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Chinese Celebrity Chef Is Facing a Backlash Over His Salamander Recipe on YouTube

Killing an endangered species for views isn't the best move.
March 19, 2019, 10:42am
Chef holding live salamander
Screenshot from Youtube.

All of us occasionally seek the help of online recipes when we're trying to cook up something special, or when we're attempting to be more responsible adults who don't eat out for every single meal. Nowadays, our options are endless. Craving lasagna? Food influencers who only post Italian food exist. Making a birthday cake? Instagram is basically a heaven where the dreamiest-looking cakes live. Thinking of boiling an endangered species in a pot? Yep, there is officially a professional vlog for that too.

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In China, celebrity chef Wang Gang thought it would be fun to take to YouTube and post a tutorial for a not-so common-dish: braised salamander. The world's largest amphibians are a hot commodity in China, where they are considered a luxury food. But regardless of how delicious salamander meat could be, the video is pretty damn brutal. Unsurprisingly, Wang is receiving backlash because of it, and to be honest, he kind of deserves it.

As the video begins, Wang opens with: “Hello everyone, this is Wang Gang. In this video, I’ll show you the home-style cooking of red braised Chinese Giant Salamander.” The sentence comes out of his mouth as he pulls a live salamander into the frame, struggling in his fist.

Wang suggests his viewers to bash the salamander’s head with the knife a few times, to “avoid fierce struggling in the pot," and as a side point, "to reduce its pain." After being stunned, the salamander still moves around for a while. Then, when it appears to be unconscious, the salamander is placed in a pot of boiling hot water, where it burns to death.

The giant Chinese salamander is endangered and protected in the wild, which triggered the social media backlash. The chef has since published an apology clarifying that the salamander he used was not wild, as farmed salamander is legal to eat, Inkstone reports. A disclaimer has also been added to the video: “The Salamander Is Farm Raised," it now says.

But not everyone is angry. Many have come to Wang’s defence in the comment section of the video. Somebody with the username John Doe wrote, “I think a lot of us in the United States (and other Western nations) have become disconnected from our food. We have no problem eating animals, but we have forgotten the entire process. Thank you for showing the process, even if it is unsettling to some."

Wang told the South China Morning Post that he was not expecting the backlash since killing all kinds of animals is a part of his daily tasks as a chef. But this controversy around this video highlights the growing discussions in China surrounding eating habits and conservation. Last year, the Chinese government banned the production and sale of food made from state-protected animals, including the salamander. But China has taken two steps forward and one step back, however, as it recently lifted a 25-year ban on using tiger and rhino parts in medicine.

It seems like people can criticize Wang all they want, but as long as the demand for endangered species as luxurious food still exists, videos like his may just become the norm.

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