This Is What Xi Jinping Really Eats

The Chinese president since 2012, Xi Jinping is at the helm of modern-day China, meeting with world leaders, traveling the world, and undoubtedly enjoying some much-loved dishes along the way. Xi Jinping has garnered media attention from his love of Chinese classics at home and for trying completely different dishes abroad. 

Coming from a privileged background, the leader was to spend seven years in a rural locale during his teenage years in Liangjiah, in Shaanxi Province. The experience was part of a national countryside program. An article in CGTN states how the young Xi Jinping slept in caves on the ground, and it was during this time that he really valued the importance of food and wanted to make a difference. "People lived in poverty. They often went months without meat. What I wanted to do the most was to make it possible for the villagers not just to have meat sometimes, but to often have meat on their plates," Jinping said.

Xi Jinping's approach is a far cry from the extravagant feasts that were the favorite foods of many Chinese leaders in the past. Mao Zedong, who ruled over China until the 1970s, ate quite simple meals, and his favorite dish was red braised pork (the government even issued official recipe guidelines for the meal), as reported by The Telegraph. Meanwhile, what Xi Jinping eats has had such an influence that it's boosted the popularity of entire food industries.

The "Uncle Xi Combo" with steamed buns

In 2013, Xi Jinping's lunch hit the headlines when Xi Jinping ate at a local-style Qingfeng restaurant in Beijing. His order went vial, becoming known as the "Uncle Xi Combo". This laid-back lunch consisted of pork and onion steamed dumplings, liver and stir-fried green vegetables with the local people. While the dishes Xi Jinping ate are Chinese, and follow their own specific recipes, liver and onions is a traditional meal many people enjoy the world over. 

An article in The Atlantic suggests that eating this casual lunch in public, which is a rare sight in China for a leader, is in keeping with the president's anti-corruption stance and his views on excessive dining by officials. In other words, a down-to-earth lunch of steamed buns may have been a message against government gluttony. Either way, a Chinese leader eating in a restaurant among the locals is definitely going to create a stir. The next day, the queues for the baozi restaurant were huge, turning it into a "fast-food shrine" and a stop on the red tourism trail following in the footsteps of where leaders have been. 

Whether politics was mixed into the ingredients or not, the restaurant's boom in popularity after the president's visit is real proof in the pudding of just how interested so many people are in what Xi Jinping eats. 

Xi Jinping tucks into an ale and fish and chips with the British Prime Minister

Xi Jinping and his love of the food of the people does not stop when he travels abroad. In 2015, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron invited Xi Jinping for a thirst-quenching pint of ale during his visit to the U.K. The two leaders drank a pint of beer at a village pub in the heart of the English countryside, close to Cameron's country retreat in Chequers. During their visit to The Plough at Cadsden, the two supped a pint of Greene King IPA which subsequently became in instant big demand in China. In an article in The Guardian, an importer of the draught bitter reported that demand had, "gone berserk," and that within a couple of days of the pub lunch between the premiers, that, "people from all over China were ringing: agents, restaurants, bars, hotels. They wanted this beer."

The two men did not have just a liquid lunch, however, with Xi Jinping and his political dining partner tucking into traditional British fare with a mini fish and chips served with homemade tartar sauce. In England, the word chips refers to fries in the U.S., and what are knows as chips in the U.S. are called crisps across the pond. It's not just the words that vary, so too do the dishes, with some really appetizing British food that has to be tried at some point in your life. 

Xi Jinping made and ate caviar pancakes with Putin

There are probably few, if any, other people who can say that they've made pancakes with President Vladamir Putin, apart from Xi Jinping that is. The Chinese and Russian heads donned blue aprons for a spot of culinary pancake tossing during a break in an economic forum in Vladivostok in 2018. After making the small Russian pancakes the unlikely culinary duo topped the discs with caviar and enjoyed chowing down with some vodka to lubricate this classic Russian dish. Unlike French crepes, which are renowned for being wonderfully paper-thin, the Russian savory snack is often served as a canape and the pancakes are called blinis. They're much smaller than other pancakes so that they can easily be eaten in one bite without the need for a knife and fork.

