Cycle 4 – Item 293
25 (Fri) October 2013
from Zhao Ha Ya
in my room
-Wuchang, Wuhan, Hubei, China-
APACPH 45: The Wuhan Follies (Day 3)
- 4.291 Roasted Pigeon in Shiqi Style
- 4.292 Mushrooms & Morning Glory
- 4.293 Yabozi
- 4.294 Steamed Wuchang Fish (Salad Oil)
In Wuhan. Here to attend the 45th Conference of the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH).
I’m starting to appreciate hotel buffets, if only in China, because I don’t have to attempt ordering food from people who are incapable of understanding me.
One recurring theme in the regional cuisine is the use of huajiao, aka Sichuan pepper, which has a numbing agent that causes a numbing/tingling in themouth. Most famously associated with Sichuan and Hunan but also a common in Hubei.
The Takeout Incident. For lunch, I had fried rice in the hotel restaurant. Actually, it was the fried rice from the room service menu, but room service doesn’t speak English, so I carried the menu down to the restaurant and ordered by pointing to the fried rice. I ate it there to avoid the 15% room service delivery surcharge.
However, it was too big of a portion to finish in one sitting. I tried to request – via charades on my end and “jasmomens” on theirs – a takeout box or a doggie bag or any kind of container to take the leftovers back to my room, but to no avail. Not sure whether they didn’t understand the request or didn’t have any such container, both possible. I just picked up the plate, half filled with fried rice, and walked out and back to my room.
For dinner, while I stayed back to keep working, everyone else went back to Han Street Plaza. They ate at Cheers Palace, sort of on my recommendation from Wednesday night. They were kind enough to bring me back some food. The beef chow fun probably would’ve been quite nice, but the noodles were cold and bloated by the time that I got to them, same with the choysum – I was touched that they remembered how much I love the stuff. Thanks!
LATE NIGHT SNACK
With my presentation ready for tomorrow, I walked to Han Street Plaza for a snack and encountered Zhao Ha Ya, a shop specializing in yabozi.
Yabozi is a Chinese dish. Duck necks: skinned, marinated in spices – including huajiao – roasted, often served as an appetizer or accompaniment with alcohol. One of Wuhan’s most famous/favorite delicacies. On the shuttle ride from the airport a few days earlier, I’d asked our volunteer guide from Wuhan University what we should eat while in town, and yabozi was the first thing that he recommended, no hesitation. The distinct anesthetic effect of huajiao is so intense that disposable plastic gloves are usually provided.
Alas, I wasn’t too thrilled by my first yabozi experience. In taste and texture, they seemed to be reminiscent of “spicy teriyaki” beef jerky. But the huajiao, I’m still not quite there. Oh well.
The Iron Incident. I hadn’t had time to iron my shirts before packing them for this trip. According to the 3-ring guest services binder in the hotel room, the hotel offers pressing. I filled out the attached form, carefully writing my name and room number and number of items, and signed it. However, the form didn’t indicate where I should call for pick up, so I dialed reception. Reception: “[something in Chinese].” Me: “Uhh … laundry service?” Reception: “Jasmomen …[CLICK] … [dial tone].” 10 minutes later, still no return call. With a sigh, I took my shirts and the form and rode the elevator down and walked over to reception and handed the guy behind the counter the form and the shirts. He looked at the form and the shirts, pushed everything back at me, pointed upstairs, and said “[something in Chinese].” I took my shirts and the form and took the elevator up and walked back to my room. 30 minutes later, a knock on the door. I opened it to find a staffer standing there with an iron and an ironing board.
This is how the system works: when I hide dirty clothes in a closet drawer and do not fill out a form, and even instruct housekeeping not to enter the room, they sneak in and take the clothes and wash them for me (see yesterday’s The Underwear Incident), but when I fill out a form and deliver the clothes to the front desk, they tell me to do it myself. What an awesome system.
I acknowledge/appreciate that the entire world doesn’t have to bow their heads and accept English as the lingua franca. When I travel abroad, I anticipate/accept that documents or maps or street signs may not be available in English. The absence of English may stem from no need, from lack of capacity, from political opposition, whatever, fine. However, I’m thinking that a major commercial enterprise, in the hospitality industry, like a 4-star hotel, affiliated with a renowned wannabe-global university would hire at least one person capable of speaking the language that most/many of the guests are likely to know, if only to avoid the even bigger headaches caused by miscommunication. But no.
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN CHINA)