人们的口味正朝更加复杂和精美的菜式转变。”

According to Zhao, to some people, kung pao chicken is a symbol of poorer times. Today's proud Chinese are eager to shake off the remnants of their indigent past.
根据Zhao所说的,对一些人来说,宫保鸡丁象征着那段苦日子。今天,骄傲的中国人正急切地想要摆脱他们贫困的过去留下的影子。

However, the fate of kung pao chicken is not yet sealed. Wang believes inflation in China is about to elevate kung pao back to the top of the menu.
然而,宫保鸡丁的命运还没有被终结。Wang相信,中国的通货膨胀将把宫保鸡丁送回到菜单上第一的位置。

"Peanuts are getting more and more expensive," says Wang. “Soon a plate of kung pao chicken will become so pricey that people will stop thinking it's such a cheap dish.”
“花生变得越来越贵了,”Wang说道。“很快,一盘宫保鸡丁将会变得更昂贵,这样人们将不再认为它是道便宜菜了。”

 

Voice:

 

Alvie Singer
What a terrible article. It starts with a specious claim: 'Chinese people hate kung-pao' and then backs it up with equally incredulous evidence. "It's no secret Chinese would rather eat any inedible bit of an animal" I know this is the internet, but what about a little integrity? Do your articles always stink Ms Fenn, or were you hungover for this one?
真是篇糟糕的文章。这篇文章以一段似是而非的结论开头–“中国人讨厌宫保鸡丁”,然后又用一些同样值得怀疑的证据来支持这个结论。“众所周知,中国人更 喜欢吃软骨、骨头、皮、动物内脏或任何其他不能吃的一些动物”。我知道这是互联网,但是诚实点怎么样?Ms Fenn,你的文章总是这么臭不可闻么?或者你写这篇文章的时候喝高了么?

 

Histdd
This is the silliest thing I have seen all day. Maybe Chinese don't like American "kung pao" because the foreign chefs make it WRONG?If you ever served gong bao ji ding in China with a "starchy syrupy" sauce, your customers would demand their money back.And I'm with Thomas – nobody working on this article thought to ask someone from Sichuan? That's like an article about pizza, and "forgetting" to ask an Italian.
这是我这一天见过的最蠢的事。也许中国人之所以不喜欢美式“宫保鸡丁”是因为外国厨师们错误的烹饪方法?
如果你在中国供应这种“富有淀粉、甜甜的”的宫保鸡丁,你的顾客们是不会付给你餐费的。
并且,写这篇文章的人从来没有想过要问问四川人的意见么?这就好像你要写篇关于披萨的文章,却“忘记”采访一下意大利人。

 

Troyce Key
The article is simply untrue, completely untrue. I live in Shanghai for 11 years now and I see Chinese everywhere in this city eat the dish for lunch everywhere. My Chinese friends love it and eat it often. That being said, the dish that they often don't eat very often is the Sweet and Sour Pork that Americans love so much. However, I do see it often enough too.
这篇文章说的不对,完全不对。我住在上海11年了,我看到在这个城市里到处都有人中午的时候吃这个菜。我的中国朋友们都喜欢这道菜并且常吃这道菜。话虽这么说,他们最不常的一道菜,就是美国人超爱的咕噜肉。然而,我也常常看到这道菜。


My objection to this writer is that she has invited three chef "authorities" to weigh in on the subject. Those chefs cook at three of the most exclusionary places in the city. Places where 99 percent of the city's 22 million citizen cannot afford to eat at. The author needs to get out more and stop hanging out at Xintindi for her 'news'. The readers here should know that Xintiandi is a Disney version of Shanghai where foreign business guys traveling here on their vast expense accounts go to eat with their new temporary Chinese girlfriends. It looks like a theme park. It is a highly sanitized version of Shanghai and China itself built for people who don't want to look at or interact with Chinese people or life here including the questionable health standards. 我之所以反对作者的观点,是因为她邀请三位“当局者”厨师参与讨论这个话题。这几位厨师工作于这城市最不大众化的三个地方。这座城市2200万人口中的 99%的人都负担不起这三个地方的餐费。作者需要得到更多的讯息,不应就从新天地这里推导出她“新闻”的结论。在这读这篇文章的人需要知道新天地就是上海 版的迪斯尼,很多外商带着他们新结交的临时的中国女友,用他们充盈的账户,来到这儿大吃大喝。新天地就像个主题公园。它是上海的一个高度净化版,是中国为 那些不想看,或不想与中国人民打交道,或不想生活在令人怀疑的卫生标准下的人而建的。

 

Thomas
I wish this story interviewed some Sichuan chefs…many locals in Sichuan love kung pao chicken…
我希望这篇文章采访一些四川厨师,很多四川本地人都喜欢吃宫保鸡丁……

2016-06-22

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