Global Times: Solving ‘cucumber conundrum’ for small eateries shows responsive governance

BEIJING, Sept. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Light, crunchy, refreshing and superb for summer, smashed cucumber is the go-to salad or appetizer for many people in China in hot weather. Cucumbers are generally considered ideal for detoxification and preventing dehydration and the dish is easy to make at home, as well as popular in restaurants across the country.

Yet small restaurants were finding it challenging to legally sell this dish not too long ago. The cucumbers are served cold and are not cooked, making them a type of dish with higher food safety risks, according to previous regulations.

Precipitated by the public’s clear call for a change in this situation, a recently revised regulation came to the rescue.

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, commended this change in a front-page article earlier this week.

Known as pai huanggua in China, smashed cucumber only requires several minutes of preparation. It employs a smashing technique that cracks the skin of the cucumber as it is turned into little pieces, which allows the cucumber to better absorb the rich and zingy dressing. Smashed cucumber can be garnished with toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, garlic, chili oil or Sichuan pepper. With a wide selection of flavors, there is always one adaptation of smashed cucumber for everyone.

However, many eateries had been penalized for not complying with the rules for making the cold dish, which included having a separate preparation station of at least five square meters for cold dish preparation, dedicated disinfection facilities and specialized air conditioning systems for cold dishes.

While well-intentioned, these requirements often proved costly and burdensome for small businesses.

Such a stringent approach ran the risk of painting every small restaurant with a broad brush, neglecting to consider their challenges and operating environments.

It has ignited debates and won social media buzz. One key reason for the public outcry was the apparent disconnect between common culinary practices and stringent stipulations. People wondered why a dish they frequently prepared in their home kitchens was causing such legal problems for small restaurateurs.

In a response that suggests attentiveness to public sentiment, Chinese authorities revised the regulations. Specifically, these amendments address the operational challenges faced by small restaurants, especially in selling popular cold dishes like smashed cucumber. The new guidelines, known as Management Measures for Food Business License and Filing, simplify requirements for restaurant equipment and propose more lenient penalties for minor offenses. Starting on December 1, these changes will come into effect, providing relief to small restaurant owners.

It introduces a more nuanced approach to food safety that considers both the public’s demand for hygiene and the financial constraints of small eateries. This balance is particularly significant in a nation where the culinary domain is not just a matter of livelihood but also an integral part of its culture and social fabric.

The government’s new regulations wisely adapt to these on-the-ground realities. From then on, simple cold dishes like smashed cucumber can be prepared and sold within more reasonable and manageable guidelines.

There’s a newfound recognition that food safety doesn’t necessarily demand one-size-fits-all regulations but can be maintained through practical, efficient measures tailored to various scales of operations.

While the discussion centers around cucumbers, the implications extend far beyond. The case of the cold dish regulation is an interesting look into how policy, public opinion, and practical considerations interact in modern China. In this instance, it proves that the regulators are showing a willingness to adapt and moderate its stance, responding to the needs and sentiments of both business owners and consumers.

This adjustment shows that the government isn’t just listening but also acting on the people’s needs. It’s a reflection of the principle that governance should be flexible and thoughtful.

Flexibility allows the government to adapt its rules as societal needs change, while thoughtfulness ensures that these adaptations are done with an understanding of their impact on people’s lives.

From a broader perspective, this move can be seen as part of China’s continuous efforts to fine-tune its regulations and adapt them to the needs of a diverse and evolving society. By doing so, the government demonstrates its commitment to improving the ease of doing business in China and fostering a supportive environment for the private sector, including the millions of small and medium-sized enterprises that firmly support the Chinese economy. 

SOURCE Global Times

Originally published at
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