or this?! I know my choice!
Some days ago I went to a real fancy, Chinese restaurant. I might be the only one thinking like this here in China, but I really feel that the fancier the place, the worse the food. Since I was attending this dinner as a guest I didn’t have to worry about paying for these overdone dishes, but I felt for the man who did.
Some of the stuff we ate includes:
Goose’s feet (basically soft skin and bones. So fatty I felt my stomach turn as I was munching away), giant prawns covered in mayo (I love the prawns but hate the mayo. Mayo should be forbidden here in China! They put it on everything, like fruit salad for instance, and also, they put way too much!), stinky soup with a green lake-like vegetable that you were not supposed to eat (although no one told me that until I had forced down about half of mine), and sweet/sour cucumber peel. Also, when out on a dinner like this there is simply no turning back. I ate to be polite and to save our precious, professional relationship from being ruined. This, however, is far from the first (or last) time I’ve been in this situation.
For someone who generally loves simple dishes like sliced potatoes 土豆丝, eggplant pot 茄子煲 and mala tofu 麻辣豆腐 (and then down everything with a bowl of plain, fluffy rice!) eating at a fancy restaurant is quite troublesome. For starters, I can forget about my rice bowl. When dishes are so "good" (and expensive) there’s no way I can ask for a bowl of rice on the side. Second of all, the fancier the place, the weirder the dishes. While we were munching goose’s feet the other week, our host told us that these sort of dishes were the best of the best in China: “the more complicated, the better! This is Chinese food art!” And third of all: at a fancy restaurant there is no such thing as leaving leftovers or “not liking” the food. You eat to show your appreciation and to make your host happy. I almost had to start a war the other week when we had finished our food and the host suggested I’d take the leftovers home with me as “takeaway.”
This experience is far from my only one of that kind in China. I’ve been to numerous similar dinners, and I’ve downed everything from pig’s ear (disgusting –there’s a reason why we use that as a dog snack in Sweden) to some kind of jelly fish (after trying to chew it and realizing that it was impossible I had to swallow it with a cup of tea) and duck's tongue (still don't get what there was to eat on that one?). I love the idea of meetings over dinner, but next time I’m going to insist on picking the restaurant and settling for a simpler place.