Food corner

China’s cadmium-tainted rice turns up in Hong Kong – but it’s exclusive green-tea-and-watermelon-flavour Hello Kitty cadmium, specially designed to cater to local tastes. The Standard invites us to believe that when this contaminated grain appeared in Guangdong, residents were ‘shocked’. Assuming we can believe anything else in the article, it seems the authorities up there basically said “Relax, there’s nothing to worry about but you better eat noodles and bread instead,” which isn’t very surprising, either. Our own food-safety officials, by contrast, are leaping into action, to cater to the tastes of a population so used to perfection that people get ‘disoriented’ when a mass-transit station is closed.

Cadmium pollutes the soil around non-ferrous metals mines and is a cumulative poison with a long history of getting into the Mainland food chain. Not by coincidence, a fight broke out yesterday between Mainlanders and a local over baby milk powder. Nor is it a coincidence that a key feature of corrupt Mudanjiang tax officials’ recently-revealed private luxury resorts was farms providing safe food.

On a brighter dietary note, Japanese researchers find that consumption of (not necessarily Mainland-grown) fresh fruit and vegetables reduces suicide risk. This fits in with lots of other evidence for a link between what you eat and how you behave.

To over-simplify: you take a bunch of violent, anti-social youths (of the sort found especially in some Western countries) who live off gross junk food (of the sort found especially, etc). You chuck them in prison. Then, you divide them into two groups. One carries on eating the burgers/fries/grease/starch diet to which they (and prison caterers) are accustomed; the other is forced, probably at gunpoint, to eat meals made with fresh unprocessed produce, mostly plants, a lot of it green and/or crunchy. Fast-forward a few months and Group A are still mutilating each other in bloody frenzies of anger-management issues, while Group B have become meek, obedient, productive and probably getting into flower-arranging and poetry. Something like that.

The theory is that real natural food contains particular Omega 3 fatty acids, enzymes and/or other ingredients that at a molecular level affect our brains and thus moods and behaviour. It could also be that the industrially produced, refined, reconstituted pseudo-food of the microwavable/packaged/convenience/junk variety contains artificial additives that also chemically change your mind, but for the worse; in other words, Group B become human again because something is taken out of their diet rather than put in.

With all this in mind, I present one of my favourite new dishes of 2013. The paprika-pork combination is well-established, and there are more than a few paprika-pork-garbanzo/chickpea recipes around. This adds olives. I’m sure I found it somewhere, but maybe I dreamt it.

Paprika Pork, Garbanzos and Olives Stew-type Thing

Ingredients (per person, roughly)

A few ounces of pork shoulder, chopped into small bite-size chunks

A cup of garbanzos/chickpeas (canned is fine)

A half-cup of green pitted brined olives (out of a jar is fine, stuffed with pimento is OK)

A heaped teaspoon of serious paprika (ie, some fancy, hard-to-find Hungarian or Spanish product rather than out of a jar from Park N Shop, if possible – definitely not stale stuff that’s been sitting around for months)

A couple of bulbs of garlic

A dash of olive oil


What you would expect. Put oil, garlic, paprika and pork in a pot. Fry a bit, then add enough water to braise the pork (ie, just enough – this isn’t a soup). If you’re using dried/soaked garbanzos, add them now as well, and water as needed. Simmer until tender (probably 45-60 minutes). Add olives (and garbanzos, if using canned) after 30-45 minutes. Add salt if necessary (the olives should do the trick.) Serve with Chang Xiang Yu or cadmium-free rice, according to taste.

This is not so hyper-healthy as to make you into a flower-arranger, but nor is it so over-convenient and processed that it you will turn Group A psychopathic. Essentially, it is extremely tasty, courtesy of the paprika and olives. Note that the olives are not a garnish but account for a fair share of the volume of the meal – more than the meat.

Or, you can celebrate Christmas with this exciting pizza-flavoured pizza…

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16 Responses to Food corner

  1. Joe Blow says:

    A large pizza for $ 32.60 ?

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Another easy dish that is so healthy it makes you sick:

    -pack of freshly made dumplings from the chill-box in the supermarket.
    -piece of broccoli, cut in bite size pieces

    boil in a pan together (if you are British: no need to boil to dead).
    when done, drain water, sprinkle with soy sauce and tabasco. Eat.

    When you have finished this dish, you are ready for origami class.

  3. gweiloeye says:

    Saw that pizza and was a little bit sick in my mouth.

