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Japanese people have been eating “fake Chinese food”?

  In Japan, sweet mapo tofu, rice thickened with soy sauce and salt, etc. are all “Chinese cuisines” that have been passed down for hundreds of years, and have been deeply impressed by generations of Japanese people. Chinese food is far from it.
  However, in recent years, many century-old “Chinese restaurants” have closed down, and the market for authentic Chinese food such as boiled fish, mala tang, and hot pot has expanded rapidly. The term “authentic Chinese food” has become a hot new word in Japan.
  Many Japanese finally found out that what they had been eating was “fake Chinese food”.
If you want to know the taste of China, you must eat “True China”

  One day, Japanese netizen Aka discovered that a Chinese restaurant called “Only Malatang” had opened near his home, and the business was booming. Aka, who had never eaten Malatang before, mustered up the courage to try it, but he couldn’t find the menu that is common in traditional restaurants. There were only various meatballs and vegetables in front of him. She had no choice but to follow the example of other customers, pick up the bowls and tongs, and choose randomly based on her feelings.
  ”I thought this would be a failed ‘exploration of the shop’.” Unexpectedly, after only a few bites, Aka was deeply impressed by the rich bone broth and the “unknown meatballs” soaked in soup. “It turns out there is still this kind of Chinese food.” Aka sighed.
  As Ma La Tang sparked a heated discussion on the Japanese Internet, more and more Japanese are looking for authentic Chinese taste, which they call “true Chinese” or “authentic Chinese food”.
  So, what kind of Chinese food can be called “true Chinese”? Japanese media and food bloggers have summed up several judgment criteria –
  first, the dining environment. Chinese elements should be added to the storefront decoration, such as Peking opera facial makeup, paper fan auspicious cloud, Chinese dragon, giant panda, and what’s more, the Northeast farmhouse music is directly “moved” to the streets of Japan. Blue and white porcelain bowls and wine cups should be used for tableware, Chinese Internet catchphrases should be plastered on the walls, Chinese pop music should be selected for background music, and it is best to invite several Chinese people to sing live.
  Second, is the service characteristics. The menu is all in Chinese, and the waiters don’t know much Japanese.
  Finally, there is the method of eating and the taste. Nowadays, more and more Japanese customers go to “authentic Chinese restaurants”. When they walked into the “authentic Chinese restaurant” curiously, their impression of Chinese food was gradually being rewritten: “This is really different from the Chinese restaurant on the street that has been open for 100 years!”
A street that records the “magical reform history” of Chinese food in Japan

  What is “a Chinese restaurant that has been open for 100 years on the street”?
  From Motomachi Chinatown Station in Yokohama Marina, it takes about 5 minutes to walk to a long and narrow street. This is the largest Chinatown in Asia – Yokohama Chinatown. The Japanese’s perception of Chinese food started here.
  More than 160 years ago, Yokohama was just an ordinary small village. After Japan and the United States concluded the “Japan-US Treaty of Friendship and Trade”, it was forced to open the port and became an important window for Japan to open to the outside world. A large number of foreign businessmen, translators and compradors poured in, many of whom were Chinese, and gathered here.
  In 1868, the prototype of Yokohama Chinatown appeared.
  After the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Japan in 1972, the close exchanges between the two countries further promoted the prosperity of Chinatown. In the 1980s, more than 50,000 tourists visited here every day, which led to the rise of the surrounding service industry, and its operating income ranked first among all scenic spots in Kanagawa Prefecture.
  Japan’s pursuit of Chinese cuisine also jumped out of Chinatown and spread to the whole society.
  With the increase in the number of Chinese restaurants and intensified competition, the audience is no longer limited to Chinese and overseas Chinese. In order to attract more Japanese customers, merchants have carried out localization according to their bland taste and eating habits, reducing the amount of oil and spices used. It can be said that Japanese Chinese cuisine is actually quite different from real Chinese cuisine.
  For example, dumplings and shumai are not staple foods in Japan, but meat dishes. Pork stuffed dumplings are directly fried in the pan until golden brown and crispy, then put them upside down on a plate, and serve with rice, miso soup or ramen.
  Another example is mapo tofu. In China, mapo tofu requires hemp, spicy, hot, crisp, tender and whole. In Japan, mapo tofu uses chili peppers instead of peppercorns, and badocho miso instead of bean paste to reduce the spicy taste; some even add sweet bean paste and Japanese soybean paste to get a plate of salty and sweet mapo tofu. The word “Ma Po” has also become a sign to judge whether it is authentic or not, so magical dishes such as Mapo Eggplant, Mapo Spring Rain, and Strawberry Mapo Tofu appeared.
  Entering the 21st century, with the continuous development of Japan’s tourism industry, Chinatown continues to prosper. There are more than 100 restaurants on the 100-meter long street, and about 20 million tourists stroll here every year, looking for Chinese delicacies.
Chinatown ushers in a new owner

  Everything came to an abrupt end at the turn of winter and spring in 2020. Affected by the epidemic, the Japanese catering industry experienced a large-scale “closure wave”, and the century-old street ushered in a wave of renewal.
  With more vacant stores and lower rents, many Chinese operators saw business opportunities and entered the catering market with pickled cabbage fish, Malatang, Malaxiangguo, maocai, etc., and became the “new owners” of Yokohama Chinatown. These Chinese dishes are no longer modified according to the habits of the Japanese. Instead, they import seasoning materials and chefs from China to fully inherit Chinese tastes.
  At the same time, young consumers in Japan know about and look forward to experiencing authentic Chinese food through the Internet. Some consumers praised while eating: “I have lived for 30 years, and this is the first time I have discovered such delicious food in the world!”
  In addition, according to the survey of Japan’s “Takeaway General Research Institute”, in the past 3 years, Japanese people who have always had a light taste prefer food. The level of spiciness has increased significantly, and 1 in 5 people said that they like spicy food very much. When eating spicy food, the body will secrete a large amount of endorphins, which makes people feel happy and euphoric, thereby relieving stress. The analysis believes that the impact of the epidemic on economic development and the pressure on Japanese people’s lives is one of the reasons for the sharp increase in their spicy level.
  All this has contributed to the popularity of “authentic Chinese restaurants” in Japan.
  This is not unique to Yokohama Chinatown. In Tokyo, there are even “Three Sacred Places for Authentic Chinese Cuisine”: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Koiwa and Shin-Koiwa.
  Today, authentic Chinese food is no longer blindly catered to, but to show its own characteristics. It not only refreshes the perception of Japanese people by taste, but also skillfully integrates regional customs related to food to create a truly authentic Chinese taste. Some traditional Chinese restaurants have also begun to add authentic Chinese food to their menus, looking for new opportunities for development.

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