A chicken, a fire and a wok – Cooking in China’s countryside

A chicken, a fire and a wok – Cooking in China’s countryside

Before we even started dating my husband told me he is from a very rural place in northern Anhui. He was worried this fact would put me off. It didn’t and we got married a year later.

But there is no denying it. Life in the Chinese countryside is very different to that in a big city.

When I first visited his parents I was mentally prepared. After all I had seen a lot in my time in China (and let’s face it Kungfu schools are no five star hotels either). His parents did all they could to make me feel comfortable. But no matter how hard they tried, a life in the village is more an adventure than I want to have at the moment.

Visiting and living there are also two different things. We stayed at his parents’ house for a few months. Longest was half a year once during summer and once during winter. Personally I find winter in the village incredibly hard. Constant power cuts, no water and just freezing cold days and nights.

But what I missed the most during our stays at parents-in-law’s house was my own kitchen; or a kitchen for that matter.

What my parents-in-law call a kitchen I would never recognize as one. It’s a tiny dark room without windows and a black wall from the fire that is heating the huge wok.

Cooking in that kitchen requires a specific skill set. For one, you shouldn’t be afraid of fire. I am. I have yet to get myself to use fire to heat up the wok. Cooking with a wok is also very different to cooking on a small stove with small pots and pans. And not to forget, all ingredients are fresh… meaning that chicken you want for lunch, you have to kill it first and prepare it yourself.

I have only assisted in preparing dishes in that kitchen. But it is an interesting experience… I have learned to work with minimum equipment. And one is for sure, Chinese food prepared in a big wok over the fire tastes incredible.

Still I love my kitchen in the city now, and I wouldn’t want to miss it again…



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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

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