I have travelled quite a lot over the years in order to audit food factories. This includes all of Europe, Scandinavia, the USA, Canada, Turkey and China. In doing so, I have sampled catering in all those places. You can now find the same chains in all countries and I am familiar with the Chinese versions of Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hut.

However you can still also find locally characteristic foods in most places. It is in China that I have eaten the most (to me) bizarre foods including steamed doughballs (challenging) starfish (surprisingly tasty) and jellyfish (very challenging). This last I really struggled with! I have not so far brought myself to try the fried cicadas although my Chinese colleagues crunch away happily. With fast food I found that their attempts to mimic western versions are not very successful. On the other hand the noodles were superb and I have found nothing to compare in the west.

The other thing that I couldn’t help notice was that in three trips to China I have never had a stomach bug. I put this down to the sheer freshness of the raw materials (much animal food is still alive when you arrive at the restaurant – including cicadas) and that it is cooked to order.

While I would not suggest keeping a menagerie in your storeroom in the UK, maybe there is a lesson for us in the west.

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