A week and half ago, after a trip to the watch market on a Sunday afternoon, Anders and I had lunch together at a Chinese restaurant. Up to this point I had lunch with friends at non-Chinese restaurants and dinners with out-of-town friends at anything but Chinese restaurants. When fellow P&Gers are coming through GZ it’s typically in the middle of an Asian tour and the last thing they usually want to eat is more Chinese. So I think it’ll be my duty to find the best that GZ has to offer without being Chinese.
But I didn’t come to Guangzhou though to not experience Chinese culture so we went with the only Chinese restuarant I heard good things about and Ben knew where it was. In the building where I take my Mandarin lesson is a Sichuan restaurant that both he and my teacher raved about. I decided it was time to be a local.
It was mid-afternoon and there were only about a dozen other people so we were shown to a nice table by a window. The table setting was all porcelain and consisted of a small bowl with a spoon, handle-less tea cup and small plate. Oh and beautiful chopsticks, of course. The non-English speaking waiter brought a teapot of hot water and I thought it was to drink. Fortunately my worldly husband knew what to do as he’d been shown by his peers at lunches. I would have made a total fool of myself in front of the dozen or so patrons had I drunk the water. Believe me they were all looking at one point or another. You get used to it. I can only imagine the snickering that would have been going on behind the hands that cover their mouths. The women are so demure. Anyway, what one does is pour the water from the teapot into the cup, over the chopsticks and spoon in the bowl, then swirl it onto the small plate and the waiter comes and empties it. Evidently the table setting that looked so pristine isn’t after all. Anders said it’s a uniquely Cantonese thing. When in Rome…
Then came the menu. The Chinese are all very proud of their regional cuisine and freshness is everything for them. Those chicken feet that you’re gnawing on may have been tied by a leather thong and hanging from a rafter only moments before your order went to the kitchen. The menus are very extensive. It seems like no matter what kind of cuisine, the menus are pages and pages long. I have yet to see a menu that wasn’t in Chinese and English, thank heaven for small favors. The dishes are also usually pictured, I think it helps clear up any problems that may arise from translation issues and believe me there are translation issues. It’s all part of the fun. So after quite a bit of studying the menu, giggling over some of the options available, we decided on some kind of ribs, sliced beef, rice, scallion pancakes, and two kinds of green beans. We ordered simply by pointing and saying yi ge which means “one of”. Why two bean dishes? The beans here are amazing and are usually served with chilis, YUM.
When the food arrived I immediately reached for my plate, wouldn’t you? Nope. Just like the water is not for drinking (at first anyway) the plate is not for eating. It’s for your scraps, bones, gristle, chicken claws, beaks, hooves, and anything else you don’t want to ingest. The BOWL is for eating. You spoon your portion into your bowl and using either your chopsticks or spoon, you eat from that. This means that Kiersten would be very happy as you only eat one thing at a time. It’s not a big bowl. It was all good but both bean dishes were our favorite. I think before we go back, and we will, we need to learn a bit more about their specialties and order those.
Ah yes, table napkins don’t exist here. If you’re lucky there will be a box of tissues on the table. More often than not, it’s a purse pack of tissues, and at this restaurant we had to order a pack of tissues ( it was only 30 cents). Those leftovers went right in my purse 😉 At a Thai hole-in-the-wall eatery in Hong Kong this past weekend when Anders asked/motioned for a napkin he was given…drum roll please…a roll of toilet paper! I couldn’t look at him while he unrolled a few squares which he so graciously spared. We just went with it because we NEVER want to offend anyone but oh the urge to laugh. And it wasn’t even Charmin!
All this food + a beer + the tissues cost about $18. I was OK drinking the table setting purifying water, I believe it was free.
4PM – 85 degrees (this is the first rainy/cloudy day we’ve had in the month that I’ve been here. I believe it’s from a typhoon.)