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Bon appetit! CIIE offers international buffet of food imports

2019/11/12 10:58:59   source:CGTN

You can start with creamy hummus and Spanish ham, then move on to steaks seared to perfection and fried noodles heavy on the umami, before finishing off with a scoop of ice cream or a spoon of chocolate from a flowing fountain. The selection of beverages includes kiwi juice, Turkish tea and wine from France and Argentine. This is not a set menu at a restaurant, but what's on offer at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

Foreign exhibitors at the Food and Agricultural Products Pavilion are tantalizing the taste buds of visitors, buyers, and media personnel, leaving some satiated and others wanting more.

In 2018, China gobbled up 73.5 billion U.S. dollars of food imports, a 50-percent increase from 2016. In a testament to how important foodstuffs are to the CIIE, the pavilion has been expanded from two halls at the inaugural event last year to three in the second edition.

Items like grapes, figs, walnuts, coriander, cucumber, and sesame seeds were introduced to China along the ancient Silk Road. Today, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative and the CIIE, red wine, coffee, dried fruits, meat, seafood, and dairy products from around the world can enter the kitchens of Chinese people, turning daily meals into feasts with exotic flavors.

Turkey is on a crusade to appeal to Chinese consumers. At its beautifully-designed booth, the menu changes every day. Rice pudding, lentil dishes, and bulgur-based salads are displayed next to dried fruits, yogurt desserts, pistachio, and hazelnut.

Turkish delicacies on display at the 2nd CIIE in Shanghai. /CGTN Photo

"Turkey is fully aware that the Chinese market is important for Turkish exporters and is full of potentials. That's why they are trying to promote their products here, such as dried figs and rose water," said Aydin Yilmaz, manager of Istanbul Chemicals and Chemical Products Exporters' Association.

"Turkey is the biggest producer and exporter of figs, and accounts for 61 percent of the world's total production of roses," he told CGTN.

Yilmaz explained that Chinese people use Turkish products differently than their Turkish peers. For example, people in Turkey enjoy roasted hazelnuts, but in China, they're consumed with chocolate and other desserts. Meanwhile, Turkish people use rose water as perfume, but Chinese women clean their faces with the liquid.

Idris Talha Kartav is behind the lip-smacking concoctions at the Turkish booth. He rose to fame in China after he took part in "Informal Talks," a show featuring expats in China debating hot-button issues in fluent Mandarin.

At this year's CIIE, he's serving as the international consultant of the Turkish National Exhibition and has invited top chefs for live cooking shows to introduce CIIE visitors to Turkish culinary traditions with a Chinese twist.

The number of Turkish companies taking part in this year's CIIE has more than doubled since last year to over 50. "All Turkish companies that attended the first CIIE were very happy about the results and the business opportunities here in China," he noted.

Not far away, the French booth welcomes curious visitors with the familiar red, white and blue colors of the national flag.

French cheeses and fruits on display at the 2nd CIIE in Shanghai. /CGTN Photo

Emilie Martin from the French Dairy Association for Asia Pacific said French firms are bringing dairy products to Chinese consumers, from milk powder to butter, cream and, of course, cheese, like comté, mimolette, and camembert with blue cheese on the inside.

She told CGTN that she's participating at the CIIE for the first time but is convinced that "the Chinese market is extremely important for the French dairy sector."

While more people in China are acquiring a taste for dairy products, some types of milk still bring a bitter aftertaste because of previous food safety scandals. Companies attending this edition of CIIE are trying to appease them.

France's Danone is bringing more than 120 years of expertise in infant formula and baby food to China, said Gregg Ward, head of Healthcare Nutrition, Research & Innovation, adding that they know Chinese customers are some of the most sophisticated in the world with regards to nutritional products.

The food of a particular place is an important symbol of local geographic and cultural characteristics. Food carries history and tradition, leads the tide of trade, strengthens diplomatic relations, and disseminates and promotes cultures. Food has been serving as a bridge between people from around the world, and the Food and Agricultural Products Pavilion at the 2nd CIIE has proven this yet again.

Cover image designer: Yin Yating 

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