chinese qChewy, gelatinous, gummy, spongy, springy—these are not words of praise used to describe food textures in the U.S. If it’s not crunchy or creamy we get squeamish.

But that means we have a hard time appreciating genuine Chinese food.  Chewy, gelatinous, gummy, spongy and springy are all ways of describing Q, the texture that defines the essence of Chinese food aesthetics. Chinese food is about texture as much as it is flavor and the sensation of Q is highly prized. Yet most of the dishes that exhibit Q don’t find their way onto U.S. menus unless the restaurant primarily serves a Chinese clientele. Americans haven’t grown up with this finely-honed sensitivity to the various gradations of Q so beef tendon, fish balls, and pig intestines will not pack your restaurant. Without an appreciation of Q, we can only scratch the surface of Chinese cuisine.

Lucky Peach has a good primer on the nature of Q.

I do enjoy tendon in soups and those semi-transparent silver needle noodles have an interesting texture, firm yet silky. But to be honest, learning to really appreciate Chinese food is like learning to eat all over again.