Dietetic Traditions of Jino Minority

Jino women traditionally gathered 40 or 50 different edible wild herbs and wild fruits and men carried crossbows, bow and arrows or primitive guns with them while working, in order to capture any wild animals or birds they encountered. Game has always been an important part of the Jinos' diet.

There is a common saying among the Jinos-"Han fries, Dai dips and Jino pounds." which means that the Hans prefer frying the dishes, and the Dais love dipping the food into seasonings, while the Jinos mainly eat cold pounded food. The common Jino seasonings are hot pepper, lemongrass, turmeric leaves, wild anise, peppermint and ginger. Unique materials and cookery give birth to many rarely known, even unbelievable dishes, such as "chopped raw meat", "polliwogs mixed with smelly vegetable", "river crabs steamed in banana leaves", "dried squirrel meat soup" and "braised sour ant eggs".

"Chopped raw meat" is made with fresh meat chopped into shreds, adding some seasonings like salt, hot pepper, ginger powder, peppermint and chives, and then stirring and molding it repeatedly until the meat turns white in color. For "polliwog mixed with smelly vegetable", immature tadpoles are caught and washed clean, cooked in boiling water for a short moment, and eaten mixed with seasonings. The dish smells like the "Smelly Tofu" in Beijing, and tastes refreshing, leaving a lasting and pleasant aftertaste. The Jinos are used to hanging the hunted squirrel meat over the edge of the fire pit in their bamboo house and smoking the meat until it dries. This keeps the meat from going bad. When eating it, they cut the meat into pieces and make it into a soup, which is delicious but not greasy.

The areas where the Jinos inhabit have plenty of ants, which are quite out of the ordinary. They live in trees instead of underground and their eggs are extraordinarily huge, as big as soybeans. The eggs of these ants are deposited in bag-shaped sacs that hang on trees. The sacs can be quite big and heavy, weighing over five kilograms. The Jinos are fond of eating ant eggs. In the third, forth and fifth lunar months—when the ants lay their eggs—they go out to search for the sacs. Having found the sacs, they cut them open with knives, taking out the pure white and sparkling bright ant eggs and cook them with sour seasonings. The eggs not only are nourishing and delicious, but also make a cracking sound when chewed in the mouth.

Jino cooking and dining both take place around the fire pit on the second floor of their bamboo housea, with certain etiquettes. While having dinner, the whole family should be seated in proper order around the bamboo table by the pit, the head of the family facing the pit and the guests beside the pit. When ladling food for guests, a little is ladled each time and this is repeated many times. Jino seldom pick up food for the guests as this is viewed as impolite behavior, implying that guests are not welcome to eat as much as they like. Due to their belief that all things have souls, the Jino think that grains of rice have souls too, so the rice in the steamer should not be eaten completely even though they are still hungry. If the rice steamer is empty, the Jino believe, the grain's soul will fly away and never come back, and people will starve.

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