Photos: What do you really eat when you go to a restaurant in China

September 21, 2011Archer Wang11 Comments, , , , , , ,

From Sina Blog

Chinese food is yummy! But do you know how it is prepared in restaurants?

A set of pictures taken by an anonymous chef working in a Chinese restaurant was leaked online, and they offer a disturbing peek into restaurant kitchens which might unnerve those of you who have enjoyed Chinese cuisine and frequented eateries in China.

Tip-offs from the mysterious, yet obviously honest chef:

  1. Never take recommendations from waiters, because they only recommend dishes on the verge of spoilage.
  2. Never ask the waiter to take a dish back and remake one, even if it tastes like shit.
  3. Always have your leftovers put in doggy bags right in front of you.
  4. It would be better if you didn’t eat at restaurants in China at all.

So now let’s take a look at what kinds of secretive seasonings are commonly used in Chinese restaurants.

Melamine: Infamous in China for the notorious 2008 Chinese milk scandal, in which melamine was found illegally added to milk and infant formula products from almost all major milk suppliers, leading to kidney stones among young children. The milky additive in these foods is in fact fake milk derived from melamine, widely used in preparation of milk tea-ish beverages, and is what makes your drink silky and milky.

Ingredient AAA: The chefs don’t even know what exactly it is or how it works. It is tasteless and odorless… and addictive!

Flavor enhancer: Noticeably fragrant. This is the reason why food served by restaurants is so savory.

Bottles of additive for making beverages: Dozens of additives are used to enhance the flavor of beverages. They used to do it at the bar, but since so many additives are used these days, they have to make it under-the-table… Real fruits are still used in the process, a very small amount…


All these bottles are the additives used to make marinated beef.

Hot pot chemical additive: If you smell it, you will be dazed and disoriented for around 10 seconds. It is odorless.


The use of these additives is normal to chefs. “I don’t have time to go to other people’s restaurants to take more pictures. I’ve already decided to switch professions…it’s disheartening.” says the mysterious chef. This is fungus taste additive. It’s supposed to be used for preparing soups, but a lot of chefs just use it randomly these days.

Red pigment and red yeast powder: These things are laced in read yeast rice and Chinese braised pork. Everybody does it, if you don’t use chemical additives, then your business won’t be as good as everyone else’s, and so everyone tries to “outuse” each other. “As you can see, I normally have to stash the pigments.” Says the chef.

Salted dead shrimps: A customer just ordered fresh shrimps, and then they were replaced with dead ones in the kitchen. If you want to go eat seafood in a restaurant, be forewarned: Don’t expect to eat what you see caught in the fish tank. If the restaurant has any dead fish, the live ones will be switched out for them when you are not looking.

Even sesame oil can be artificially manufactured. China is unrivaled in the production of fake goods.

A bucket of fresh oil, and a bucket of old oil.

Elasticity enhancer: this is what makes the fish balls chewy and rubbery at hot pot restaurants.


A barrel of oil for making duck and drumsticks.

People making duck and chicken legs.

You don’t want to eat duck and chicken legs any more.

Semi-finished duck.

This giant vat is used for dyeing duck and chicken.


Dyed duck.

Red pigment: A bottle costs 15 yuan, much cheaper than paint for painting.


Chicken legs ready for sale! Hope you still have a good appetite after seeing all these photos.

Archer Wang is a student at Duke University from China.


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11 comments to “Photos: What do you really eat when you go to a restaurant in China”

  1. [...] of Tofu translated a post from Sinablog exposing how some of the Chinese restaurant use chemicals to add favor and color to [...]

  2. food guy | September 22, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    "The milky additive in these foods is in fact fake milk derived from melamine, widely used in preparation of milk tea-ish beverages, and is what makes your drink silky and milky"

    This is not true – melamine was added to milk to fool the protein testing, making the milk appear to have more protein than in did. That meant they could water down the milk and increase the volume. When it was tested it appears as if it has not been watered down, as the protein levels appear to be at the right level.

    Fake milk cannot be derived from melamine as it says here, and there is no point to add melamine as a milk replacement, it does not look or taste like milk.

  3. Guest | September 22, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    these photos are around a year old? I saw them somewhere already, long ago, on some chinese website

  4. Aytisi | September 24, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    One of the "additives" shown for beef is, in fact, Marmite, a famous British yeast extract widely used to impart a meaty taste. Many precooked meats and packaged savoury foods in North America contain it (labelled as "yeast extract"). It's a good source of B vitamins and many people consider it a health food. Vegemite and Promite are similar.

  5. poopy | September 25, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Aytisi…. Umm so you think it’s ok to cover pork in beef extract and sell it as beef ? Wow, I never wanna come round yours for dinner ….

  6. Augis | September 25, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    By the way, according to European standards sausage producers are also allowed to add nitrates to enhance the red color.
    Just for information.

  7. Food is scary | September 26, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    They're putting vinegar and baking soda infood now!? That's explosive!

  8. reoestr | September 27, 2011 | Permalink Reply


  9. Elizabeth | September 29, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Baking soda is safe! I use it in pancakes and muffins!!

  10. victor | June 19, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    now i know why i feel sick everytime i eat chinese food

  11. [...] Anonymous Chinese chef uploads restaurant kitchen photo exposé [...]

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