Chinese food in America will never be the same! Mainly because it’s the American version of real Chinese food. Meals here are served with cold dishes first and then warm. There are at least 4 dishes to start and we have ended up with over 20 dishes on the lazy-susan. Most meals are served with at least 2 soups. Today we had white rice for the first time. There are no fortune cookies here! Mike and I are becoming quite good at using chopsticks. Sometimes the waiters bring us forks, but we’ve stuck to our guns – or at least our chopsticks.
Every person has to draw a line in the sand – mine is shark stomach lining. Kind of like green eggs and ham – i do not like them, Sam I am… No shark. However, much to my surprise, I have tried many other things that I was sure would never pass my lips, only to find out that I did indeed like the food. Sea cucumber, pickled fish skin, octopus, tiny whole fish, noodles that look like clear worms, something organic and vegetable-y that looked like twigs, all kinds of whole fish ( I skip the heads and tails), and puffer fish (fresh water, not poisonous).
There are lots of fun things too! Purple sweet potatoes, papaya inside flaky breading, pumpkin cakes and sesame seed covered buns. Meals are a great way to socialize and try new things. We’ve had green beans (made with ginger and hot, little red peppers), broccoli with a light sauce, corn (with a few peas and peppers in it) and sweet and sour pork. Dessert is usually fresh fruit – lots of local watermelon. A new favorite is dragon fruit – kind of like kiwi, but white flesh with black seeds – pretty and tasty!
At all banquets (lunch and dinner), wine is served. Typically the host starts with a toast. Then others start to toast; most times you take a small sip. When the fish is served, the head points toward the honored guest, who must toast to the fish. A Chinese tradition is gambei – bottoms up. At a few meals I have been able to surprise the others with my ability to gambei with the host! Also, the beer here is good – lighter than US beer. Mike was impressive on our first night in Beijing with the beer and gambei- always in response to our host! At the luncheon 2 days later one of the Chinese faculty came up to him and said he heard Mike was an excellent beer drinker! Word gets around!