I can never forget the first day in Shanghai. We arrived in Shanghai at night so couldn’t see much. The day was cloudy, hazy and humid. I felt at ease because the climate India in mid July is usually the same. The buildings were really tall, the roads were clean and wide. To be honest it did not look anything like what image I had in my mind. Everyone was following the traffic rules, there were flower bins on the roadsides. One of colleague once said “Shanghai is like any other metro in the world”. He was right! But what about food?
For lunch our colleagues took us to an expensive restaurant. I will be honest I was a bit worried about “What will they give us to eat?” “Will it be edible?” etc etc. We were around 10-12 in total. We conveyed to our colleagues that vegetarian food, chicken, eggs are okay. They laughed at us because Chicken and Eggs are already considered vegetarian in China! I loved watermelon peels it was delicious. But, overall the taste was very different.
I think Chinese have found the right meaning of equilibrium or equidistant in their food. Almost everything is in between two tastes. The desserts were in middle of sweet and not sweet, the spicy chicken was not spicy yet not not spicy. It was a very different experience for us. Another difference was that the quantity in one serve was so much that, we couldn’t finish half of what we ordered. One thing which was extremely familiar was rice. Chinese rice is sticky, heavy and slightly sweetish in taste.
For the whole time I was confused how to eat? Because, in India there always the combination like Roti and Vegetable or Rice and Curry of some kind. But, the only things I found similar to curry on our lunch table were, soup and curry in the chicken dishes. A doubt came in my my mind (which comes to everybody’s mind who visits China). “Can I pour soup in the rice bowl?” Colleagues told me kids in China do it! Then I realized my colleagues are just putting some piece of chicken, meat on top of rice and eat them together.
Now the next challenge was “Chopsticks”. I had to jump into deep waters at one point. I am very sure that, I must have looked hilarious. Exactly like those foreigners who try to break roti by their hand or try to eat rice with hands. I could pickup dry things but I was dropping oily things from the chopsticks. At one point I was almost about to drop my chicken piece in my vegetarian friend’s dish. It was a comedy show. I was struggling with the chopsticks and my colleagues were even eating smaller chunks of rice. How can they do that?
I am not sure if eating with chopsticks is really helpful. But, I am sure that using chopsticks have made fingers of every Chinese very agile and strong! The usual way of eating in China (what I observed) what that they will order the dishes. Keep them in the middle. Have your own bowl of rice and pick up from the food whatever you want. I spent almost more than one and half hour in lunch and ate lesser than what I would have in India in same time. I was wondering how will I spend two weeks like this?!
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