By Matt Hodges (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-18 09:35
With his face smeared in spicy red crawfish sauce, New Yorker Jon E Liong learned that setting a new world record in rural China can be a tough, but fun, crawfish to crack. "It's quite a small reward for such a large investment," he joked, referring to the time it takes to dig out the tiny chunk of flesh from the exoskeletons of these baby lobster look-alikes. "But it sure tastes good."
The 29-year-old Chinese American was in Xuyi county, Jiangsu province, along with an estimated 30,000 Chinese and several dozen foreigners to establish a Guinness World Record in terms of number of people eating crawfish (xiaolongxia) in a single sitting.
As they spilled a mountain of freakishly long red claws and a sea of beer over the town square to inaugurate the 9th Xuyi International Crawfish Festival, part of a local tourism and industry drive that is hitting warp speed this summer, officials said the gambit had worked.
Xuyi's crawfish festival is also a feast for the eyes with its dazzling shows. Photos by Matt Hodges
"We organized the festival to promote the county and attract more investment, develop the local economy and make local people richer, and we did it, we broke the record!" says Hua Chunyan, secretary-general of the Wuxi County Party Committee.
He did not explain how it was possible to establish a world record in the absence of an official body count - not to mention an adjudicator from Guinness - or why key words returned no results on the official Guinness World Records website. The Wikipedia entry also claims that "eating contests and beer and alcohol consumption entries are no longer accepted, possibly for fear of litigation."
But whether real or just a calculated guess, the ploy has put Xuyi, a town of 730,000 people first built 2,200 years ago under the name Shandao, on the map in the space of only a decade.