BEIJING – Coming soon to China: A taste of the taikonaut life.
Dishes like roast pork and stewed duck specially concocted for taikonauts — the Chinese term for astronauts — will be sold in supermarkets by the end of the year, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.
The Scientific Research and Training Center for Chinese Astronauts and a Shanghai-based food company have developed more than 60 space dishes — including meat, vegetables, starches and desserts — for the country's space program, only the third in the world to launch a human into orbit.
Confident of the products' appeal, the center began cooperation with manufacturers on mass production in 2006, Xinhua said.
The space food is not only tasty, it also provides the 2,400 calories of energy required by an astronaut, said Chen Bin, head of the center's food and nutrition branch.
"They are especially suitable for outdoor activities, such as polar region expeditions, mountain climbing and traveling," Chen was quoted as saying.
Other new creations so far? Cantaloupe chips and taro-stuffed mooncake, a hockey puck-shaped confection usually made up of a thin layer of pastry and a sweet filling like lotus-seed paste — a traditional Mid-Autumn Festival gift.
Xinhua did not give details on when the products will be available or how they will be prepared.
According to the report, Chen said the center "had adopted a series of strict criteria in ingredient selection and processing to ensure food safety" given the country's recurring food woes. In recent months, China has also been fighting to improve its image after its exports were found to be tainted with potentially dangerous levels of chemicals and toxins.
Chen said they have also developed chocolate bars and other desserts for the taikonauts going on the next manned space flight in 2008.
"The astronauts are not picky about the taste, but most of them prefer spicy food," he said. "So more Sichuan-flavored dishes may appear on their menu."
In early space missions, astronauts from the United States and Russia dined on energy bar-like Space Food Sticks and caviar in tubes.
Earlier this year, billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi feasted on a gourmet meal designed by lifestyle guru Martha Stewart that included roast quail, duck breast confit with capers, shredded chicken parmentier, apple fondant pieces, rice pudding with candied fruit, and semolina cake with dried apricots.