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Food and Health in Hong Kong

by Tatsuru Kimura

Hong Kong

I could eat so many kinds of delicious foods in Hong Kong.  One can eat delicious food in the touristic area, but if you step into the back streets of Hong Kong, it is easy to find the reasons why the foods taste so good in Hong Kong.

It seems that people are eager to get fresh food in Hong Kong.  In local markets, several live chickens are packed in a cage two feet square.  On boathouses, they keep chickens to have fresh meat.  Although it is not rare to see live chickens in markets in rural areas of my country, Japan, I had never seen such scenes in urban areas, especially along the streets between tall buildings.  I even felt weird that I did not see the scene where someone kills the chicken, despite having seen so many live chickens and eating so many chickens.     In Participating in the Global: Transnational Social Networks and Urban Anthropology, Alan Smart writes about his fieldwork on Hong Kong’s functional transition to a global financial center and the change of society which is incidental to the transition.  Although he focused on newly constructed areas such as a residential area for factory workers, I think it is also interesting that such crowded and jumbled streets exist next to the sophisticated financial district.

In Hong Kong, fish markets are everywhere and they are lively even at night.  Clerks fillet live fish and shrimp in front of customers.  Customers choose fish so seriously, though all fish look the same to me.  In front of some shops, a crowd of people had gathered.   According to the guide of a field practica I attended, some women wait for fish to die since dead or dying fish are much cheaper but they are still fresh.  The guide also told us how to tell whether cooked fish is fresh or not.  People in Hong Kong are clearly very particular about fresh food.  In addition, the guide said that people do not like cultivated fish because it tastes different from naturally grown fish.  Recently, I see so many organic food shops in the U.S. or Japan for the people who are concerned about their health.  I guess, in contrast, Chinese naturally continued to take organic food because they simply like the tastes of organic food and they know how to tell which is the good food. 

More about food, I realized the importance of the concept of “medication through eating”.   There are a lot of Chinese medicine shops and the shops often sell food that is good for one’s health.  Also, I could easily find desert shops that provide varieties of sweet soup for relatively cheap price.  The title of each soup tells how the soup contributes to your health.  For example, the one I ordered is supposed to be good for my throat.  I do not know if the soup actually works for my throat because it still hurts, but I am quite sure that Chinese like this type of food because the store was so crowded with men and women of all ages.  

Today, you can find Chinese restaurants everywhere in the world.  Chinese people strain at getting good food and this may enable the global spread of Chinese food.

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