I once had an opportunity to have lunch in a Chinese restaurant in my home country Zimbabwe and I noticed some differences between Chinese food and Zimbabwean food.
The Zimbabwean diet is pretty much the same as any other traditional Southern African diet. It is high in fiber and low in fat, with lots of fruits, vegetables, beans and cornmeal, and meat. This is the type of food that many Zimbabweans grow at home and eat.
The most common staple food in Zimbabwe is a typical African cornmeal mixture called Sadza. Which is served in traditional families with almost every meal (Breakfast, lunch and dinner) and can be served with different vegetables or meats. Other famous Zimbabwean recipes include peanut butter rice and a snack of mopane worms. Having no access to Sea, seafood is not that common in the country. Fish is eaten only in the communities bordering big rivers and lakes. Food in Zimbabwe has remained traditionally African for the most part, however British colonization certainly left its mark. Common British spices, breads, sugar and tea have become part of the daily life in Zimbabwe.
The Chinese diet, is one that consists of a wide range of food choices. The number of well-known ancient and modern Chinese dishes amounts to 8,000. The ingredients may be roughly classified into 600 categories.
– “We eat all the edible things on earth. We are undoubtedly the only omnivorous animals on earth” – Lin Yutang
The Chinese food has received praise for its disease-fighting abilities. Traditional Chinese cooking uses food as therapy to harmonize the body with the seasons. Strategic blends of spices and flavors contribute to the healthful and delicious qualities of this diet.
So, what is the difference between Chinese food and Zimbabwean food?
The ingredients in Chinese and Zimbabwean food are different. Chinese cuisine involves rice, flour, beans, and vegetables etc. The traditional Chinese food consumes much more plant ingredients than animal ones, taking grains as staple food and others as supplementary. The freshness of the ingredients is considered very important by the Chinese people. This explains the widely existence of stalls selling live fish, meat and wild animals in China. These markets are better known as “wet markets”. Chinese cuisine uses many ingredients rarely seen in Zimbabwean cuisine.
Zimbabwean cuisine is relatively simple and mainly includes sadza, meat, bread and vegetables. It is also normal to have dried ingredients for example dried meat, dried fruits and vegetables. Drying meats, fruits and vegetables was and still is a food preservation method used in Zimbabwe.
Chinese cooks like to add fresh/dried spices when cooking, like ginger, spring onion, mint, pepper, garlic, chilies, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, white spirit, starch etc. To help achieve healthy flavors and produce a harmony of flavors, Chinese cooks rely on herbs and spices to achieve a balance that promotes health, treats diseases, and aids recovery.
Zimbabwean cooks usually use processed spices like pepper powder, ketchup, tomatoes and onions etc. These are commonly used condiments in Zimbabwean dishes. They are used to add flavor and thickness to meat and vegetable relishes. Zimbabwean food is not spicy in general.
Unlike Zimbabwean restaurants, you usually won’t find any salt, pepper, tomato sauce, or mustard on the table in a Chinese restaurant. But if you have breakfast at a dumpling and steamed bun shop, you can enhance the flavor with soy sauce or vinegar from a bottle poured into a dipping dish.
Where Zimbabweans limit themselves to boiling, frying, roasting, and baking usually, Chinese use more methods of cooking, like steaming, stewing, sautéing, braising, and quick-frying with a wok. Chinese usually use animal/peanut oil to fry food whilst Zimbabweans use more butter, sunflower oil, and olive oil.
Traditionally Zimbabwean dinners didn’t come with desserts. Desserts were adopted from the white British settlers. Therefore, Sweet desserts and fresh fruits are served as desserts in general, while Chinese have fresh fruit or tea for dessert.
Maheu and Mazoe Orange juice are the most popular nonalcoholic drinks in Zimbabwe. Maheu is the traditional drink locally brewed from maize and sorghum whilst Mazoe orange juice is made from orange extracts. Tea is also popular in Zimbabwe, but it doesn’t come in many varieties as it is in China. The first tea bushes planted in Zimbabwe originated from a box of seeds smuggled out of India in 1924 by Mrs Florence Phillips, a tea-planter’s wife from Assam, and were planted in Chipinge. The success of the harvest encouraged tea drinking in Zimbabwe.
Beer is also the most popular alcoholic drink in Zimbabwe. Hwahwa is the traditional sorghum beer brewed with the finest maize and sorghum locally grown in Zimbabwe. Chibuku and Zambezi are the most popular beer brands in Zimbabwe. Other major beers include Bohlingers, Lion, Eagle and South African Carling Black Label and Castle. Imported wine, spirits and liqueurs are available in hotel bars.
Tea and alcohol are the most representative Chinese drinks. Chinese alcoholic beverages are usually classified liquor spirits, yellow rice wine, fruit wine, medicine wine and beer. Tea is the national drink in China. The main classes of Chinese tea are green tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, and Pu’er tea.
Popular cuisines in Zimbabwe:
Sadza: This is the most common dish found in Zimbabwe and is stiff maize meal that is like a thickened porridge. It can be rolled into a ball and dipped into meat, sauce, gravy, sour milk, or stewed vegetables.
Bota: This is porridge that is flavored with peanut butter, milk, butter or jam and is traditionally eaten for breakfast.
Dovi: Portuguese traders brought peanut crops into Zimbabwe during the 16th century, as a result, it has become an important ingredient in many dishes. Dovi (peanut butter) is the ingredient that makes the traditional peanut butter stew with meat or vegetables. Dovi can also be mixed with rice and is served with some gravy or meat curry.
Muboora: It is a Zimbabwean vegetable dish made with pumpkin leaves, onion, salt, pepper, tomato, cream.
Mopane Worms: They’re either served as simply fried, or can be cooked as a stew. The worms are high in protein than some of leaner meats like beef
Popular cuisines in China
The best known and most influential cuisines in China are Lu Cuisine, Chuan Cuisine, Yue Cuisine and Su Cuisine. These four cuisines are called Four Major Cuisines in China. They are very distinctive from one another due to factors such as available resources, climate, geography, history, cooking techniques and lifestyle.