Rediscovering “Authentic Chinese”

28 Sep

When I hear of the words “magic” and “meal” together, I think of the Great Hall in the Harry Potter world, and how the dishes literally appear magically in front of the students’ eyes. However, Tanizaki’s “The Gourmet Club” focuses on the magic of Chinese food and a Chinese meal’s menu. It is not necessarily the presentation of the food itself that is magical, but how the food affects ones senses. A Chinese menu satisfies the eater’s sense of taste, sight, and smell all at once, all the while maintaining another sense of mystery.

Growing up as part of a very traditional Chinese family with first-generation parents has spoiled me. It was hard for me to get Chinese food at American restaurants; I could only be satisfied with what was “authentic Chinese food.” The many-course Chinese restaurant meal that was such a new experience for Count G was all too familiar to me. When I went to Hong Kong for the first time, as expected, most of the food tasted the same to me. It was only when I went to a small and hidden away dessert shop that I discovered a new magical “authentic Chinese” experience.

We found the dessert shop by luck, lured in by its cheap prices, cute mascots, and my huge sweet tooth. The shop served only dessert soups, like those commonly found at the end of the many-course Chinese restaurant meals. However, the desserts were not the usual red bean soup or tapioca milk. To give an idea, the one I ordered was a “simple” mango milk dessert. When I received my order, I was first hit by the smell of sweet mango. Upon my first spoonful, I experienced not just the taste of that mango, but a wonderful mixture of texture created by the mango chunks, milk, jelly, and tapioca that was in the soup that just melted together in my mouth. The oddest part was the aftertaste–it tasted of almonds. Suddenly, my “simple” order was not so simple anymore. I have long since forgotten the name of the shop, but someday I want to go back and try to “reverse engineer” that dessert. I wonder if that is even possible with this type of Chinese dessert.

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