Dining (way) out in China
“Oh, good evening,” said the smiling young waiter at Ninety-Seven Restaurant in Lijaing’s Ancient City. “Table for two? Right this way.
“We have a lovely outdoor table for you, not far from the brook with all the flowers, where you can watch tourists take photos of each other and make bets about who will be the first to fall in. Yes, we’ve already had a winner tonight, but it still fun to watch.
“It so good you bring two jackets to wear. Many people get too cold before the main course. It’s a perfect night for dining al fresco! That’s Italian for It’s Below Freezing!
“Your table, you will notice, is close to the bar next door, so you can closely hear the Chinese cover band playing Brittany Spear songs along with favorite tunes from Blur, Blink 182 and Abba. It so fun, and when the band is on break you can listen to the music from the 196 other musicians playing in nearby bars.
“May I help you with some menu selections? Many foreigners struggle with choices from what we refer to as the Menu of Quality Visual Arts. You like our menu? We offer lovely photographs as well as mouth-watering descriptions in both Mandarin and English. Sometimes words don’t do our cooks justice, so we take many beautiful photographs to help describe our food, which is the best in Lijaing!
“Many tourists order Kongpo Chicken, Mapo Tofu or fried vegetables in oil. So boring! I can see you are funny people who like good food, so I will help you order the best dinner you will eat in Yunnan.
“We will start with the ever-popular Naxi M Enema, which many people eat cold but you can also order it deep-fried in artery-clogging oil. This would make it one of the most redundant dishes in all of Yunnan! Deep fried fat! So funny! My grandmother makes the best Naxi M Enema in Lijaing…even better than ours. But ours is very good! Enjoy!
“Next I suggest an order of Onions Blasting Native, always a popular dish. Everybody love blasting! Then, let’s be sure you get plenty of iron in your diet, so we’ll bring you some Flavor Blow Liver. Yes, it looks a lot like the Naxi M Enema, but you’ll see that it tastes quite different. Trust me!
“We will follow with a small order of The Blackleg with Blasting, which of course uses some of the same ingredients as Onions Blasting Native but again will tantalize your taste buds in all new ways. Your mouth will not believe it is eating food. It so amazing!
“Now you must make a choice before we get to the main course. You simply must have some Halogen, but the big question of the night is: What kind? So many kinds of Halogen!
“Your choices are: Western Halogen, Halogen Tofu, or (my favorite!) Halogen My Duck.
“By the way, as side dishes to go with all of this, we will bring you some Burned Pepper Preserved Egg and Cold Blend Comfortable. They are delicious, both of them! Especially go well with the Flavor Blow Liver!
“Ah, the main course! Our house specialty! It is Blackleg Chicken Stew, which comes with the entire chicken look like swimming in a pot of stew! It so funny, and tastes even better than it looks in the picture, if you can believe it! I don’t know what those things are in the photo with the chicken, but our customers all seem to like it. Except for a man for a man from Chengdu last week who got sick and scared a tourist taking a photo by the brook, causing him to fall in with his wife and mother. They all got out OK, but we had to give the wet guy a free order of The Blackleg with Blasting to make him happy and not call the police.
“Anyway, let’s see, I repeat your order: Naxi M Enema, Onions Blasting Native, The Blackleg with Blasting, Halogen tofu, side orders of Burned Pepper Preserved Egg and Cold Blend Comfortable, and as a main course, our incredible Blackleg Chicken Stew.
“Now, how about some white rice to go with all this, and maybe a couple of room temperature Dali beers?”