Wok with Me is FOODragon’s Q&A session.
Today we Wok with Kingsley, 25 years old, a student at LTL Mandarin School.
“You haven’t lived until you have fought for the last egg or meatball in a hotpot. It separates the winners from the losers”
Where are you from? Where you live now?
I am from Kent in England and at the moment am living in Beijing close to Communications University of China.
What do you do?
I am currently studying at LTL Mandarin School learning Mandarin, exploring China and working my way through as many different Chinese dishes as I can.
What brought you to China in the first place?
I came to China to experience Chinese culture and learn Mandarin. Before I arrived I didn’t realise how much depth and character there is to Chinese cuisine. Having lived in a homestay for 3 months I have really experienced a wide variety of traditional Chinese dishes, as well as being constantly defeated by carrots in the chopstick war. I don’t know why chopped carrots were made so perfectly to defy chopsticks but such are the perils of Chinese cuisine. My homestay dinners and lunches really prepared me for the challenges of Beijing cuisine, mainly the bones in everything. After a few months I now crunch my bones like a proper Beijinger. Who knew bones were so tasty.
Similarly living in Beijing meant that we could try so many other different regional foods aside from Beijing classics like roast duck. One week we found ourselves sitting on the sidewalk with a leg of Mongolian lamb being roasted in front of us, and then we were given what I can only describe as two spears (one with a knifehead and one with a forkhead) that we used to attack the meat. It was the best lamb I have ever tasted! The other great aspect was being able to eat lunch with the school teachers who were always happy to go with us exploring the local restaurants from the large and fancy to the tiny, run by one man.
How long do you think you’ll stay here?
I think I will stay for at least another 2 months maybe more.
What do you like most about living in China? What do you like least?
The thing I like most is how cheaply a person can eat fantastic food in Beijing, when you order a banquet for 6 or 7 people and the bills is 25rmb each, it is always surprising. The thing I liked the least was being given a cup of boiling water to drink on a hot day.
Are you a conservative or adventurous eater?
I like to think I have been an adventurous eater, when in Rome do as the Romans do or at least order the pig brain whenever you go for hot pot.
How did you find Chinese food when you just arrived? Was it love at first sight or did it take some getting used to?
It was love at first sight, the first meal I had in Beijing was a Baozi and an egg from a local shop. The Baozi was absolutely unforgettable and I didn’t really know what to do with the egg. I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for Chinese food though, some of it is mind-blowing and some is just confusing.
What surprised you the most about Chinese food?
Did I mention the bones already?
What has been your most interesting dining experience in China?
Trying to figure out what I was eating with my host family a couple of times was definitely an interesting experience. However the best experience was the Chinese dinner party we had for my birthday. We had galiniurou, one of my favorites and I made them a Western dish. Of course there was many a baiju ganbei. It was definitely one of the most touching and memorable experiences from my time in China.
- Favorite dish? Xihongshi chaojidan (西红柿炒鸡蛋)– my homestay mum made it for me and I don’t think I will go another week of my life without eating it.
- Favorite restaurant? Lü Cha Fan Guanr 绿茶饭馆 (Green Tea).
- Favorite cuisine? Homestay mum’s food! Take note, the rest of China.
- Rice, noodles or dumplings? Mifannnnnnnn (Rice)!
- La bu la? Always la! (spicy)
- Hot pot – More tasty than messy or more messy than tasty? Equally messy and tasty, however you haven’t lived until you have fought for the last egg or meatball in a hotpot. It separates the winners from the losers.
Give up trying to pick up carrots with chopsticks, spear them like a warrior. Also, don’t eat duck’s tongue or pig eyes. Most other things I tried were great. Avoid these two like the plague.