Category Archives: Food

KFC to take customers at face value

It’s been over three years since our last KFC update, but happily this time the news is so good you might be tempted to lick your fingers!

Super Chinese search engine Baidu has partnered with the Louisville-based fowl giant Kentucky Fried Chicken to trial a new “smart restaurant” in Beijing.  The smart bit is that the restaurant has terminals which use face recognition software to suggest a choice of meal, based on the customer’s age, gender and mood.  A worked example might be as follows: “Hi – you appear to be a 47 year old man who is disillusioned with the state of the world in 2017 – have a family bargain bucket!”

However, disappointed fast food enthusiast and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Buckethead  (pictured) is reported as saying that the face recognition terminals “simply do not work”.


65 years after KFC first opened its doors, the identity of the 11 herbs and spices that go into founder Colonel Harland Sanders’ “original recipe” coating remains a matter of intense speculation .  However, if I had to guess, I would go for salt, black pepper, white pepper, celery salt, garlic salt, thyme, basil, oregano, dried mustard, paprika and ground ginger.

More at the Guardian.

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Taking things too chuanr

Position statement: Brushduck opposes the Beijing authorities’ move to ban outdoor grills from the streets of the capital from 1 May 2014


While it is agreed that the rarely reported pollution in Beijing is becoming an issue, we say tackle vehicle and industrial emissions instead – this will also make it nicer when sitting on comically undersized chairs on the side of the road eating yang rou chuanr.

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That’s not OK(FC)

Something everybody knew, but would probably have preferred not to have had confirmed, has been confirmed by CCTV this week.

That something is that if you plan on grabbing a drink at KFC in Beijing, you would be 13 times better off filling your own ice tray from a public loo, freezing the cubes at home, and taking the cubes along to KFC, than lumping for KFC’s own ice cubes.  Ok, let’s say ten times better off (less convenient).

Not bothered

Not bothered

OK, here comes the science bit – a Beijing KFC’s ice cubes were reported to contain 900 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria per millilitre.  That is 13 times more than toilet water and more than 20 times the national limit (though to my mind 45 CFUs per millilitre doesn’t sound that healthy either).

 However rest assured that shrimp flavoured potato chips have been given the all clear.

For more, see the South China Morning Post.


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Ramen Infographic

Why Ramen is great:
We Love Ramen Infographic
Created by:

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Bawtry dog-meat scandal – wait, am I being stereotyped?

Zhang Lijia’s Guardian piece ‘Dog meat at a Chinese restaurant inYorkshire’ – why do such myths spread? was prompted by the story of a Chinese restaurant that has been put in financial difficulty by a local rumour of a diner choking on retired racing greyhound’s microchip.

While I have sympathy for a business that suffers due to vindictive rumour mongering, the article presents a number of strands of criticism that don’t really tie up.  Zhang takes the opportunity to comment generally on the fascination of westerners with the oddities of Chinese cuisine, calling our obsession a form of racism.    To my mind, she throws out the “R” word too freely.

I understand her frustration, for example, that UK prime time television documentaries on China are more likely to end up with a donkey penis feast than a serious social discourse.  However it is hard to deny that examining the eating habits in other countries can be educational and entertaining.  And for those who are interested, programs on China’s social, economic and political issues are also common (recently, BBC Four’s excellent Storyville series Law of the Dragon).

Always an alternative

But I was most surprised by Zhang’s claim that although “China has a fabulous and sophisticated cuisine, westerners always focus on the tiny percentage of what we eat that is weird”.  This seems factually unsound.

Chinese food is one of the globe’s “3 Grand Cuisines”, a feature of every UK high street and a major draw for visitors to China (and perhaps part of the reason some stay).  However it is reproduced, Chinese food is hugely popular worldwide, and not for being weird.

But secondly, since she brings it up, there is no way that it is only a “tiny percentage” of what is eaten in China that people in the UK might consider weird.  You can eat dog.  Generally, many more parts of many more animals feature on menus.  When living in Dalian I saw the phrase 天上龙肉 地上驴肉 (In heaven dragon meat, on earth donkey meat) adorning restaurant exteriors.  But nobody’s going to force you to eat anything you don’t want (note: that is not true).

Some elements of Chinese, or any other, cuisine may not be to everyone’s taste.  But Zhang doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the majority take an interest in aspects of cultural diversity for making the world a more interesting place.

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Strange fruit exploding

Excessive use of growth accelerator Forchlorfenuron has caused watermelons to explode like landmines in Danyang near Nanjing.  Pan Jing of Greenpeace said farmers depended on fertilisers because many doubled as migrant workers and had less time for their crops.


Fruit is not always good for you

According to research published in 2001, 3.4 per cent of injuries requiring surgery in the Solomon Islands were coconut-palm related. Only 16 per cent of these were people hit by falling coconuts. The rest were people falling from trees.

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Where to go in China town (part II) – ‘mouth tingling’ chicken

Red n Hot at 59 Charing cross road.

At £18 a head (no booze) we had a veritable feast.

Red n Hot is a chain restaurant that has hit the Chinatowns of London, Birmingham and Manchester and represents part of a growing trend towards Sichuanese food in the UK. Although it is not as good as Bar Shan/Bar Shu round the corner, it is a bit cheaper! We went for some classic Sichuanese dishes:

fish fragrant aubergines 鱼香茄条

cumin flavoured lamb 孜然羊肉

gongbao prawns 宫保虾球

dumplings in chilli oil  红油水饺

and my personal favourite – sichuan ‘mouth tingling’ chicken 四川口水鸡

Red n Hot was full of people eating hot pot – which is reasonably priced at £20 a head. I took the challenge of trying to beat that price by ordering a la carte. Red Hot is slightly off the main Chinatown beat (Gerrard St) but it represents a good value and serves up some authentic Sichuanese dishes so is well worth it!

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Where to go in Chinatown? (part one)

I love Chinatown. It is probably my favourite part of London, but everytime I am there I find it hard to decide where to go. So I thought I would make a multi-part guide to a few places I like in Chinatown.

PART ONE – Jen Cafe

This place is perfect for a quick meeting for some milkbubble tea (banana flavour is the best), a crispy pork and rice dish, or a dumpling soup.  Alternatively you can watch them make the dumplings in front of you. roughly £6 a head.

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伦敦没有 #1: Street sweet potatoes

In this new feature we ask why good and simple Chinese things that should be available in London are not available in London.

1. 烤红薯 Baked Sweet Potato

(Definately should be) coming soon to a street corner near you!

Sold by a man, on a street corner, by weight, from a steaming barrell,  this delicious treat requires no additions and can definately keep you filled up til tea.  Selling for about 50p on dusty roadsides in cities Chinawide, I see no reason why these should not be a common sight on London’s streets throughout the 2011/12 winter. RRP £2.

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