Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Evah! - a Taste of China

OK, it's not all as bad as you might think. There are some parts of China that have McDonald's and Wendy's, and even Starbucks. Well that is if you like corn and shredded carrots on your burgers instead of Lettuce, pickles and tomato. I'm not sure they even know what Mayo is there. Not really sure I want to ask them.

I do remember a companion trying desperately to get a glass of milk to settle his stomach. We were staying in a Chinese hotel where no one spoke English. We finally called someone to translate and he got at glass of reconstituted evaporated milk. There was no fresh milk available. That particular hotel tried it's best to satisfy international clients.

At the breakfast buffet this restaurant had an item marked sausage, but it looked incredibly like a hot dog. Tasted that way too. Forget ketchup, you get soy, or some other stuff that looks and tastes a lot like Kitchen Bouquet.

I have eaten in many different restaurants in the East and eating things you wouldn't feed to your cat. My favorite type of restaurant is the seafood restaurant where they keep huge tanks of all kinds of sea creatures and fish. You pick out what you want and it gets prepared the way you like. I never picked, because other than the eels and spiny lobsters, I had no clue what anything was.

Those are the good restaurants that are usually safe to eat at. Used to be that many restaurants weren't sanitary. They didn't wash dishes properly. It is a custom still when eating with Westerners, to take your first pot of steaming hot tea and wash your bowls, plate and chopsticks with the hot water. This way they will be safe. I have however been given greasy plates and was very glad of the boiling tea water.

In the bigger cities, there are many international restaurants. People have found they can make a decent living off of all the international business people working at the factories. There were a lot of Argentinian restaurants where I worked in Guangzhou. That food was good too. But when in China....

I liked the restaurant at the top of this post. You see those big pots? They aren't for decoration. A man makes soup in them every day. He waits outside the restaurant for customers to ask for the soup. The server will go out to the man and get a bowl of soup from him if you ask for it, and he gets paid. The restaurant does not make it's own soup.

That restaurant would make just about anything though. I did have frog there. They also served dog, although I wouldn't try that. At least I don't think I ever had any. You just never know what they will try to pass off on you there. A lot of Westerners will only eat in McDonald's, because they feel that's safe. But what fun is life if you play it safe all the time.

I've had Peking duck and I so love it. It's pretty special though and I rarely got it. The duck is hung and the skin inflated and cured, then the skin is crisped and the duck cooked. The best part is the skin, wrapped in a pancake around scallions in a soy dipping sauce. So yummy.

Once I went to this very cool restaurant where they made noodles in front of you. They took dough and stretched and folded ad stretched and folded over and over until there was a huge bundle of fine noodles.

And there was this tea that was served by a man with foot long fingernails from a teapot with a 3 foot long spout. They shoot the tea across the table into your cup. Scary but cool  - and the tea? My fave Ba Bao Cha or Eight Treasure Tea.

I also had the pleasure of Pizza Hut in Taiwan. The factory owner was so pleased to be able to offer us this. But Pizza in China is not quite like ours. The crust in not risen, no yeast, and again, there's corn and carrot slivers but the best part is the tiny unknown fish with their heads still in tact. Kind of like some unknown minnow. You eat them head, bones and all. Mmmmmm.

The Chinese prepare their food intact. They believe that all the body parts add important flavor. They also like to have the critters look at you if they can and the eyes are the tastiest part. They are kind, however, to Westerners who don't like to have their food look back at them. Usually you will eat beef, because it is taken off the bone after cooked, or served with bigger bone pieces. Chicken is usually chopped up with bone, so there are lots of bone splinters in it. Most Westerners don't know how to eat food carefully.

One day I watched as my Chinese companions, who ate fish so carefully with the tiny bones. I realized how we don't take the time to eat slow and truly appreciate what we are eating, like they do. They have to eat slow, or die with a sliver or bone in their throat or gut. I think I like how they eat much better.

I've eaten so many meals in China that I can't recount them all for you. Many scary, but I lived. Some International buffets in Hong Kong were unbelievable. But why don't you take a chance and try it out for yourself?


Jane Skoch said...

Oh gosh, I think I'll stick to my American Chinese restaurants! Very interesting eating Cinders! I think I would have to stash peanut butter in my suitcase and live on that! But I agree that we don't eat slow - but not sure I would want to be chewing on bones....

Pesky Cat Designs said...

Very interesting post. Both Tom and I enjoyed it. I am wondering if they cook with tofu as well. Seems as if every asian restaurant in the US has that on the menu.
Eating slowly is good advice. Keep these post coming. Love reading about your adventures in China!

akaCINDERS said...

Jane, many of my traveling companions stash lots of granola bars. But still hard to refuse food from a factory owner at dinner.

Elisa, there are things that mostly men or women eat. Women rarely drink alcohol, men rarely eat tofu. (female hormones) Men eat beef, women eat fish and fertile things. Food is steeped in tradition or superstition.

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