I’d like to eat something good…or how does „Chinese“ taste in „China“!
(Place of action- Shanghai, largest city in China. First stop- a little something about food.)
We are sitting at a beautiful round table full of bowls next to which are chopsticks as well as agreeable waiters bringing chinese delicacies. We are in a stylish salon of a cruiser which skillfully travels through the waters of the Huang Pu river. On one side, there is a beautifully lit coast: the „Bund“; on the other side is a supermodern neighbourhood with the tallest skyscrapers of the world, Pudong. The present Shanghai is truly a fantastic mix of the „old and new“ China.
Back to the food, my stomach is rumbling out of hunger. I wittily conversate (in English), of course I don’t know how to speak Chinese. I am carefully watching my neighbours to see what they’re eating and how they take it.
„Does it taste good?“ I engage a conversation with a young educated Chinese. In fact, his bowl full of chicken claws has intrigued me quite a bit (I don’t see any thighs or wings).
“Uhmmm” he nods, brings the claws to his mouth and craftily bites off everything edible, but what is really left there? Actually there is nothing on the claw. “Alright let’s do this”. I try to emulate my neighbour but according to me, there is nothing on the thigh/claw, so I just put it aside.”Yuck”. Let’s go on .. yes, charming black hard-boiled eggs (a millenary recipe), let’s do this; If they can do it, I might as well succeed. I try to ignore the colour..it is definitely not a delicacy…tonight I will eat various types of vegetables and of course a bowl of rice, that one is o.k. The Chinese basically don’t really know sweets, perhaps only a few kinds of canned fruits. I priviledge the fresh ones, it is usually served simultaneously with the bill, in the form of a little plate with sliced watermelon or any other seasonal fruit.
But it would not be fair to introduce Chinese cuisine like this. Almost everyone knows it without travelling to China like me. One thing is certain, „Chinese“ in „China“ tastes different. Different scents, tastes, ingredients.
So what does the local cuisine actually offer? Combination of tastes from sweet and sour to bitter, hot and spicy. The most famous are probably the sweet-ish Cantonese cuisine and the Sichuan spicy one. The most famous dishes are definitely the Beijing Marinated duck and Shanghainese steamed dumplings filled with meat or vegetables. Really tasty! It is also a fact that the Chinese people eat „everything“. So at each visit of a typical Chinese rstaurant, you can choose a „fresh“ frog, tortoise, snake or even an ordinary fish… I prefer sweet and sour porc or beef with green beans.
Surely, it is interesting to watch how customers and staff behave. Customers sip, smack and loudly conversate with one another, they smoke before and after they eat (some of them) while shouting at the waiters. Yes, let the staff move faster!!
„The words please and thank you are not used in a restaurant.“ – An acquaintance explained to me. Tips should not be given and are not expected! And prices are very very affordable. Once leaving, the staff is smiling and thanks you, they wish that you come back again.
“That’s not possible.” I can’t believe it but I have to admit that it is like this. Our customer, our ruler. Truly.
And what to do when you don’t feel like Chinese cuisine anymore? Fortunately, in the 20 million Shanghai, there is a lot of very good Japanese, Korean, Thai and Indian restaurants. And what to do when you feel like having a pizza? Well you can go to a truly Italian restaurant.. but with Chinese staff.
Suddenly I am quite hungry. Dinner time is approaching. So where should we go tonight?.. For wings, thighs or chicken claws?