Food Glorious Food

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There’s no doubt that China suffers from some horrible food adulteration problems because of lax control. My colleague Jodi Xu notes that in the last few months there have been a slew of stomach turning cases. In November, for example, the Shanghai authorities issued a warning about buying farmed Turbot after the local health bureau found carcinogenic antibiotics in the fish; At almost at the same time, the cancer-causing dye Sudan Red was found in red-yolk duck eggs in Fujian. (Chinese customers are willing to pay more for redder yolks because they believe these eggs were hatched by ducks with better diet so that they are more nutritious.) Two weeks later, a Beijing supermarket was found to sell vermicelli containing formaldehyde. In another case, farmers were caught injecting a green dye into vegetables to make them look fresher. The list goes on.

Still, on the positive side, having heard all these horror stories before I moved to china last year, I was stunned by the range of wonderful fresh produce that was available. Even broccoli, of which I am no great fan normally, seemed to taste better and didn’t give off that characteristic, disgusting smell when boiled. Susie Jakes introduced me to a wonderful market in Beijing where , with admirable entrepreneurial spirit, the vendors have twigged to the fact that there was money to be made by going outside their usual range of vegetables and catering specifically to the growing number of foreign shoppers. With Susie’s encouragement (thank you!) some of the vendors started growing things like fennel, thyme, sage, Italian parsley, plum tomtatos and so on. Now it has got to the point that you can actually get two different types of arugala, which is better than some parts of Italy. Today they were even selling Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which is tough to find (and wildly expensive) even in the city’s expat-oriented supermarkets. This may not seem that big a deal but this is after all the town where until recently the only winter vegetable available at markets was cabbage, mountains of the stuff. And long-time residents will still tell stories about the buzz that ran around town the day that someone flew in with a suitcase full of cheese.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the market for those of you who enjoy such things. I certainly do.