IELTS General Reading Test – Timed Passages – B-2 – C
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READING PASSAGE 3
Read the text below and answer questions 28-40.
TEXT 3 – FOOD AND DRINK IN CHINA
A – Most Westerners will have tasted and enjoyed Chinese food in various forms in their own countries, and may even have learned the delicate art of eating with chopsticks. But they may be less prepared for what the writer Colin Thubron memorably describes as the ‘passionate relationship’ of the Chinese to food. Folk memories of famine are recent (the last were in the 1960s) and there are still areas where people’s diet is limited and poor.
Refrigeration is more widespread now, but the Chinese almost never eat ‘ready meals’; food is freshly cooked for each meal, and fish, meat and poultry are often killed only a short time before they are cooked. Shopping in the markets or shops is done with immense gusto, and everything is prodded, shaken, sniffed and thoroughly checked before being purchased.
It is debatable whether, in purely Western terms, the Chinese eat a ‘healthy’ diet. They eat many vegetables, things are cooked fast so that the goodness is not destroyed, and people eat small quantities fairly frequently-‘grazing’, rather than eating huge meals at one sitting, which is one reason why they tend to be much slimmer than people in the increasingly obese West. On the other hand they use a large amount of the very salty MSG (monosodium glutamate, or taste powder) in their cooking, as well as sugar; and in some regions of China there is a high incidence of certain types of cancer, due to the overuse of pickling, the only way some vegetables can be preserved through the winter.
At.any rate, the Western visitor will experience a fantastic range of different foods, some wonderful ( dumplings, tofu, sweet and sour soup, Mongolian hotpot, and hundreds more treats), and some less to Western tastes, such as ‘hundred-year- old eggs’ or donkey stew. If the Westerner is overwhelmed by a desire for a more familiar food, these days help is at hand.
In the bigger cities, though more rarely in the rural areas, there are plenty of fast- food outlets selling hamburgers and pizzas; there are some Italian, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Mexican restaurants, and also newly opened supermarkets (mostly French) that sell the foods of which, in the past, homesick Westerners could only dream-for example, bread, cheese, milk, coffee and real chocolate.
B – Chinese local dishes are said to have four, eight and ten culinary schools, depending on which authority is consulted. Canton, Shandong, Sichuan and Yangzhou make up four of them: if you count Hunan, Fujian, Anhui and Zhejiang, you have eight culinary schools; add in Beijing and Shanghai, and that makes ten. You should also try the Middle Eastern-type cooking of the Muslim minorities, such as the Hui and Uighur people, whose roadside stalls produce wonderful (and very cheap) lamb kebabs wrapped in naan bread with salad and hot spicy sauce. Here are a few pointers about some of the schools of cookery.
C – Cantonese cuisine adopts the good points of all other culinary schools, and its selection of ingredients is extensive. River food and seafood are widely used, as well as birds, rats, snakes and insects. There is a saying that ‘The Cantonese will eat anything with wings, except a plane, and anything with four legs, except a table.’ Cantonese cuisine pays attention to the use of fresh ingredients and has unique cooking methods. Representative dishes are ‘three kinds of snake stewed’, cat meat, snake soup, casserole mountain turtle and crispy skin suckling pig.
Shandong cuisine is dominated by seafood, reflecting its nature as a peninsula surrounded by the sea. Typical dishes include stewed sea cucumber with scallion, stewed snakehead eggs, sea slugs with crab ovum, Dezhou grilled chicken and walnut kernel in cream soup.
Sichuan cuisine is renowned for its searingly hot, peppery flavour. The varietyof tastes is summed up in the phrase ‘a hundred dishes with a hundred flavours’.
Famous dishes include shredded pork with fish flavour, stewed beancurd with minced pork in pepper sauce, and dry-roast rock carp.
Those who are not used to extremely hot food should proceed with care. The Sichuanese use a special black pepper that leaves the lips numb-a bit frightening the first time it happens, but not unpleasant when one grows accustomed to it.
Huaiyang cuisine integrates the cream of dishes in Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Huaian and other places south of the Yangtze River, stressing freshness and tenderness, careful preparation, cutting skill, bright colour, beautiful arrangements and light flavouring.
Famous dishes include beggar’s chicken, fried mandarin fish with sweet and sour sauce, sliced chicken with egg white, salted duck, steamed crab meat and minced pork balls cooked in a casserole.
D – Vegetable dishes have been popular since the Song dynasty (960-1279) and they were greatly developed in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). They were divided into three schools: Monastery Vegetable Dishes, Court Vegetable Dishes and Folk Vegetable Dishes.
