Why are the Chinese so culinarily unadventerous?

One thing that I have found perplexingly odd about the Chinese people who have grown up in China is that they simply can’t “get used to” any sort of western food. I know it’s not genetic or even exceedingly cultural since Chinese children born abroad easily assimilate into the native cuisine even when other aspects seem to remain rather traditional. However, take a trip through any major city in China and it seems that there just simply doesn’t exist any Italian or French or American restaurants or, if there is, it caters almost exculsively to foriegners. Chinese tourists aborad are similarly unadventerous, prefering to stick with the most “authentic” chinese food they can find, which seems markedly different from other tourists who seem intent on trying local fare.

What is it about Chinese food that makes the people growing up on it unable to appreciate the merits of other cuisines?

I forgot to add: The exception to the rule seems to be McDonalds/KFC which have managed to be quite successful over there.

There’s nothing Chinese about this characteristic. I grew up in southern Ohio and I have several acquaintances who never left rural Ohio before adulthood. They are extremely leery of trying anything that they didn’t grow up with – pizza has pepperoni, period, nothing else. Grilled veggies with your burger instead of fries? That’s disgusting! Pineapples in the baked beans? Are you kidding me?

Basically, anyone from any culture who hasn’t become accustomed to trying new and unusual kinds of food before, say, age 25 or 30 tends to be very conservative about food.

Chinese unadventurous?? Man, they eat EVERYTHING there. A Chinese friend of mine was amazed at all the small wildlife that flourishes in American cities – “In China, they’d have eaten them by now.” The fact is that Italian, French, and American cooking are not as different from each other as they all are from Chinese cooking, and it’s not surprising that Westerners transition fairly easily from one to the other. I only know one Westerner who’s been to China, and she didn’t like the food at all – too oily and too monotonous. And I’ll have to say that a lot of Chinese cooking kinda repels me, too.

I found a couple Italian restaurants in China especially in the areas where the rich overseas Chinese lived. I also saw some other American restaurants too in ritzy sections. Oddly enough in Xi’an I even found a Kenny Rogers chicken, a restaurant that I’ve never seen in the US. I think one of the major reason Chinese avoid foreign food has to do with the price. Foreign food is a luxury. KFC, for instance costs costs like 20 RMB in Xi’an, which is actually very cheap for me but more than a lot of chinese make in a day.

McDonalds? KFC? Adventurous?? :dubious:

Western-style restaurants in China are relatively recent and scarce. And a lot of places are too expensive for your average Chan Joh-Long (my made-up version of John Doe) to attend.

I remember in the 1970s in England when lasagne was considered a total and utter culinary adventure in my house.

I know Irish people who will only eat meat, potatoes, and veg, every night, without fail.

I know English people who go to Spain every year and eat nothing but fish and chips.

I have heard American tourists in Dublin saying “Omigod, a Burger King! At last some real food!”

Conversely, you’ll find all manner of restaurarants in Hong Kong and Singapore, with no shortage Chinese people attending them.

Also, I was in Kunming when the first burger fast-food restaurant was opened there, and the lines were round the block.

Thus I theorize: what you have observed is natural human conservatism and fear of the unknown, added to lack of exposure, and possible lack of funds.

Yup, no nation has a monopoly on this behaviour; I’ve seen German tourists in a Cypriot taverna insisting that they wouldn’t eat anything on the menu and they wanted omelette and fries; I’ve seen American tourists in the UK complaining that the pizza/burgers/shakes aren’t like they can get back home; I’ve seen English tourists all over the med seeking out fish and chips or pie and mash and ignoring the local cuisine.

First, there is no such thing as “Chinese food” in China. There is Hunan, Sechuan, Hainan, Cantonese, Shanghaiese, Mongolian, etc. The Chinese I know eat all of those and are quite knowledgable and adventurous with regards to food.

Second, Beijing is rife with Thai and Japanese restaurants as well as lots of other American-style chain restaurants.

Third, food in China is really good. Why eat steak and potatoes if you can get Peking duck.

