China Diary - Part 4

Suzhou, like Venice, Italy provides
the opportunity to go to work by boat.

August 16, 2006

It has come to my attention that some recipients of the last photo that I emailed are having trouble picking Mark out of the group.

Here is the picture again. Try to find Mark. (Hint: He's wearing a black golf shirt.)


Our Connecticut friend (a term we use loosely) Mark Jew suggested that  Mark's position on the back row and the fact that he's the tallest member of the party likely threw people off.  

While I'm here, I thought I'd share last night's menu. Neptco's Asia Sales Manager, Ken Ho (He and his wife visited Conover and Blowing Rock in June), is in Suzhou from his home/office in Hong Kong. All the new Neptco employees had dinner together so everyone could get to know Ken. Ken ordered the food for the "banquet." He and Judy, Mark's asst/interpreter, went into the large room where customers of this particular restaurant make their selections from tanks and pools (live sea and river food), big pots of cooked and uncooked food, and raw meat ready for cooking.

They returned. Soon after, the food began to arrive. Our waitpeople placed it on the edges of the large lazy Susan that spun atop the huge, round banquet table at which we -- I think there were 13 of us -- sat. The restaurant has several such tables, each in its own dining room (common in Chinese restaurants). The appetizers included the following:
soy beans ( in pods) pickled radishes (sliced, vinegary sweet, very good), pig kidney (I spun the lazy Susan too fast, and the kidney flew by before I could get any -- DARN), young baked chicken with sesame oil dipping sauce (good, but couldn't look at it for long -- still had its little head with its little beak), cold pork slices with mild Chinese vinegar dipping sauce (good) bitter melon (bitter).

Then came the dish Ken selected because he knew Mark loved it: Peking Duck. Mark said it was delicious. I don't eat things from Peking.

The main entrees included the following:
Time fish (very good but WATCH OUT FOR THE BONES AND SCALES! Ken said they leave the scales on fish because the fat under the scales flavors the fish. Could be true. I never know with Ken. He sometimes makes things up. (That's why he's in sales.) .... fish head soup (BIG fish head floating among lots of mussels; broth creamy like oyster stew), squid and vegetable stew (good but spicy hot), snake (only moments before, it had been slithering around. I ate no snake, letting it, like the pig kidney, spin by me too fast. Cooked, the snake looked like thin rectangles of cajin-fried meat. You wouldn't know it was snake. Mark said it was good but didn't have much meat and was full of teeny bones. He did NOT say it tasted like chicken!) As always, the vegetables were outstanding: stir-fried cabbage with bits of crunchy bacon-like pork and small white potatoes with tender, salty skins.

The last main item to arrive was a plate of pork buns, which were excellent -- not meat from the buns of pigs, although that would be an understandable conclusion. Pork buns are steamed bread rolls into which cooked, seasoned ground pork meat has been stuffed, and then the buns are placed in a seasoned wok and  fried just until crisp on the bottom. DELICIOUS! Most people dip them into the Chinese vinegar. Mark puts strawberry jelly on them -- JUST KIDDING!

Dessert, as always, was watermelon -- xi gua (pronounced "she gwah")

Drink choices included hot tea, wine, beer, cucumber juice, Chinese fire water, and bottled water. I had a little of everything except the beer. The cucumber juice was a lovely pale green. The cucumbers had just been juiced -- very fresh and cool.

When we got home, Mark ate a Rice Krispies Treat. Some things never change.


Derick S. Hartshorn - 2006-present
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