The main features of vegetable dishes are their unique style and their health benefits. Main materials include green leaf vegetables, fruit, edible mushrooms, and bean-curd products with vegetable oil as a condiment, all of which are delicious in taste, rich in nutrition, easy to digest, and believed to be helpful in preventing cancer.
E – The Chinese drink large quantities of tea (mostly ‘green tea’, as opposed to the ‘black’ tea that is more commonly drunk in the West) and they add no milk or sugar. Tea is drunk constantly at meetings and at work, less so in restaurants and at formal meals, though it is always available if asked for. It is usually served in mugs with lids to keep it warm. Teabags and tea strainers are not used, and drinking tea without swallowing a mouthful of tea leaves requires concentration: try using the lid as a strainer when sipping.
Tea is divided into green, black, perfumed, white and Wulong tea. The most valuable green teas are Longjing and Biluochun; black tea, Qihong and Yunfeng; scented tea, Jasmine; white tea, Yinzhenbaihao, Gongmei and Shoumei; Wulong tea, Dahongpao and Tieguanyin. The Chinese will frequently give beautifully decorated tea caddies of special teas as a present.
Other drinks you may be offered are yellow rice wine, served hot in little porcelain cups. It tastes rather like sherry. More lethal is maotai, the Chinese answer to vodka; there are also many light Chinese beers, as well as a growing range of Chinese wines-Great Wall wine is perhaps the best known and has improved considerably since the producers set up a joint venture with a French wine-grower. Soft drinks such as mineral water and Coca Cola are available everywhere, and fruit juices made from the exotic tropical fruits grown in the south of China are delicious.
F – One interesting development in the 1990s has been the re-emergence of teahouses, traditionally the haunts of the intellectuals and literati, who would idle away hours in stimulating conversation or in composing poems. In workaholic, post-liberation China, such establishments were considered a decadent remnant of the feudal society. But with the emergence of the five-day working week, and with more emphasis on quality leisure time, the traditional teahouse is once again blossoming in major cities.
Teahouses have one thing in common: tranquillity-a precious commodity in China. The quiet atmosphere is broken only by leisurely music played on the zheng, a twenty-one- or twenty-five-stringed plucked instrument, in some ways similar to the zither. Conversation tends to be carried out in hushed tones. Teahouses are located at quiet places in beautiful surroundings, often near lakes; most cities have several now. The teahouse has its own slot on TV, too-the British television company Granada has coproduced with Chinese TV a 230-part TV soap called Joy Luck Street, based around the comings and goings in a teahouse; it was inspired by the long-running British TV soap Coronation Street, whose central location is a good old English pub.
G – Among men in China, much less so among women, smoking is widespread, and at formal meals cigarettes are almost always offered along with the tea. Most Chinese people do not seem to be at all worried about the links between smoking and health problems. It is very hard to escape from other people’s cigarettes in restaurants. Young Chinese men set on having a good night out can even be seen holding a lit cigarette in one hand and a pair of chopsticks in the other-managing to smoke and eat at the same time.
Source: Kathy Flower, Culture Smart!: China, 2010
The text ‘Food and Drink in China· has seven sections labelled A-G.
Which section contains the following information?
Write the correct letter A-G in spaces 28-34.
Note: you may use any letter more than once.
Correct 7 / 7 PointsIncorrect / 7 Points
28. – Regional cuisines of China
29. – The importance of food in Chinese culture
30. – Cigarette-smoking in Chinese culture
31. – Overview of four regional culinary ·schools’
32. – Popular Chinese drinks
33. – The importance of vegetable dishes in Chinese cooking
34. – The importance of teahouses in Chinese culture
Complete the summary below.
Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text for each answer.
Write your answers in spaces 35-40.
The Chinese are known to have what is often called a ‘passionate relationship’ with food, and the buying and cooking of it is done with enthusiasm.
Although aspects of Chinese cuisine are very healthy, such as the use of many different 35. and the habit of eating small amounts of food often, the adding of MSG to cooking, too much added sugar, and the 36. can be linked to high levels of some cancers in
In addition to the availability of some Western foods in China nowadays, there are several regional cuisines to choose from. The Cantonese cuisine is known to use many ingredients; Shandong cuisine uses a lot of 37. , Sichuan cuisine is known to be hot and spicy, and Huiyang food combines the flavours and colours of the best dishes from places 38. the Yangzte River.
The Chinese drink teas, wines, spirits and beers, with one Chinese wine company more recently developing wine with a wine-grower from 39. . Chinese teahouses are usually situated near cities in 40. and are places for quiet conversation.
Cigarette-smoking is a popular pastime, particularly with men.