Jan 16, 2021 09:36 PM

Noodle Diplomacy and Turkish Pizza: Joe Biden’s Food Moments Abroad

Official visits often involve challenging conversations. Sometimes in high level politics a shared meal can ease the tone. It can also convey a message.

What politicians eat in public view is generally planned in advance, and can be intended to show their common touch, or their cross-cultural understanding. Think of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sharing dumplings with migrant workers and coal miners.

It can easily go awry. Some in the UK still claim 2015 prime ministerial candidate Ed Miliband’s struggle to eat a bacon sandwich a year before the election contributed to his defeat. Pictures of his contorted face repeated went viral and were roundly mocked.

“The sandwich stopped being just a sandwich,” the Huffington Post wrote in a retrospective three years later. “It started to become a visual catch-all to represent an argument that Miliband was too geeky, too intellectual, too stuffy to relate to the working people of Britain and consequently to be prime minister.”

Joe Biden, who is set to take over as President of the United States on Wednesday, visited more than fifty countries during his eight years as Vice President to Barack Obama.

We decided to take a look at some of his culinary moments abroad.

Beijing: Noodle diplomacy

Biden made an appearance at Yao’s, an unassuming eatery specialized in local delicacy liver strew (chaogan 炒肝) while visiting China in August 2011. He did not brave the offal dish, but ordered noodles with fermented bean sauce (zhajiangmian 炸酱面), another quintessentially Beijing dish, alongside steamed buns, cucumber salad and shredded potatoes. The Chinese press dubbed it “noodle diplomacy”.


Photo: Xinhuanet


chaogan 炒肝

Translated literally as “stir-fried liver”, this dish is actually nothing of the sort. It’s a soupy strew loaded with offal, including pig liver and intestines, and thickened with starch. Watch out for the chucks of garlic!


zhajiangmian 炸酱面

A classic Beijing noodle dish that parallels spaghetti Bolognese. Just replace the spaghetti with fresh Chinese noodles and the sauce with pork mince simmered in fermented bean paste until it becomes a rich, thick gravy. Shreds of cucumber, carrot and soybeans add freshness.

In 2013, Biden made it to Beijing again, this time visiting a local tea house for a traditional tasting ceremony.




Istanbul: A Turkish feast

Biden went to the famous Develi restaurant in Istanbul in 2011, where he ate stuffed meatballs, hazelnut lahmacun, eggplant kebab, hummus with pastrami, Alinazik , baklava and more.



Known as Turkish pizza, lahmacun literally means "dough with meat." It is a thin, crispy dough baked with a spiced minced meat topping.



A specialty from western Turkey’s Gaziantep province, bordering Syria. Sauteed lamb or beef sits on a bed of mashed smoked eggplant.


Singapore: Lime juice

During his July 2013 visit to Singapore, Biden made a pit stop at the famous hawker food center on Adam Road. He met with diners and drank fresh lime juice, a popular local drink.


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