Good morning/ afternoon etc everyone,
Hope you have had a good week. You may not be surprised to hear that I’ve had a pretty confusing one, but we will come to that later.
I’m sorry to say that my Internet connection is so slow that I’m afraid it just takes too long to upload photos- I had one of crashingabike’s overseas executives help out with the single one from last week. When I have sorted something more permanent out then I’ll get right onto it!
When in Rome, eat an open ham and pineapple sandwich, with tomato butter.
I’ve made a rule. If ever I see a poorly translated menu, and I laugh quite openly at the translation, I have to order it. Ts and Cs apply. Although this sounds silly, and a mere excuse for some blog fun, there is a good reason behind it- generally the tougher things to translate are less common, such as local specialities, or simply great dishes. Although, let’s be honest, often the Chinese will bang in a google translation without caring too much what goes on, so equally it may be something quite mundane. An example might clarify what I mean- earlier in the week I saw a menu at a barbecue which had upon it ‘Carbon the cow, burn the meat’- obviously this meant chargrilled beef of some sort, but it raised a smile. So.. with that in mind, I’ll shall be looking out for this type of thing, and I’ll let you know how it goes!!
On the subject of food, my horizons were not merely broadened last night, they were blown away. To put this into context, I’ll explain that food here generally comes with rice or noodles. If not, it is steamed. Buy in large, they will all come in a sauce, usually quite rich, and be variations on a mystery meat and veg, all fried in copious amounts of oil. If not, steamed dumplings are a great alternative. A take away delivered to the office or home will cost in between £1.50 and £2.50 depending on what it is and quality, but invariably they will all be very large. Food. Is. Cheap.
However there comes a time when rice/ noodles twice daily becomes not only tiresome, but hard work on the stomach!! So, we decided to roll the dice and go for a pizza. Now…. I knew that a chocolate pizza existed, yet I have NEVER seen it on a menu. The pizza in question was a Chocolate and Parmesan Cheese pizza, which was naturally in the savoury section of the menu. No one in their right mind can ignore this, even if eventually they choose not to order it. We did, and it was delightful. It came with m&ms and assorted fruit too. Thanks China.
Two more beautiful mysteries of Chinese cuisine are how they use spices so well, and what is going on in the chefs mind to think up their various concoctions. Flat chicken is a fine example of both of these. The dish we ordered was a mouth-watering blend of gentle and punchy spices which seeped deep into the lowest possible depths of the meat. It was served, on the other hand, on a single plate and may have measured no more than 2 inches in height. To clarify, we are talking about an entire chicken. Flat. A popular thought is that much as many Michelin starred chefs take years in perfecting their arts, the restaurant has decided to employ and rigorously train retired sumo wrestlers to gently sit on the animal until the desired height is reached. However, we realised that the structure is effectively damage free, just a flatter form; in the office we wheeled out the drawing board to reconsider.
I have a confession this time as well. Now, I don’t claim to be the most cultured man around- although I admit that you don’t need me to tell you that- but I thought that I could handle Chopsticks. Earlier, I saw a man eat noodle soup with them. I’ll let that sink in. I am not a man of science, but you don’t need a PHD in particle theory to work out that the physics are just all wrong with that action. I confess that the odd tilt and the table manners of a hungry goat with its hands tied around its back were in his favour, but essentially it’s a fact. I was having an initiation into the inner circle with various managers and directors, so we went for a slap up meal. It started with duck tongue and a Chinese colleague helpfully reminded me just as I was putting it into my mouth that the taste was like ‘kissing the duck itself’. On the basis that he shouldn’t know that, we haven’t exchanged telephone numbers…
The meal continued with a truly scrumptious array of dishes, honestly some of the best food that I have had in a long time. High praise indeed IMHO, considering that it came to £6 a head, including drinks and roughly 15 plates of food. Soups, noodles, ribs, crispy beef, vegetable salads, dumplings- all served in a Szechuan style. My issue was that my chopstick skills weren’t proficient enough to really get any of it without help. To them, it was perhaps more like taking to dinner the foreigner with basic motor skills problems. Although none reached the dizzy heights of the mad scientist in the corner who had seemingly broken the laws of physics (yes, there were bowls and SPOONS for the soup), they all nimbly negotiated each ever-increasingly small dish, making grains of rice look like steak and peas look like watermelons to the untrained eye. I, meanwhile, was developing a primitive but cunning system of stabbing the bigger bits of veg when no one was looking, and gracefully slurping the soup when they were. Unfortunately, I must have been wearing my captain obvious cap because they saw through it in seconds. Seems to me that I’ll have to get some practice in…..