Sunday, December 14, 2008

lunch in Chengdu

(This blog entry includes Chinese letters. If you see garbled letters, try to change your browser's letter encoding.)

I stayed in my hotel room for the whole day as I needed to prepare my presentation at the Hong Kong Economic Association conference tomorrow, except when I needed to have lunch.

A five-minute walk from the hotel takes me to a street called 石人西路, which seems to be an old high street in this part of Chengdu. Several small restaurants without any wall on the street, typical for developing countries, line up. I pick the one that looks the most hygienic, even though the one next door attracts the most customers. I say to myself, "Chinese people's taste may not be the same as mine."

Naturally, the waitress serving me does not speak English. She starts communicating in writing Chinese letters. She first writes down two letters, one meaning rice and the other meaning noodle. I pick rice. Then she recommends one particular rice dish on the menu. But I know what I want to eat: stir-fried rice, and I know the Chinese spelling of it (炒飯) because we Japanese use the same letters for this Chinese dish popular in Japan. I identify these letters in the menu, but there are several. I pick one. The waitress writes another Chinese letter which is not the one in Japanese. But I figure out it means hot or spicy (as a part of the letter looks similar to the letter meaning hot in Japanese kanji). The waitress seems to try to make sure that I don't mind a hot dish. I'm a bit scared, but give it a try.

A cup of barley tea and a small plate of chopped cabbage fried with sesami oil are immediately served. The cabbage is good, much, much better than the shredded raw cabbage soaked in vinegar that every pizzeria in Stockholm serves as a side dish. (Don't ask me why Swedes choose such salad as a side dish for pizza.)

Then the hot stir-fried rice with chopped pork and a variety of vegetables including chili comes. It's not very hot but very tasty, perhaps better than any lunch that I had in Stockholm in the last one year and three months. For the first time in a couple of months, lunch makes me happy. And all of this costs 7 yuan (0.7 euro).

I do not remember the name of this restaurant. Instead I take a picture of it:

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