So I have to admit something.Â On our Look See visit this week, Joe and I haveÂ not been exactly adventurous when it comes to experiencing the local restaurants.Â Joe is never very adventurous when it comes to food, but normally I’m always pushing to go and try something new.Â However, this week I guess I just figured we’d have two years after we move here to experience more than our fill of local cuisine.Â So rather than go exploring,Â so far this week we’ve eaten at Ikea twice, the German bar in the hotel 3 times, the Chinese restaurant on the second floor of the hotel twice (once for lunch and once by room service) and Pizza Hut.
That being said, I’m pretty sure we made up for the whole week with our dinner tonight.Â
To fill in a little background, we met a local Chinese guy who works in IT at the plant on Wednesday.Â He got roped into giving us a tour. Â I’m pretty sure it was just because he was the only one they could find to speak English well enough to to do it on the spot since they weren’t able to get us on the organized tour.Â
Anyway, after we got back to the hotel that afternoon, we decided to hit up the Chinese restaurant in the hotel since we knew they’d have English translations on the menu.Â We knew we were in trouble when we saw all the dishes andÂ only chopsticks and a giant spoon for utensils.Â To make a long, slow meal short,Â we figured out very quickly that we had no idea how we were supposed to order, or eat in China.Â Â I mean, you only have this little saucer sized plate in front of you. Do you pick the pieces off the serving plate onto your little plate and then eat from there?Â You can only pick up things one at a time with chopsticks (unless you’re Joe, then you can’t pick up things at all.)Â so that doesn’t really make sense.Â So if you eat straight from the big dish, what is the little plate for?Â And what in the world is the giant spoon for?Â
We decided after that meal that we needed some help. We came straight back to the room and sent a quick email to our new friend Kevin. We invitedÂ him to join us for dinner Friday night and he could pick the place if he’d plan on explaining some of the customs and etiquette of Chinese dining. (We already knew that they never go “dutch” in China and whoever does the inviting orders and pays for the meal.)Â He offered a couple of suggestions for types of food and we settled on one of the famous local dishes, Roast Duck, or Peking Duck as it is often called.
The restaurant was this really cute, very traditional, local place. We had to stop 3 different cabs before we found one who knew where it was even though we had the name and address printed out. (It wasn’t in The Book unfortunately.)Â Kevin was there waiting for us and when the waitress laid out the menu, I was immediately glad that we hadn’t tried to go it alone to our first Chinese restaurant. One other thing you might or might not know about the Chinese, is that they eat everything. And by that, I mean they eat every part of an animal. They even stew the bones. Yeah, so at this point, you can probably guess where this is going.
As we flipped through the menu, Kevin started to point out some of the dishes as we turned the pages.Â The menu was like a book. No English, but it did have photos.Â We tried to get him to give us some suggestions on what to order, or what he liked best, but as I mentioned above, with the Chinese, the person who does the inviting is expected to order since they are the ones footing the bill. We settled on a sampler platter of duck, a plate of some sort of snow peas with ham, and a cold dish of something else. Roast duck comes without ordering, as does a stew made of the duck bones.
After the dishes started coming out, we began to ask what everything was. We later decided that isn’t a good idea. Better to just eat and not ask. Kevin had to look up the parts in his dictionary since liver and brain aren’t in the normal vocabulary list when you’re learning English. I was so proud of Joe though, he jumped in and tried everything. Even the clear, gelatinous, slimy stuff mixed in with the cucumber salad. We never found out what that was since Kevin only knew the local word for it and it wasn’t in the dictionary. Thank the Lord. I may not have been able to keep it in my stomach.
So in case you ever wondered…
this is what a platter of duck parts looks like.Â On the far left we have duck heart.Â The light colored stuff in the front is liver.Â The far right is stomach. And the big pile in the middle, that’s a pile of heads. Yep, brain included.Â Thankfully, you aren’t expected to eat the beak, just suck everything out and spit that and the skull out on the table.Â Yum.
This is the cold plate.Â It typically comes out first, kind of like an appetizer.Â It was a pile of shredded cucumber with the undeterminedÂ jellyfish type stuff on it.Â The cucumber was good. We both managed to swallow at least some of the jelly stuff. Neither of us threw up or even gagged.Â It felt like a victory.Â
ThisÂ is a bowl of stew or broth made from the boiled bones.Â You can see them floating around. Â It really didn’t taste like anything. I was a little surprised because it actually looked pretty good, comparably.Â Really could have used some salt.Â Behind it is the platter of sliced duck meat.Â This is the only part we’d have served back in the States.Â Here in China, you take a pile of those sliced green onions on the left and a couple of slices of the duck meat and roll it up in a very thin soft tortilla type thing.
This was our saving grace.Â It was some type of snow peas or something like that sauteed with ham.Â The two of us ate most of this plate.Â My husband, who normally runs the other way if he happens to glimpse a piece of something green in his meal, went to town on this dish.Â In his words, it was the safest thing on the table.Â Plus, he could claim to be practicing his chopstick skills because they were small.Â In reality, the bigger pieces are more difficult, because if they slip they go flying across the table.
Kevin gave very good lessons on how to eat with chopsticks also.Â One funny thing he mentioned was that most Chinese people don’t know how to properly use chopsticks either.Â They just learn by watching the next guy, it just happens to be when they are 2-3 yrs old.Â He didn’t learn the correct way until he got to college and realized his roommate could eat much faster.Â This meant the roommate always got the best parts of the meal. It was thenÂ that he decided it was time to relearn how to use the sticks correctly so he wouldn’t go hungry.Â
Luckily, we’ve learned the correct way from the start.Â Wouldn’t want to miss out on the duck brain because the next guy was faster with his chopsticks than me.