This is not the first time that the political pair have gotten together to cook something up either. During a trip to China, the Russian president made dumplings with Xi Jinping. As well as enjoying a culinary cultural exchange, it seems the world leaders may share some common food passions too. It was reported that during the G20 summit in 2016, Putin gifted Xi Jinping with the Russian leader's favorite ice-cream flavor, pistachio. The two were also seen together in 2019 during Xi Jinping's birthday, toasting each other with Champagne flutes, and Putin hosting the occasion with a Russian ice-cream cake

Xi Jinping took a bite out of Polish apples with a president

During 2016, a photo opportunity in Warsaw snapped Xi Jinping eating apples with Polish President Andrzej Duda. As well as enjoying the rosy-red apple, Xi Jinping was taking a bite to promote China's signing of an agreement allowing Polish apples to be exported into the country. Poland is the main producer of apples in Europe and the produce can be brought to China via rail, making the transport less expensive than by air and quicker than by sea. 

After a bad apple harvest in China a couple of years later, and a great one in Poland, the Chinese were able to thoroughly munch down on apples from Poland. In an article in Fresh Plaza, a manager at one of the leading apple suppliers to China commented that "Polish Liogls and Red Jonaprinces are delicious crispy apples, they are sweet and juicy, exactly the types of apple that Chinese consumers love." The Polish apples are kept in a quality-controlled atmosphere to ensure the produce is still fresh when it reaches China. While Xi Jinping was eating his fruit freshly picked, there are also lots of interesting apple recipes and some amazing ways to cook apples.

Chowing down on pickled vegetables in his home province

Just before Chinese New Year in 2015, Xi Jinping visited Shaanxi Province, where he spent much of his time growing up, and shared food at the home of one of the villagers in Liangjiahe. According to coverage in Xinhuanet, the host made the Chinese leader a "rural home cuisine" of pumpkin and pickled vegetables, mutton, chicken, and fried cakes. The top man in China, Xi Jinping has made it something of a tradition to visit everyday people throughout his tenure, and this means eating with them as well. 

Another villager, featured in the same article, spoke of how Xi Jinping ate with him and described common meals that included "steamed buns made of corn and bran, and sorghum noodles." The villagers ate pickled vegetables during the colder months and traditionally it was commonplace for households to pickle their own vegetables in jars with salt and water. 

On eating some pickles during his visit, Xi Jinping was reported to have said, "I haven't eaten pickled cabbage for a long time, and I really miss it." Pickling has long been a culinary tradition in many homes in China, especially in villages where food was scarce, with some families using ornate pickling jars.

Xi Jinping enjoys Swiss fondue

In 2017, news footage captured Xi Jinping eating Swiss fondue with his wife, Peng Liyuan during a visit to Bern, Switzerland for the annual Davos World Economic Forum. Dining with former Swiss President Doris Leuthard, the presidential Chinese couple Xi enjoyed dipping their fondue forks of bread into the gooey melted cheese. 

A cheesy fondue could be seen as perhaps the least likely dish that Xi Jinping may eat as cheese doesn't really feature all that much in Chinese cuisine. Thrillist explains that one reason for this could be that cheese was linked with certain nomadic peoples and was regarded as a food that was for those not living within normal Chinese society. In recent years, China seems to have fallen in love with cheese and all things dairy, including yogurt and chocolate. In 2020, China ranked 8th globally in terms of annual cheese consumption (via GMA). This puts the country higher than Australia. Perhaps Xi Jinping's fondue moment boosted the popularity of cheese in China, too. 

Xi Jinping likes to leave an empty plate

While Xi Jinping may have sampled foods from around the world, as well as enjoyed simple Chinese foods, he is also passionate about food waste. In 2020, Xi Jinping launched Operation Empty Plate, a campaign that aims to achieve greater food security. According to a report highlighted in China Daily, it's estimated that the food China throws away could feed around 30-50 million people annually. Highlighting this is a way of creating a more sustainable future, not just for the Chinese, but people around the world. For a man who pushed his plate away at the idea of fancy banquets of excess, it doesn't seem at all surprising that Xi Jinping wants everybody else in China to think about what they eat, and how much.

Influential when it comes to politics and China's culinary history, Xi Jinping's caution for people to reduce food waste was interpreted by at least one restaurant in a rather drastic way. The eatery in Changsha took this idea of food awareness and waste to another level by adding scales so that customers could weigh themselves before ordering the recommended amount of food (via CNN). Later apologizing, the eatery also featured signs which told diners to clean their plates. When exploring what Xi Jinping likes to eat, it certainly seems to be the case that his favorite type of food is one that gets eaten, with no leftovers being thrown away.