Last, my Chinese friends like Mexican food and barbeque when they visit here.

My german friend wanted to take me to an american resteraunt when I visited…he was nonplussed when I told him I preferred takeout Donner…at about a tenth of the cost of the american resteraunt=) That evening we had takeout donner, and watched Toy Story 2 =)

No donner places in any kind of driving distance of my home in america, and I love donner.

<gyros, more or less for the rest of us americans>

I agree with the others, I think the premises are off by a smidge, but I’d say there is one kernel of truth in there.

I am not shocked by Chinese preferring Chinese meals and whathaveyou when traveling abroad. If you’ve noticed, Beijing and Shanghai are full of Holiday Inns, Hiltons, and so on. Who do you think stays there? Yup, lots of Western Europeans and Americans. So that saw goes both ways.

However… I think there are a few reasons why there are not a lot of affordable Western restaurants in China, excepting the backpacker type places and the TGI Friday’s type places where a plate of french fries costs a day’s salary. I think there are few places that teach Western style cooking, and invariably, the reasonably-priced Western restaurants I found there had foreign owners (like the pizza joint with a wood-burning oven in Kunming or the Italian place near the eastern part of the Third Ring Road in Beijing).

One significant factor is that many more traditional Chinese simply like the Chinese style of meal. It’s fun to share a plate of food with people. Getting your own entree that is meant JUST FOR YOU is a little bit odd to some.

They call their gyro-like wraps “thunder”, or is that just a coincidental homonym?

My wife is Chinese. When her parents come to visit (from overseas) their biggest gripe is (not surprisingly) “western food.” They hate it. I’m not sure why, but my suspicion is that they’re simply used to eating Chinese food. Anything different is inferior in their eyes.

One evening my wife cooked baked potatoes. Her dad looked at them like they were moon rocks. He kept stabbing them with his chop sticks and asking, “How… do… you… eat… this… thing?”

They also hate rural life. (We live in a log house in the middle of nowhere.) They only feel safe when surrounded by skyscrapers and cement.

No, it’s not a coincidence.

It’s an after effect.


No offense old chap, but I’ve been to Dublin and had Irish food and I don’t blame them :wink:

But seriously, it’s just based on your personal eating profile. I know 5 year old american kids who eat brie and sushi and thai is their favorite food. I know others who’s parents say they will only eat one brand of frozen cheese pizza for all three meals and nothing else.

If people are adventuros and are provided with a lot of options they develop more diverse tastes.

I think a part of this might also be psychology. If a child grows up in a household where one or both parents voice a strong dislike for something, many children will adapt to that view without even trying the food.

Not to hijack but having been to China, I can honestly say, a lot of Americans wouldn’t even consider eating a lot of the stuff I saw in vendor stalls or small eateries there. I loved trying out some new stuff, and i’m pretty adventurous and there were quite a few things even I wouldn’t try. SOme of it just just too far removed from the idea of American “chinese” food.

Not culinarily adventurous? Chinese cuisine is like Outward Bound for the stomach.

But one reason might be that Chinese reportedly regard cheese to be disgusting.  In which case, that would eliminate everything that includes cheese.   And lots of foods include cheese.

But I suspect it’s more likely that many Chinese aren’t excited by foreign cuisines for the same reason that I’d hesitate before tucking into jellied duck foot or thousand year old eggs.

Lactose intolerance is very common among Chinese people. Food that makes you poo for a day sure sounds disgusting to me :stuck_out_tongue:

Why settle for anything less than perfection? :wink:

We’re all talking about the quarters of round bread with meat carved from the huge chunk-o-meat that spins around, with lettuce/tomato/onion/etc. in it, right? If so, it’s Döner.

My great grandpa, who was from Meduno, Italy refused to eat pizza!

He only ate Italian food and he insisted that pizza was not Italian because he never saw it before he came to the U.S.

Any dopers ever eat pizza in Meduno (which is pretty much a speck on the map)?

By the way, Chinese cooking excludes bread as well.