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Why Is Your Food Still Alive?

Why Is Your Food Still Alive?

(Chinese restaurants will have live seafood displayed)
By Demi Guo
When you first step into a typical Chinese seafood restaurant, you may feel as if you have just walked into an aquarium. There are many transparent water tanks on display with air circulation/filtration machines attached to them, with all the different kinds of seafood inside, but what’s more surprising is that they are all still alive and living in there! 
After you order your food, the waiters go and pick the fish out of the tank within a few minutes, and then proceed to prepare them to be served to you on your table! In the western world, you are probably not accustomed to walking through a gallery of what is to appear on your plate in the next few minutes, and seafood displayed within the menu may not actually be alive at that moment. Most of the fish have already been iced and preserved in freezers or chilled waiting areas to retain freshness, and all you need to do is to check the menu, order and wait for your food to be cooked and served. 
The major reason for this difference is that Chinese people love eating fresh seafood, rather than frozen. They like the food’s natural taste, which you can only have when you cook the food fresh after the fish has been chosen or caught alive. In order to meet people’s needs, seafood restaurants’ owners started to display live seafood to attract and convince more customers of the freshness. What’s more, by doing so they are also able to sell their dishes for higher prices.
In Chinese seafood markets, you will see the same fish tanks, and notice that all creatures are alive too. In the western world, people may be more used to looking for seafood in the supermarket freezers, or displayed on ice as fillets. However, in China, even in supermarkets you will find the seafood area very much alive and separated from the frozen fish displays. In Chinese seafood markets, there are hundreds of seafood stalls and the fresher the seafood is, the more expensive it is. So the owner will try to keep the seafood alive for as long as possible, using salty cold water and keep air circulating throughout the tanks to prevent the water from becoming stagnant. If a fish does die, they need to sort it out and remove it into another sales box with a lower price.
After reading all of the above, you may have questions about how the Chinese chefs are able to handle all the seafood so fast, due to time consuming scaling, and bone removal processes. Actually, Chinese people don’t really care about the bones or shells that much. Some of them even enjoy eating seafood with their hands and enjoy the process of pulling the shells off to get to the meat. 
Westerners may be more used to eating only meat without any shells or bones, and when it comes to fish, they only eat certain kinds of fish with less fishbone, or only the boneless part of fish. However, Chinese people eat “everything”, including the fish heads and tails. For example, Chinese people have a famous dish called “fish head with chopped pepper”, which is amazingly delicious and of course extremely spicy.
It is surprising, but also reasonable that the Chinese have very different eating habits as compared to westerners. Experiencing a different land’s food culture is always fascinating and fun, and in China there are many new adventures waiting for you to experience when you visit!
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