On Friday evening we were taken to dinner at a restaurant near the Kunming Institute of Zoology. We were hosted by the Institute Director, and the party included Jialin, 2 other Chinese researchers, and the Canadian man that we had met on Wednesday.
As we were walking across the road to the restaurant, I heard a little voice yell “Hello, Hello!!!”. I looked around quickly, and saw two kids riding on a scooter with their father. I threw up my hand to wave and yelled “Hello, Hello”. I got two big smiles from the kids and also from everyone around on the sidewalk. I think that this brief interaction will be one of favorite memories of the trip.
We have had several young children say hello to us and we realized that it is probably the first English word that they learn so they are simply trying it out to see if it works.
In the restaurant we were ushered down a hall and into a separate room with a large table. As we entered the room the 3 servers chanted a welcome. At least, we ASSUME that it was a welcome. They may have been saying “Big nose go home!!”
The menu was a huge book with pictures of all of the items. Jialin and another of the women ordered the food for us and it probably took them 10 minutes to figure out what to get.
The first thing that we were served was a green tea that was basically water with a small amount of herb in it. Every time that we would drink a sip or two, the waitresses would run over to refill the cup. Michael leaned over and whispered….”Just quit drinking it”.
As soon as the tea was served, we “toasted” the meal and everyone tapped glasses with everyone else….quite a feat.
They also asked if we wanted water and when it was brought out, it was a small glass of HOT water.
As we were waiting for the food they brought out a box of tissues that were passed around to be used as napkins. They also brought out individual wicker baskets that held a cold wet washrag. These were very refreshing.
The food was good, but Michael and I did not enjoy it as much because if was fairly bland. It was basically a vegetarian meal except for one meat dish…..at least I guess you could call it meat. It was Chili Bullfrog!!!! The little bits of meat actually had a great flavor but there were so many bones in it that it was difficult to eat.
We also had a bright green soup and were told that it was “vegetable juice soup”. It had a wonderful flavor.
My favorite one was an Eggplant dish that had a little bit of spice to it. There was also a dish that contained Broccoli, peas, corn and shrimp, and another that was a braised lettuce. There was never any rice served.
These dishes are so completely different to the Chinese food that we buy at home. They all had light sauces and are very pretty in their presentation.
We ended the meal with three different dessert dishes. The first one was a steamed bun that had a dough/gelatin texture and had a filling of ground Black Sesame seeds. The texture was almost more than I could take and I was only able to eat about half of it. The next one was a fried pastry made of pumpkin. It had a good flavor, but again the texture was a bit gooey for me. The final one was a small pancake made from corn flour. It was very tasty although I would have put some syrup on it. Interestingly, none of these were very sweet.
Toward the end of the meal, I noticed that Jialin had asked that all of our tea cups be refilled, but I didn’t understand the reason. After they were filled, there was another toast with much clinking of glasses and everyone drained their glass, thus signaling the end of the meal.