Tofu with shrimp filling in Oriental East Restaurant.
WASHINGTON (WUSA) - General Tso's chicken may be the most well-known Chinese dish among the Americans, but fact is that I have never heard of this name until I came to the States after 21 years' living in China.
As a typical Chinese young man who travels for over 12 hours to get to the United States, the very first thing I will be missing back home is food. After chewing similar Subway sandwiches in my apartment for almost a week, I decided to search for Chinese food restaurants in DC and Maryland.
All that came up to my mind was Yelp, because I have been using its copycat in China for years. I opened Yelp's app on my iPad and typed in the word "dim sum," a style of Chinese food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Twenty hours later I was in this restaurant in DC called "Ping Pong Dim Sum," a nicely decorated Chinese restaurant with few customers that are actually Chinese.
Pages of dumplings, as I opened and scanned the menu. It is true that back in China, we have a couple of names for different kinds of dumplings to indicate various cooking methods. Dumplings can be boiled, fried, baked, steamed and simmered in China, and each type of dumpling has got a single name in Chinese. Even for steamed dumpling itself, it can be "xiaolongbao", "shumai", or "steamed jiaozi", according to its shape and filling. When those dishes were introduced into America, they got an universal name: dumplings.
Life is like a box of dumplings. You never know what you're gonna get. During the next days I have tried several delivery services of Chinese restaurants in the Georgetown neighborhood, and often got confused by those dish names that feature three languages: Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese and English.
A few weeks later I rode on the metro for over an hour to check out a popular Chinese restaurant in Silver Spring MD named "Oriental East". I had no difficultly ordering the meal, since my friend spoke Cantonese.
What surprised me was that the waitresses were wandering the restaurant with trolleys, where heaps of steamer baskets waited to be ordered. What did not surprise me was that the restaurant was extremely packed and busy, and it took me almost 30 minutes to find a table. Yet, this is never considered news back in restaurants in China.
However, I would say that visiting the "Oriental East" restaurant is still a right choice for me, at least the food there made me a little bit homesick. The dim sum dishes at the "Oriental East" seemed more familiar to me, since they looked very much the same as those dishes I have back in China, except for the size of vegetables. Compared to those in China, vegetables in North America are just like a Gozilla standing among its lizard friends.
Interesting (that's the word you use when you actually mean awkward). It was then did I taste SWEET douhua (a Chinese dessert made with very soft tofu) for the first time, since in China it is always served salty. It was also then did I hear of the name "General Tso's chicken", though General Tso is a famous figure to Chinese folks just as Captain Cook is to Americans.