Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Miss Chinese Food

Click Picture-Snout, tongue and hooves--Yumm
       As Mary Barbara and I make our way thru the Holidays, the one question we get a lot is what is it you miss the most living in Hong Kong?  My standard and honest answer is I miss Chinese Food. Now I realize that this sounds like an Oxymoron since we are living in China (Hong Kong SAR).  However, living in the US and eating Chinese food is totally different than eating the Chinese Food in Hong Kong. Nowhere in Hong Kong is (that I have found) General Taos Chicken or the same Lo Mein or the same Mongolian beef.  The closest thing we find on the Hong Kong Chinese menu is Sweet and Sour, which is very close to what we eat in the US as Sweet and Sour.  When we are out, if I see that on the menu, I always know I have a food that I can eat or will eat.
            So Chinese food here in Hong Kong is hard for me to describe, and I promise myself to become a little more adventurous over the next year, but it will be hard to see myself walking into the little noodle shops that are all over the place.  I still have trouble handling the smell of these shops, but they are popular. Most days at lunch you will see lines waiting to get into these shops. It seems to me that a lot of these shops just throw whatever into a soup. These places are packed with people and in the Asian theater of operations there is no such thing as a table to yourself. Every seat is used at the table and not uncommon to have two people sitting at your table who are speaking another language. My paranoia is that they are talking about why the big white man is not eating noodles.

Duck or Chicken?

            As you walk thru the Hong Kong markets it is not uncommon to see the following, live fish, hogs heads, chicken feet, rows of raw chickens/ducks and a lot of unidentifiable foods. I believe that Mary Barbara witnessed her first chicken being decapitated, as the chickens go from clucking to your table in a manner of minutes if you wish.  When eating in restaurants several items on the menu which are normally on the upper end of the price scale are certainly different than what you would find in the US. It is very common to see Pigeon fixed in a variety of different ways on the menu. One delicacy or so they say, found on plenty of upscale restaurants is a dish called “Birds Nest Soup”.  This special dish is originally prepared by the Swift bird, who makes its nest from strands of its own gummy saliva, which hardens when exposed to air. So it is a birds nest made of bird guano, bird saliva and whatever else ends up in the nest.  I always wonder how the first person who ate this dish figured out how to prepare. I cannot imagine sitting there and saying, I am hungry, I think I will throw that bird’s nest into a pot of water. It sounds like a Campbell’s soup moment.

A picture of a cow and goat, but notice the dead goat hung in front of the picture

      No part of animal or plant is spared from being used. Recently Mary Barbara mentioned we experienced an appetizer of Layered Pigs Ear. It did not taste awful, it just tasted like it sounds. The ear of a pig. Imagine eating the cartilage of any type of ear. It was rubbery and had no taste. Dumping extra sauces on it was the flavor but it still tasted like the cartilage of an ear.
Layered Pigs Ear

Every type of fish (dead or alive)

          While it is hard to find a big bag of M&Ms, a full bag of Oreos or bean with bacon soup, we can find some international groceries that solve the missing US pallet. I cannot tell you how welcome a bag of ruffles potato chips is from the local supermarket. It is the most common purchase of junk food that we allow or should I say I allow me to experience.
          So to tell you that the food I miss most is Chinese Food is probably not that strange for someone who has visited this part of the world, and let me tell you that the best Chinese food I have had this year was in India. Apparently according to my Indian friends and work acquaintances, they eat Chinese in India at least two nights a week. So now in order to get the food I miss most while living in Hong Kong, I must visit India. I would never have thought in my life time, I would have even said that I would be living/eating in Hong Kong, regularly visiting India and what I miss most is Chinese Food. What a WORLD!!

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