Wang Gang, a popular Chinese online chef, has run into controversy with one of his videos in which he is seen killing and preparing a salamander, before turning it into a tasty braised dish. (South China Morning Post photo)
A down-to-earth video chef with more than 10 million online fans was not expecting the stir he created when he introduced his audience to the art of preparing a meal out of a critically endangered giant salamander — after killing it in front of the camera.
The four-minute video, which went viral last week, attracted widespread controversy. Some people were concerned that the main ingredient was a protected species which should not be eaten, while others were shocked to see the animal killed and prepared on camera.
The video opens, like all of the 29-year-old chef’s videos, with his usual greeting: “Hi everybody, I’m Wang Gang. Today I will teach you how to make braised salamander.”
As always, Wang is dressed in his crisp, white chef’s jacket. In his left hand, he holds the struggling salamander up to the camera before knocking it out with the blunt end of his cleaver, slicing it open, washing it clean and chopping it to pieces.
Wang has apologised for the salamander video, but his regret has not, so far, turned down the heat on the discussion which it has generated among China’s vibrant online community.
In a video apology posted to social media this week, Wang explained that the salamander was not a protected animal taken from the wild.
Instead, he said, it had been sourced from a farm.
But some commenters said the killing of the salamander was cruel, and accused Wang of not having enough respect for life.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post Wang said he did not see the controversy coming, particularly over the screening of the salamander’s last moments. Killing, he said, was an essential part of his daily work as a chef.
Wang’s no-nonsense approach in his videos is exactly what his followers have found so appealing since he began making them in 2017.
People have praised his concise, down-to-earth style of cooking and said they felt he was honestly trying to teach cooking skills, instead of showing off or making the process look poetic.
Wang, from Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, has more than 10 million fans across nearly 20 Chinese social media platforms. He has published more than 180 videos on news and entertainment platform Jinri Toutiao, which have been viewed in total more than 240 million times.
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