Years ago I saw a cookbook in Taiwan, written in Chinese, that taught our intrepid Taiwanese housewives how to make such standard American fare as the BLT (that’s Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches for the non-Americans) and the PB&J (Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches). It had never occurred to me that anyone in Taiwan would (A) require instructions for such basic American fare or (B) want to cook it. I can’t really remember why I didn’t buy it – probably my student budget – but I regret that decision often.
Regular readers of this blog know I study food. Cuisine is the most basic cultural art form. Every culture, no matter how primitive, develops its own distinct cuisine. You learn a lot about someone by trying their food.
Asking an American how to make a BLT provokes a guffaw, but I’ve had exactly the same experience in reverse when I ask Chinese folks how to make the core dishes in their cuisine. BLT is every bit as literal as my favorite Chinese dish, 拍黄瓜, “banged up cucumbers”, which describes how you use the flat of the knife to lightly crush the cucumbers*.
Cultural assumptions greatly complicate international business. Foreign expectations of how things are in China are nearly always wrong. PassageMaker has studied the culture in China for more than an decade and our company exists to help our clients be successful in China.
We developed the Sourcing Feasibility Study to identify a wide range of capable vendors. Our Vendor Coordination services can be customized to support almost any task the client requires. Our Assembly Center was started to bring the critical Assembly-Inspection-Packaging functions in-house where they could be managed exactly to the client’s requirements, as documented in the Product Quality Manual.
While exploring foreign cultures – especially through cuisine – is one of the great adventures in life, it is a bad idea to try to learn the business culture of a foreign country on the fly. When your money is on the line, you need an experienced guide like PassageMaker.
* – Pai Huang Gua – “Banged Up Cucumbers”
4 small pickling cucumbers, washed and chilled – make sure to use fresh, crisp cucumbers
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp pickling salt
3 tbsps black vinegar (available at Asian markets, substitute white vinegar if unavailable)
2 tbsps sesame oil (3 tbsps if no hot sesame oil)
1 tbsps hot sesame oil (optional – available at Asian markets)
1tsp hot sauce, preferably Chili Garlic sauce or Sambal Oelek (optional – available at Asian markets)
Wrap cucumbers in plastic wrap and using fist, cutting board, rolling pin, flat of a cleaver, etc., smack the the cucumbers until they split. Unwrap and coarsely chop into large chunks. Salt the cucumbers and garlic in a bowl, drizzle liquid ingredients one at a time in order over the cucumbers and gently mix with a spoon. Do NOT cover and shake or otherwise try to completely blend liquid ingredients. You do not want to create an emulsion, but rather a layered sauce. Serve immediately as a cold appetizer.