COMMENTARY, Jan 6 — Food should be about pleasure. It should not trigger a war of words. But in recent times, it looks like people have become a little too sensitive about food.
Who can forget last year’s kerfuffle about crispy chicken rendang? Or the swords drawn when CNN cited cendol as being from Singapore. Now barely a week into 2019, everyone is hot under the collar… over hot pot!
Here, it is more popularly known as steamboat. According to Wikipedia, hot pot is a Chinese cooking method, where various ingredients such as thinly sliced meat, vegetables, mushrooms and others are cooked in a simmering pot of stock placed on the table.
The cooked food is then eaten with a dipping sauce. In China, where it is extremely popular, different regions serve their own versions.
The debate over hot pot was sparked by an episode of Chinese entertainment show Tian Tian Wen Shang aired last December.
During the show, the host asked a panel… if they had one wish, what dish would they like to see go extinct? Hong Kong-based food critic Chua Lam replied, “Hot pot!”
While everyone gasped in reaction to his reply, he elaborated by saying, “Hot pot is the most culturally insignificant style of cooking. Because you just cut and throw everything in. How tasty would it be?”
The show’s host also gave his two cents. For him, even though his wife is from Chongqing (a place famous for hot pot), he has little interest in hot pot. He said it is because hot pot does not require high quality ingredients.
To him, once you throw in everything, it tastes the same. And sometimes, ingredients as old as two days are put in hot pot.
The other panellists cautioned him for making such a statement and the host then said he loves his wife’s hot pot, to everyone’s amusement.
Since the episode aired, netizens in China have gone crazy criticising Chua Lam’s strong words. Chua Lam whose nickname is “Food God” is no stranger to controversy.
He criticised the choices made by the inaugural Michelin guide in Hong Kong back in 2008 when stalwarts like Fook Lam Moon and Yung Kee failed to get the coveted three stars.
He said that taste is very subjective… especially when you realise the Michelin inspectors are Europeans.
What we must understand is his strong opinions are just that… opinions. They represent his viewpoint. His saying something does not make it so.
The danger of nit-picking is it leads to everything escalating into an unhealthy quarrel.
If it’s not him, it’ll be something else that causes a social media uproar the next day. Shouldn’t we instead discuss more serious food issues… like how to tackle the rising cost of ingredients and its impact on the quality of street food. Or how to rectify the deteriorating quality of restaurant dining.
All this squabbling just means we cannot move forward. At the end of the day, why get upset if someone knocks your favourite dish. As long as you’re happy with eating and enjoying that particular dish, that is all that matters.
After all, it’s your stomach!