Monday, March 22, 2010

What the fork? You Best be Learnin’ to Use Chopsticks

After 36 hours of travel and five hours of sleep, I drag my bewildered ass out of bed. It’s 8:30 PM in Shanghai, and I know that if I let myself sleep anymore, I will be screwing my entire sleep schedule for my 4 day trip. Plus, I’m hungry and ready to see what real Chinese food tastes like. I hover out the revolving doors of hotel into the chill of the Shanghai night. I hover because when I am this tired, my feet don’t even touch the ground when I move, I just swish past in a daze. I make my way to Nanjing Rd. which is a walking street slathered with neon lights, big TV screens, and jubilantly lit skyscrapers. Oh, did I mention that most of these buildings are KFC, McDonald’s, Subway, and Pizza Hut? I swear, there are more than 2 per block. I scour the buildings in search of something unfamiliar, and finally, on one of the side streets, I see some restaurants with menus with pictures on them. Finally, I’m in China.

After careful scrutiny of all the pictures and descriptions in English on the menu, I decide on Pumpkin Cakes and what appears to be Kung Pao Chicken. However, the English description for this dish is “The palace quick fries chicken pieces powdered”. One of my favorite things to do when I travel to other countries is read the English translations. This menu for sure was the most hilarious I have ever seen. Usually the spelling errors are what makes the menu funny, but not this one. There were no spelling errors, just ridiculous descriptions. So good, I had to share them with you. No telling what you would get if you ordered one of the following:

• The incense burns fugui shrimp
• The characteristic cuts chicken vainly
• Drunk fish of grandma
• Sautéed sweet corn with salted egg yolk is ironed
• The hemp burns a bean curd
• Fragile fragile hot spice plant chicken bone
• Spiced salt arranges a strip
• Spiced salt blows up a pig’s hand
• Zi chicken is hit by a wing
• The incense burns heart shaped pendant string
• Rough blood is flourishing Powdered
• Little yellow croaker cooks a bean curd
• Nanxiang is enveloped for a short time

My Kung Pao chicken (or the palace quick fries chicken…..) was very good. The zucchini, carrots, and chicken were chopped in tiny bits stir fried with peanuts in a very spicy sauce. I would give it a 7 on the Celise spicy scale. But my real treat and surprise to this meal was the pumpkin cakes. The pumpkin I can only assume was mixed with a little bit of sugar, then deep fried. The outside was golden and crispy, while the inside stayed soft and moist, almost the texture of a soft cheese. But who am I kidding, of course I liked them. They were fried!

As I strolled back to my hotel, I passed by two street vendors who had finagled a cooking area of the sides of their bicycles. One of them had a long rectangular bin for charcoal and was grilling satay sticks, and the other woman had a deep wok where she was deep frying dumplings. Yes, I said these were attached to their bicycles. Unfortunately, I was too full to try either one, but I still got a couple of days left. Let’s see if I can avoid KFC, Pizza Hut, and forks ☺

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