Wednesday, January 17, 2007

China Day #2

I was in a meeting this morning in a conference room at my client. We had some interesting discussion (in English) about various software issues then suddenly one of my clients switched over to Chinese. Within seconds, there were about three different conversations going on between the client and my co-workers who are all Chinese living in the US or Canada. Suddenly it dawned on me... I was the only non-Chinese speaker in the room. I didn't interrupt as it seemed the client knew the topic of discussion was important and it was just easier to discuss in their native language. I got an update later from my co-workers. It was probably the fastest way to get the issues settled.

I decided to eat in the hotel tonight and tried the hotel's Dragon Court Chinese restaurant. It was a little early for dinner in China and when the hostess seated me, it looked like I was the only one in the restaurant. I was quickly surrounded by four pretty young waitresses in traditional Chinese silk jackets. They all looked to be maybe 18 to 22 years old. They didn't seem to understand my English as well as the front desk staff. The menu had both English and Chinese but the familiar Chinese dishes I was used to back home were nowhere to be found. I asked about Kung Pao Chicken and got a quizzical look. "Chicken and peanuts?" I settled on a friend prawn dish with some steamed rice. The girl looked puzzled, took the order, and went away. Shortly later she returned to tell me that this was "only one prawn" and "I don't think that is enough food for you." I didn't remember seeing the word "appetizer" anywhere but apparently that is what I ordered. I looked for another chicken dish and ordered some more food.

They brought my appetizer which resembled a work of art. It was both tasty and crunchy.

Then they brought my chicken dish still sizzling in a covered clay pot. It smelled great and looked. When I started trying to eat it I realized the chicken was not boneless. In fact, it was made from the ends of chicken wing bones. Each bite of chicken contained a joint between two bones in the wing. It tasted good but it there wasn't much meat around the bones. It was hard to separate the meat from the bone with a knife and fork. I one point I gave up on trying to be neat. I figured the Chinese eating with chopsticks would have to put the whole piece in their mouth and separate the meat from the bone with their teeth and tougne and spit out the bones. It was a lot of work to eat and I only ate about half of it.

I turned on the television in my hotel room for the first time. There are a couple of English language news shows available such as CNN. While channel surfing I found the "Charlie's Angels" movie with Chinese voice overs and Chinese subtitles.


Christin said...

Funny! I knew "real" Chinese food was different, but I didn't know they had a chicken wing tip dish. Doesn't sound too healthy but I bet it tasted good. I wish I could travel just so I could try all those new foods!

Shuping said...

Phil, glad you had your first experience in China. Too bad I wasn't able to meet you there - I am just back from China. If you want to see Mao's picture, ask somebody to take you to the TianAnMen square. There are other historical sites in Beijing that you may want to visit, e.g., GuGong and TianTan, just to name a couple. When you need to buy things, make sure the price is right. Price for food is usually not negotiable. But it is for many other things, particularly for souvenirs. You may start barging by cutting the original price by as much as half for souvenirs. Also, paying tips is not a standard thing in China. You only do so when you are very happy about the service you get. Hope you will enjoy the rest of your trip and get to know more about Chinese culture. - Shuping

Lu said...

Most Chinese dishes you have in the US were originated from Cantonese people, who immigrated to US and started restaurant business much earlier than mainland Chinese.

I think "Chicken with peanuts" is how Kung Pao Chicken was made and they probably meant that. It'd be easier for them to understand if you said Gung Bao Chicken instead. This is actually a very traditional mainland dish, although your pronunciation was again cantonese version.

So, how about next time I give you a list of CHINES characters of the dishes with their corresponding American names?:-))