A Lesson in Table Manners
This post was stolen from Dragon Tales
A Chinese Travel & Culture Blog From: UChinaTravel.com
Shenyang city, the capital of Liaoning province in China, is a second-tier urban center undergoing rapid industrial and commercial development.
Home to nearly 10 million people, Shenyang also houses plants for multinational giants like Michelin and BMW. However, when compared to first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing, Shenyang is still decidedly more underdeveloped and lacking international flavor. Westerners, though they certainly exist in Shenyang, are much harder to come by.
During a recent visit to “the city to the north of Shen River,” our friends – who have been Shenyang residents for nearly a year – took us out to their favorite hole-in-the-wall neighborhood eatery for some authentic Northeast cooking.
As we approached the restaurant, we noticed a number of make-shift grills set up outside for cooking chuan’r. This presentation played right into my new found addiction to BBQ meat-on-a-stick; all day I had been asking to stop and pick up some yang rou chuan’r, also known as BBQ’d lamb skewers.
Next to the meat-on-a-stick operation, tied up to a nearby street sign, two lambs nibbled at the dead grass poking through cracks in the cement.
“There’s the yang rou chuan’r you’ve been wanting,” my friend Nick remarked.
“They will take them out back and make it real fresh for you,” he continued.
My appetite began to subside. I wanted to picture cumin being gently sprinkled on tender cubes of marinated lamb meat. I did not want to think about the brutal slaughtering of innocent lambs.
“Let’s go ahead and skip the lamb skewers.”
Aside from the live lambs, the restaurant also housed a handful of rabbit cages, allowing diners to choose exactly which fuzzy carrot-nibbling creature they would like prepared fresh. If that doesn’t phase you, the restaurant staff will gladly offer to bring a live pigeon over to your table. After selecting a pigeon, customers are encouraged to snap the birds neck before the kitchen drains and cooks it to order.
Had enough yet?
We chose not to participate in any of these more primal preparations and opted to order off the menu.
Shenyang is famous for cooking Dong Bei, literally translated to East/North, cuisine. Dong Bei cuisine is known for its large, hearty portions of meat and potato dishes. This is the kind of comfort food that will keep you warm during the harsh winters often experienced in Northeast China.
I’ll let the pictures and captions of the food we ordered do all the talking:
Midway through my third enormous fried slab of crispy sweet and sour pork, Nick spoke up again:
“Hey, the dude sitting behind you just puked on the floor.”
This statement was delivered in such a nonchalant manner that I almost completely ignored its message and continued on in my sweet and sour immersion. But after a second of processing, I turned around to see the face of an elderly local, a bottle of baijiuin one hand, wiping his mouth with the other.
Sure enough, almost directly beneath me sat a thin layer of translucent fluid.
Upon returing to our table, I alerted my girlfriend Roshni of the matter.
“What!? He what?” She sputtered. “Are you sure? Is he okay? Is somebody going to help him?”
Her panic-stricken voice was met with casual, uninterested stares from the rest of the restaurant. She shrugged and sat down, inching herself away from the vomit puddle.
A Swedish friend at the table, fluent in Mandarin, turned to the alleged mid-meal vomiter and in perfect Chinese he questioned:
“Hey, was that you who puked?”
“No, it was him,” the man replied while tapping his friends shoulder.
“Yes it was me, but it was just alcohol.”
“没事, Mei Shi,” our Swedish friend replied with a great bellow of genuine indifference. No worries.
With that pronouncement, we filled our glasses to the brim with ice cold Snow beer andbaijiu respectively, and drank to the casual, mid-meal throw-up.
Soon the wait staff came around with a mop and removed the remnants of rejected alcohol and saliva.
After that, we all ordered another Snow beer, tipped back our glasses and drank deep gulps in hopes of catching up with our elderly friend from the next table, thanking him for our lesson in Chinese table manners.