“A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing,” author Lilian Hamilton writes for Chinese state media outlet Global Times in a recent video news feature. The video criticizes fusion foods such as the ‘Baozi burger’ or ‘Baozza’ (baozi + pizza) that mix popular Western and Chinese fast foods.
The feature was covered by Beijing blogger Jim Boyce on Beijingboyce.com, where he writes that “state-owned medium Global Times just cooked up a heaping serving of culinary cultural appropriation shade with a side dish of WTF. In this slide show, it takes aim at “baozza”, the tasty pizza-baozi combos I have covered here, here and here.”
Culinary ‘cultural appropriation’ has been an online issue of debate for some time now. In this Huffington Post article, for example, the author expresses that she finds it “painful” when, among other examples, the New York Times issues a recipe that features ‘pho’ (a type of Vietnamese soup) with broccoli and quinoa, or when 7Up releases a self-invented kimchi recipe.
“It combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”
In the thousands of restaurants in cities such as Beijing or Shanghai there will be new food trends popping up every day. The ‘baozza’ is one of them; it is a steamed bun, called baozi (包子) in Chinese, filled with pizza ingredients.
The full text of the Global Times feature, which was also published as an editorial, is as follows:
“A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing: BAOZZA (Baozi + pizza). Baozi is a common Chinese breakfast dish or snack. A fluffy steamed white bun with a vegetable or ground meat filling.”
“Pizza is brought to life by the Italian thin crust dough and the right sugo (tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese and fresh toppings.”
“Baozza claims to be ‘Pizza with Chinese characteristics.’ Instead, it combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”
“There must be at least a temporary demand. Otherwise, a newly-opened bar in Sanlitun would not offer ‘Burger Baozi’ on their menu. With the bamboo steamer basket being a mere decoration, these grilled ‘baozi’ halves come with beef, chicken, Beijing duck or mushroom filling. While a boazi at your regular street vendor costs 2 yuan, you pay around 50 yuan for a ‘Baozi Burger.’”
“Luckily, these fusion food fads are usually gone faster than you can flush the remnants of your latest food poisening down the toilet.”
The article text by Lilian Hamilton also says that the ‘baozza’ “seems like an insult,” and is “wrong on just so many more levels.”
“A growing movement of people call out ‘white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures’.”
At a time when cultural appropriation, in general, is a hot topic, the idea of the cultural appropriation of food has also become more of an issue of debate.
Defining the term and idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ itself is not easy. While the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” the Urban Dictionary says it is “the ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures.”
A recent example is that of the American girl who wore a Chinese-style dress to her prom – something people in US seemed to take offense to, while most commenters on Weibo deemed the critique was silly.
The ‘cultural appropriation’ of food suggests that certain foods can be ‘confiscated’ when people from a dominant culture start to commercialize it.
A 2017 BBC article featured the views of Filipino-American food and travel photographer Celeste Noche, who finds it problematic that food bloggers will posts photos of, for example, Filipino short ribs with chopsticks (“even though Filipinos traditionally eat with spoons and forks or their hands”), or the stylization of Asian dishes on bamboo mats or banana leaves.
A Washington Post article from 2017 also addressed a growing movement of people who call out “white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures,” one of the names mentioned being Fuchsia Dunlop, a UK-born cook and food-writer who specializes in Sichuan cooking.
“A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative..”
So are the ‘baozza’ or the ‘baozi burgers’ the next targets in the campaign against the ‘cultural appropriation’ of food?
The American inventer of the ‘baozza’, Alex Cree, evidently does not see anything wrong with it. He came up with the idea of stuffing a Chinese steamed bun with cheese, tomato, or other pizza toppings, during a trip with clients in southern China.
On Weibo, the only comments relating to Baozza are those of people who are curious to try out the ‘fad’ food. New or original food items such as these are often (temporarily) popular; another recent food item that attracted the attention of Chinese netizens was the Zang Baobao, a Chinese-French chocolate croissant product.
On Twitter, the attack on fusion snacks is also does not receive much understanding. “A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative! Way more tasty than traditional baozi,” @XiaoLan17 writes.
A "marketing gag"? @globaltimesnews More like genius and truly innovative! Way more tasty than traditional baozi.
— XL China (@XiaoLan17) 21 juni 2018
Damien Ma (@damienics) is already thinking of the next food fad; a ‘moonut’ that mixes Chinese moon cake with donut products.
Been thinking a moon cake/donut cross over product, the “moonut,” might work in China – red bean glaze, matcha custard filling? Yes/no?
— Damien Ma (@damienics) 20 juni 2018
Although Global Times‘s Lilian Hamilton and others might object, the rise of fusion food trends shows that snacks such as the Baozi Burger, the Baozza, or the potential ‘Moonut’ will not disappear from China’s big-city restaurant scene anytime soon.