    As to the study could it possibly be that depressed people eat “comfort food” i.e. junk, whilst the “happy people” eat better. Cause and effect is actually the reverse of the findings? Just a thought.

  4. maugrim says:

    Ironically, lentils themselves can be toxic. Anyway,there has been no surprise as to where the tainted rice originated. However, it was interesting to watch the number of HK’ers who refused to go to Japan owing to radiation issues, breaking such solemn oaths when the yen depreciated. Purely circumstantial of course, as is the connection of that ‘pizza’ to any real source of food.

  5. reductio says:

    Cadmium? There is an opportunity here. We import tons of rice for the mainland and chemically extract it. Voila! Hong Kong becomes the battery hub of Asia. It’s a win-win scenario for all stakeholders moving forward to the next level.

  6. The Regulator says:

    The Correctional Services Departments the world over prefer drugging prisoners in their food to not doing so and thereby avoiding riots.

  7. Gordon Ramsey II says:

    If this is turning into cookery lesson day, take a note from the English:

    1. Place all vegetables in water (without salt)
    2. Boil for at least 3 hours (preferably half a day)
    3. Taste to make sure there’s no taste left and all the veg
    is mushy ( and preferably the same khaki color)
    4. Serve with meat burned to a cinder.

    No wonder the English came out East – they couldn’t stand the food at home ( nor the weather)

    PS: If you think that’s an exaggeration, at university I once saw an Arab boil his first egg. He boiled it for 90 (yes 90) minutes. That’s what I really call a hard-on.

  8. Mjrelje says:

    I attended an inaugural flight buffet hosted by Cargolux and attended by CAAC officials way back on the early 80s in Luxembourg. Green / Blue Mao suit days for all the cadres. The Chinese piled their plates as high as they could (as they still do) but unaccustomed to the buffet format also put slices of blackfotest gateau on top of the beef, gravy, vegetables, langoustine and everything else they could pile on. Then complained that they didn’t like ‘western’ good!

  9. Gordon Ramsey II obviously hasn’t been to England in a long time. A typical English meal today consists of chicken tikka masala with a fried Mars bar for dessert, washed down by overpriced lager.

  10. Failed Alchemist says:

    @ Regulator. HK is starting to look like one big correctional institution where some ultra “taiko’s” want to rock, burn down & rule the block. Maybe Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World “soma’ will help kick start the consultation process and holiday season that is starting out looking grim. Hahahaha..

  11. Mjrelje says:

    Also in Wuhan at a Private Bank, private dining event, all the HNWIs turned up with their finest bottle of wine from their cellar and displayed it in front of themself at the table until the huge cauldron was placed in the centre. Each participant then had their personal waiter uncork, and each bottle was poured into the ginormous chalice together. There was Lafitte, Borgogne, du Pape and all in there – even a pouilly fume in there. Then it was ladled out one glass of a time to be topped up with Coke! High Networth Individuals with no fucking idea. Then they all went bright red in the face and started chain smoking and spitting into tissues. One of the worst evenings I have ever witnesses.

  12. Mjrelje says:

    Lets see, a typical Chinese meal, is that a choice of rice/noodles/fish/chicken for each breakfast/lunch/diner everyday, every meal 365? Ok, add congee for true variety. Britain’s food is way above anywhere else for variety. Try getting an Italian/Indian/Chinese/chippy/French/Arabic/Japanese/Thai/Steakhouse/US Diner/McD/Tapas etc choice in any small town outside of the UK.

  13. Mjrelje says:

    So, private beach: what exactly do you cook at home to have such a low opinion of UK cuisine? Perhaps you are stuck on a diet of chicken adobo? Or just the great rice fish combo?

  14. Mjrelje says:

    British Food:
    Sunday Roast – world beater if done traditionally.
    Christmas dinner – ditto
    Sausage bean thing – perfect
    Fish n’ Chips – tartare sauce anyone?
    Pies – what’s not to like?
    Bangers and Mash – a world beater, served in every city globally.
    Crisps – Whotsits, Smith squares, quavers, hula hoops (brown), wheat crunchies, frazzled and pork scratchings!
    The list goes on!

  15. @Mjrelje: I was mocking Gordon Ramsay II’s outdated stereotype of English cooking, not the cuisine itself. While it must be admitted that getting green vegetables right has never been a strong point of British cooking, even as I type this the turkey is in the oven, and I’m looking forward to roast potato, roast parsnip, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, etc. Merry Christmas!

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