Blood Soup


It’s not that bad actually…at least when you didn’t know what it was until later on in the meal.

We were invited to an amazing restaurant called “Metropolis-Oasis” last weekend with some local friends, where the servers all wore roller skates and there was a pool with sea lions and lush vegetation in the atrium.
Our oldest, Ya Hui, cried when we left and said she wanted to live there.
Well, it was certainly warmer than our apartment is currently, with no heat.
But that’s a different story.

We met some friends visiting from the States, as well as their family who is from our city here, plus a number of their local friends.
One of the many things I enjoy about China is the way meals are undertaken in restaurants.
I didn’t really think about the difference in such crystalline terms until my language teacher asked me a few weeks ago about who pays and who orders the food when you go out to eat with friends in the States.
I realized how the American individualistic culture sets itself apart from the Chinese mindset which is much more community and group-oriented.
In America, everybody gets a menu, everybody orders what they want to eat, all the food is brought out together (ideally), and everybody eats off their own plate.
If you’re really good friends you might politely be offered a tiny taste off someone else’s plate. If you don’t like your dish, too bad.
You ordered it, you’re stuck with it.
Most of the time everybody pays for themselves and their immediate family members.
A lot of math and calculations are done to figure out the bottom line.

In China, however, it’s a completely different approach.
I could be wrong on some of this, but here is what I’ve figured out so far.
Whoever invited, pays.
If you fight too hard to try, it’s offensive.
You just plan on reciprocating some time later.
Whoever invited, orders.
And I mean ORDERS!!!

Unless, of course, the menu does not have pictures and the person in question is a foreigner who needs help from a native speaker.

Usually it’s a huge palette of food, all kinds of meat and fish and vegetable dishes, cold dishes, spicy, sweet…
The food is brought out as it’s cooked, put on a supersized spinning LazySusan, and you just twirl the table until the food you want to try comes before you.
No need to wait for that last dish to arrive.
No need to regret your choice on the menu.
You just grab your chopstix and grab it before it spins away from you again.
If you like it, spin again. And again.

Let me tell you, my 2 year old is a pro at navigating the sweet-and-sour pork to come right at him, every time.
He knows how to stand up in his chair, lean across the table, and spin that baby.
Come on, come on, guo bao rou!

So that’s why we sometimes try mystery foods such as what looked like noodles in a red beet juice sauce.
What was it? I casually asked later in the meal.
Blood and tofu.
Too bad I’m too full for a second helping…

PS: The blood soup is in the left foreground on the picture, between the cherry tomatoes and the jaozi (dumplings).


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