s 2018 comes to a close, we look back at some of the top stories around food that made the news this year.
Hot water finally gets its dues
Hot water, the Chinese cure-all for illnesses from the common cold to cancer, is recognized at last for its magical restorative properties. One Italian student became internet-famous after he praised it at his graduation speech while video producers Mamahuhu proclaimed it the new superfood.
Robots are taking over your restaurants
Next time you yell for the fu wu yuan, it’s one of these plastic fellas that might roll over. Robots in the food business are getting more prevalent as popular hot pot chain Hai Di Lao demonstrates with their first fully-automated branch in Beijing. Internet giant Alibaba has also joined in by opening their first restaurant in Shanghai with robots controlling everything from seating to service.
Snack food brands get funky with their China-only flavors
Move over, sea salt and vinegar. Instead of the usual flavors, big food brands are churning out snacks with tastes that local palates are more familiar with. Snickers, for example, added spicy peanuts to their signature chocolate bar, while Oreo thought wasabi and hot chicken wings were good fillings for their cookies. Then there’s the lingering funk of durian, which has permeated everything from Lay’s potato chips to Pizza Hut pies, egg tarts from KFC, and McDonald’s ice cream.
Things you don’t expect to find in a hot pot
Food isn’t all fun
Mealtimes weren’t always something to look forward to this year, with some dastardly bosses using food to prove a point. There was a company in Fujian province that made its employees eat rice balls out of a urinal to show how clean the toilet was, while student workers in Hubei province were forced to eat raw eggs and bitter melon after missing their sales target. But a home renovation company in Guizhou province sweeps this category with a gourmet feast of urine and cockroaches for their staff when they did not hit their sales quota.
People continue to be very hungry
The Great Chinese Famine may be long over but people still have ravenous appetites, as one pet owner found out after his missing rabbit was discovered in his neighbor’s kitchen, already cooked into a bunny stew. Chinese netizens also salivated over a hairy crab epidemic in the US; the local delicacy has become an invasive species in American waters, and many online commenters volunteered to eat up the problem. Back in the mainland, a Chengdu restaurant closed down after their ¥120 buffet deal caused them massive losses, while a Shanghai eatery billed eight people ¥400,000 for a dinner including crocodile tail soup and abalone. Then there’s American wrestler and entertainer John Cena, who can’t get enough of the traditional Chinese chili sauce called Lao Gan Ma.