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August 12, 2010 / icekale

Top Chinese Food Stories

Chinese food products made news for all the wrong reasons in 2007 and 2008. However, throughout the years, Chinese cuisine has grabbed a few more upbeat headlines. Here are some of my favorite fun Chinese food culture stories.

1. Wok Sledding

Wok Racing Picture - Photo of Wok Racing at Wok World Cup, Innsbruck, AustriaPhotographer Jan Pitman, Getty Images Entertainment

Thought a wok was only for cooking? It turns out a round-bottomed Chinese wok is perfect for speeding down icy slopes. The brainchild of German talk show host Stefan Raab, wok sledding (also called wok racing) takes place on a standard Olympic bobsled track. Competitors can compete in one-man and four-man events.
Wok sledders take their sport seriously; competitors in the 2008 World Wok Racing championships battled it out on the Altenberg bobsleigh run, considered to be one of Europe’s most challenging runs.
By the way, fans of the film Cool Runnings will be happy to know that Jamaica has a wok racing team!

2. The Great Powerball Controversy

Lottery officials were scratching their heads when 110 people picked 5 of the 6 winning numbers in the March 30, 2005 Powerball lottery drawing. Even stranger, all had the identical incorrect sixth number (source: Lotterypost.com). Statistically, the odds against this happening were astronomical. What made matters worse for Powerball administrators is that the second place prize was not simply divided amongst all the winners. Instead, each person holding a winning ticket received a fixed amount. While 89 people received $100,000, another 21 who used the Powerplay multiplier option received $500,000.
Lottery officials suspected fraud, but it turned out that all 110 winners played numbers contained in fortune cookies made by Wonton Food.

3. Chopsticks or Eyeglasses?

In 2004, a German company that sells prescription eyeglasses came up with a new invention for clients who don’t have time to sit down for their favorite dish of sushi or fried rice. They created eyeglasses with detachable frames that can double as chopsticks. Dubbed "sushi specs," the glasses immediately became a big hit in Japan. (They can also be purchased through opticians in Europe and the United States). However, the eyeglasses do have one drawback: they are unwearable while the detachable arms are being used as chopsticks.
While the chopsticks were invented in 2004, they didn’t really begin taking off until 2006, after China imposed a 5 percent tax on disposable wooden chopsticks to help combat rising deforestation.

4. Fried Pork in Space

Space food has come a long way since the 1960’s, when astronauts were squeezing "essence of asparagus" out of tubes. When China launched its first human astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Yang Liwei, into space in 2003, they made sure he had plenty of Chinese food to feast upon, including diced chicken and rice loaded with dates and nuts (Source: Cnn.com). When China’s second manned space mission took off in 2005, the menu for astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng included everything from pineapple-filled mooncakes to beef balls and beef with orange peel (source: China Daily).
Working with a Shanghai food company, China’s space training agency has now developed more than 60 space dishes for astronauts.

5. Chinese Cooking Robot

It steams, stir-fries and reportedly can create thousands of Chinese dishes. Named AIC, short for Artificial Intelligent Cooking, the robot made its debut at the 2006 China High Tech Fair in Shenzhen, where it produced a delicious version of Kung Pao Chicken for visitors in just two minutes (Source: China View). The robot’s inventor, Liu Xinyu, hopes to see it go into mass production sometime in the near future, for use in both households and Chinese restaurants.

6. Who Invented the Fortune Cookie?

Fortune CookiesRhonda Parkinson

Despite their association with Chinese restaurants, fortune cookies are almost unknown in China. The crescent-shaped cookie is actually a California creation. For decades, both Los Angeles and San Francisco have claimed to be the birthplace of the fortune cookie. The San Francisco Court of Historical Review even held a mock trial in 1983 to settle the issue, ruling in favor of Makoto Hagiwara, founder of the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park.

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