my first dinner

You will all be disappointed to find out that my first meal in China was at Starbucks.  I would like to think that I was dragged, jetlagged and bleary-eyed, against my will, but that was not entirely the case.  Seeing that most restaurants on the Island weren’t open for breakfast at 8am Monday morning, and I wasn’t quite ready to brave the hole-in-the-wall joints across the bridge, I opted for a lovely turkey croissant and a Grande drip coffee.  So sue me.

That night, though, I was ready for some real Chinese food.  The DiploMan decided to take me right across the river (about a 5 minute ferry ride from our house) to Red Bull Hot Pot (紅牛火鍋) Restaurant.  Because it was only the two of us, we decided to forgo hot pot and ordered off the menu instead.

As we walked up the steps to the restaurant, the DiploMan mentioned that this was a ChongQing restaurant.  ChongQing, part of the Sichuan (or Szechwan) Province, means only one thing to me when it comes to food: SPICY.  See all those chilies? Back home, when I’ve ordered that same dry friend green bean dish on the left, it usually comes ground pork and a few chilies for a bit of heat.  The dish is more brown in color than anything else.  Here, they there was equal parts dry red chilies to green beans, food joy for my eyes!  And forget us not the lovely Sichuan peppercorns, which give the food of the region its famous spiciness.  The Sichuan spice-factor, in chinese, is described quite appropriately as “mala”, which directly translates into “numbing spiciness”.  Eating a dish with these peppercorns and chilies will induce a tingling sensation throughout your entire mouth followed my a burning heat.  Really, they should also add the character for sweaty, because that’s what happens when you eat these dishes.

In all, we ordered pickled cucumbers 涼伴黃瓜, mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐, dry fried green beans 干 煸四季豆, and twice cooked pork 回鍋肉 .  Plus a bottle of beer, which we drank out of little bowls because the restaurant ran out of glasses…thus perfectly epitomizing the chinese dining experience.  Truthfully, I couldn’t tell if my mouth was numb from the peppercorns or from the MSG.  But I could care less, it was a salty spicy sweaty thrill.

Red Bull Hot Pot, 小紅牛白鵝火鍋
Guangzhou Bai’etan Bar Street
Liwan, Guangzhou

Starbucks, Shamian Island
on Shamian Main Street (Shamian Da Jie)

china or bust

Shanghai, 1990 and 2010.  photo: Mamie Young
The DiploMan emailed me the picture above a few days ago.  The photo was taken from roughly the same location in Shanghai, twenty years apart.  Unreal.

Coincidentally, Diane Sawyer is covering China’s massive growth and westernization this week on ABC’s World News Tonight.  From one feature story:

…Chinese engineering is speeding ahead in other areas, outdoing American efforts. By the end of next year, a train from Beijing to Shanghai will take just four hours. It will cover a distance equivalent to that between New York and Atlanta, a trip that takes Americans 18 hours…

For more fascinating articles head on over to the ABC World News Tonight website this week.  At the very least, you’ll know what to look for when the Chinese take over the world (lots of McDonalds’).

adieu, ny

I officially left New York yesterday.  Today, I rid of the remnants of my New York existence- the membership cards, stamp cards, frequent buyer cards- the little pieces of paper and plastic stuffed into my pockets and my purses, that, when I see strewn on the table, read of my daily habits of the last four years in the City.  Some a tad shameful (murray’s cheese stamp card…) and some proud (MoMA membership!!!).  Ahem, just to emphatically say, coffee and cheese IS routine for me.