What are the differences and similaries between Chinese dim-sum and Spanish Tapas? Let's see what our contributors said ...
By Cheng Chang and Sherry Kuei-Chan
I have lived in Spain for more than ten years and therefore am familiar with Spanish Tapas. Customarily, especially before dinner, Spaniards would start with an aperitif, followed by white wine, red wine, beer and in the South of Spain, a foreign ‘vino fino’ is also drunk to accompany Tapas. Drinking alcohol alone is rather monotonous, thus being a nation that knows how to enjoy life, they would savour it with some Tapas. In Spanish, ‘Tapas’ means ‘small plate’. Common Tapas include cheese, ham, sausage, fish, squid, octopus, green peppers, cucumber, braised beef, roast leg of pork, shrimps and many more delicacies. Including these tapas and the ones specially prepared by restaurants and bars, they are in abundance. In Andalucia, in the South of Spain, fine dining involves going to several different bars for a variety of tapas before feasting in the restaurant. Normal dinner hours range between 9pm to 11pm due to the tapas eating tradition. If the Spaniards exercise in the morning, like swimming in the sea, golf or if they have an appointment, they will also have some tapas, drink some beer, vino fino, and white or red wine before lunch. Spaniards are very knowledgeable about wine. For instance if they have seafood, they will complement it with either white or vino fino and if they are eating beef, poultry or other meat, they consume red wine. If they are having Chinese cuisine, they will select rose wine. In Europe, Spaniards are well-known for being spendthrift, they are very generous and sociable, unlike English and North Europeans who are less prone to do so.
I arrived in Spain in 1959 and had nearly travelled through the whole country, ranging from East to West, South to North. The north of Spain borders with France, thus their cuisine includes some French influence. The west is next to Portugal, the east by the Mediterranean, therefore one can discover many varieties of food, like seafood, salad, vegetables, types of fish, including the famous Paella that originated from Valencia. Andalucia is close to the Atlantic and is blessed with good weather and fertile plain but no hills and their authentic attractions include Bull fighting and Flamenco dancing. Coto de Doñana, the national park is situated in the south of Spain and is one of the most well preserved virgin forests in Europe. Wild boars, elk, and several thousand species of birds are the dwellers in these forests.
Chinese dim-sum and Spanish tapas are comparable, the only difference is that dim-sum can be treated as a main meal. The dim-sum that is eaten in the morning can also be consumed for lunch as well as for afternoon tea. More often than not, dim-sum can be eaten up to 4pm in the restaurants. The reason is solely for restaurants to sustain their business, if the customers treated dim-sum as dinner, then it would certainly affect their profit, therefore after 4.30pm, no dim-sum will be served. On the contrary, the Spanish tapas are used to whet the appetite, to tantalise the taste buds, therefore there is no time limit and can be eaten any time of the day. Dim sums are served in bigger portions than tapas, for instance a portion of steamed bread comes in a plate of 3 to 4 pieces, or 6 to 7 for prawn dumplings, however the quantity of tapas is much smaller in comparison. Guangdong is the birth place of dim-sum culture and since then has gained popularity. Eating dim-sum in Shanghai or Beijing is not as widespread as in England and Hong Kong but in recent years they have followed trend except that it is considered as a main meal rather than a snack. From the south to the north, the general type of snacks eaten in China to complement alcohol are normally a plate of peanuts, dried beancurd, cucumber, pickles and mustard, they are not quite as lavish as the Guangdong dim-sum. A famous author once commented that dried beancurd when eaten together with peanuts will produce a similar taste to ham.
I adore Spanish tapas. Each occasion I go to the South, I will not miss the opportunity of enjoying seafood at Sanluca in Jerez. Sanluca is renowned for its seafood, thus multiplicity of seafood restaurants are lined along the seafront. What can one ask for, not only can one find reasonably priced, scrumptious seafood of different fascinating varieties, it is also picturesque! My favourite dishes include delicious fresh life king prawns cooked in sea water, they are so tender and fresh and my other beloved one is the mouth-watering crispy, delicious fish pancake. In England I love dim-sum and tea, it is cheap and tasty and also an ideal way to lose weight. What a fascination it is to discover that Chinese cuisine has such similarity with an European one.
