I tweeted a picture of this beauty last night, and it turned out to be about my most popular tweet ever, so I thought I should post it here as well, so it lasts! I took the picture in a food shop on Nanjing Lu, near the People’s Park. By the way, the eyes are real.
Ask any Chinese chef in England what they think of British pork, and they will almost invariably reply that it has a xing wei (腥 味 ), or ‘nasty fishy taste’. Xing wei is one of those Chinese culinary terms that has no English equivalent, although there are similar concepts in many other food traditions, including the Indian and Persian. It refers to the unpleasant, rank aspects of the flavours of meat, fish and poultry, aspects which must be dispelled or minimised in the kitchen.
If you want to be really precise, you can use more specific terms: xing wei for the ‘fishy’ taste of fish, eels and other water creatures, and also of raw meat; shan wei (膻 味 ) for ‘muttony tastes’; sao wei (臊 味 ) for foul, offally tastes like that found lingering in kidneys. Yi wei (异 味‘ ) peculiar taste or smell’) like xing wei, can be used to describe off-tastes in general. Once you have identified the off-tastes in your raw ingredients, you will want to address them: by blanching and marinating, and by the judicious use of seasonings like Shaoxing wine, ginger, spring onions and coriander. These techniques are second nature to almost all Chinese cooks.