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Coca Cola Chicken Wings Are Here! McDonald’s China Introduces Cola Chicken on Its Menu
Add cola, add chicken, and it’s a recipe for success.
It is one of those dishes everyone in China will know of, yet its origins are somewhat murky: Cola Chicken.
Cola Chicken (可乐鸡) is a sweet and sour cooking dish using cola, chicken, ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine, and Sichuan pepper as its main ingredients (the Chinese way).
Braised Coca-Cola Chicken wings are especially popular in China, combining Chinese style braising and Coca-Cola to create juicy and savory BBQ style wings (see recipe).
According to some, Cola Chicken comes from Jinan, Shandong, where a cook in a restaurant accidentally tipped over a can of Coca Cola into a chicken dish, after which he discovered the taste of the soda matched the simmering chicken.
Others allege two Chinese Coca Cola salespersons thought of the recipe first.
Another explanation states that ‘Cola Chicken’ was already made in Western countries, using tomato sauce as one of its main ingredients. The dish then became popular in Taiwan, where the tomato sauce was replaced by soy sauce.
Whatever its origins are: Cola Chicken is hugely popular in China. So popular, in fact, that McDonald’s China announced on Weibo this week that it would add ‘traditional cola chicken wings’ to its menu.
The latest addition to the McDonald’s China menu is a special collaboration between the Coca Cola brand and McDonald’s.
“I love Mcdonald’s, I love Coca Cola, I wanna try!”, commenters on Weibo say: “I absolutely love Cola Chicken wings.”
Although social media responses to McDonald’s Cola Chicken have been very positive, some who have actually tried it out are less enthusiastic.
“I had them, but.. I actually didn’t taste any cola flavor. Are we supposed to soak them in our coke first?” one disappointed netizen wonders.
Others also expressed similar sentiments, writing: “I am confused by how it tastes” and: “I think it tastes really weird, but I can taste the Cola in it!”
But others who tried it are very happy: “I loved them! While chewing, the skin of the chicken bursts open, giving you that feeling of a carbonated drink. And the chicken is slightly sour and sweet, with that hint of Coca Cola.”
The Cola Chicken wings are not the only special additions to the McDonald’s China menu, which also offers “Sichuan Spicy Double Chicken Burger,” “Jumbo Milk Tea,” “Taro Pie,” and “Corn cups.”
Earlier this year, Mcdonald’s China also introduced a Japanese beef rice bowl to its main menu selections.
Many introductions to China’s McDonald’s menu have come and gone over the past few years. Whether Cola Chicken will be one of the items on the McDonald’s menu that’s here to stay is yet to be seen.
Talking about Cola Chicken, a recommendation: the touching and funny short documentary (25 min) ‘Cola Chicken’ tells the story of the Chinese Chen Chen, who works as a tour guide in Spain, and dreams of opening up his own Cola Chicken restaurant one day:
By Manya Koetse
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98-Year-Old Hotpot and Coca Cola Lover Becomes Online Hit
Are hotpot and cola the key to longevity?
This week, a 98-year-old Chengdu resident has become an online hit on Chinese social media, after videos of her and her granddaughter went viral. The popular grandmother loves to drink Coca Cola, eat hamburgers, and is crazy about hotpot – but only if it’s really spicy.
The 98-year-old became an overnight hit because of the videos posted by granddaughter Cai on China’s popular video app Douyin (TikTok), that show the grandmother’s great appetite for spicy food, alcohol, and sweet sodas.
When the granddaughter tries to persuade her grandma to drink less alcohol (“You’ve already had five!”) she’ll pour herself another cup; while dozing off, she’ll still talk about her favorite hotpot with beef tripe; when eating her hamburgers, she’ll eat so fast that her dentures fall out – all moments that were caught on video by Cai.
The woman, who has been nicknamed “grandma foodie” (吃货奶奶), has been starring in her granddaughter’s Douyin videos since August of last year. Since then, she has accumulated a social media following of some 410K fans and has now risen to nationwide fame, with dozens of Chinese news outlets writing about her. On March 4, she became the number one trending topic on Weibo.
On social media, most netizens praise the grandma for her positive attitude. “I hope I can do all the things I love, too, when I reach her age,” some say: “Eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and drink whatever you like, whenever you like.” “Eating good food is the key to happiness,” others write.
Some also see a lucrative opportunity in the grandma’s sudden rise to fame: “She should become a brand ambassador for Coca Cola.”
Granddaughter Cai told Chinese reporters: “I think it’s the contrast that makes her so popular. She drinks Coke, eats hamburgers, loves spicy food, and all that greasy food. She’s leading the life of a young person, and it appears to be very unhealthy. But she still has longevity.”
Because Cai’s grandma does not know much about social media, Cai tried to explain to her that “many, many people” like her a lot. “Why on earth would they like me for?” she replied: “I’m old!”
By Manya Koetse
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