Tapas - Small plate.
Coto de Doñana - a famous resort in southern Spain, in Andalucia.
Tea - Guangdong dim-sum served with tea.
Dr Cheng Chan was born in Shanghai; his origin home town is Taizhou, in the Jiangsu Province in China.
He graduated from Shanghai Nanyang Model Middle School in 1947 and Shanghai Aurora University in 1951. He enrolled in Paris University in 1952, and received his ‘Doctor en Droit’ degree in International Law in 1954. During this time, he attended a summer course at ‘School of International Court of Justice ‘ in De Hague Holland and received a certificate in 1953. He enrolled the University of London (UCL) to work on International Law research in London till 1956, and then he went to West Germany to start his business career in Import/Export trading and property investments, etc. He has become the most successful Chinese in property investments in Spain at that time. In the meantime, he has been nominated by his government to enter ‘Escula Deplomatica Espana’ in Madrid in 1962; he successfully received his diploma in 1964.
He moved to London in 1967. He has been elected the president of the Overseas Chinese Association UK in 1986. He has been invited by Chinese, British and Hong Kong governments to attend The Hong Kong Handover Ceremony in Hong Kong in 1997. He has been selected into ‘The World Most Distinguished Overseas Chinese Album’.
He was appointed to be the Honorary Director of Committees and Visiting Professor in Nanjing University in 1997, the President of China Re-unification Society in UK in 2000, The Overseas Member of CPPCC, Adviser of All China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and the Director of Committees of China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, The Committee Member of Overseas Exchange Association of Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, and Honorary Doctor in Law of West London University.
Docteur en Droit.
Hon. Guest Professor of Nanjing University
Hon. Director of the Board of Trustees of Nanjing University
Hon. President of Chinese Education Foundation in China
Hon. President of Association for the Promotion of Chinese Education in UK
Overseas Member of CPPCC
Mrs Sherry Kuei-Chan was born in Nanjing in 1948; her father’s hometown is from Shanghai. The family went to Taiwan in 1949. She grew up in Taipei. She speaks Mandarin, Shanghai, Taiwanese, Cantonese and English. She was in Import/Export trading business. She moved to Hong Kong and as continued working in China trading business. A strong Chinese culture discipline influenced by her mother who often took her and her sister to the theatre for Chinese opera (Yueju), Peking opera, Mandarin plays and movies. From there she has learnt a lot of Chinese history and arts knowledge.
She used to enjoy spending time wondering around Antique markets and shops, collected not only Chinese but also European antiques objects, paintings, porcelains, furniture, etc. Then decorated them everywhere in the house as if she is living way back in the ancient history.
She has married to Dr Cheng Chan (also from Shanghai origin) and lives in London.
Both of them are actively promoting in exchange Chinese Traditional Culture and Western Culture, as nowadays we all live in the globalizing world.
I have a BSc (Hons) Psychology (Open), however, I have not engaged in the profession I studied for but focused on my passion in interpreting and translation work. I was brought up in Singapore thus was fortunate to have adopted English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teowchew at a young age. I studied French for five years and presently I am at the Advanced level for Spanish. I have worked for many different organizations in relation to interpreting work, for instance Prestige Network, CHIC (Chinese Health Information Centre - a charity), Language Empire, Applied Language Solutions etc. As a result, I went to many different venues, for instance hospitals, health centres, probation offices, police stations and also in April 2009, I interpreted for Christian Dior in the Trafford Centre between an internationally well-known make-up artist, English/Spanish speaking colleagues and their clients. I also interpreted for a cross-Atlantic Taiwanese Professor in connection with another BBC radio programme. In addition, I also co-translated the history of Weihaiwei from Chinese into English for publication as well as translating the biography of Dr Chan that is still in progress.