[My Two Cents] Stuff non-Asian People Say or Do at Chinese Restaurant

Growing up in a country where your skin colour is different from the majority of the people living here….you tend to stand out amongst the crowd.

Well in fact (you can even tell from my last name), I am one of them. Being an Asian raised in South Africa, we are merely under 2% of the country’s population. Even though I have lived here for 20 years and speak in a perfect South African accent, there is no way to hide my beautiful yellow skin colour and appearance. But somehow you are so rare for them, you have lots of (same) questions being asked and comments that probably get your eyes rolling because it is like the nth times you’ve heard them.

Ever since I have read a post on Buzzfeed (21 Questions Asian People Are Sick Of Answering), I can actually relate myself to most of the points mentioned. It is all about how we, as a certain group, are confined to certain behaviour and how others does not have access to gain such insight. We are not all like this!

But what I have found the most puzzling and speechless are the things non-Asian people do at a Chinese/Japanese/Korean restaurant, particularly the Chinese restaurant where I actually had hands-on experience when I was still studying and doing part-time job. These may not entirely apply to all non-Asian customers but I have seen quite of few happening around me. Hopefully after reading  this, everybody will stop drumming the chopsticks on the next visit to a Chinese restaurant.

Stuff non-Asian People Say or Do at Chinese Restaurant

1. Add soy sauce to basically everything…

I’ve it seen all. Soy sauce being added into a bowl of steamed rice, and even soup. Now C’mon really? I only add the condiment when cooking and for dipping. I can’t imagine how chicken and sweet corn soup and soy sauce taste like. Ew!

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2. Each person order their own dish…

On one table, you will spot each dish sit perfectly in front of each person, and all the dishes probably look identical. Well to go the Chinese dining way, it is all about sharing. And you get to taste other dishes as well.

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3. Ask for tomato sauce…

Errr…come again? It is like we go to a Steakhouse and ask for soy sauce. And then again what are you going to use the tomato sauce for? Fried noodle? Ew!

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4. Expect bread for their soup…

Ok I have to say this only happened to me once. I was called back 5 minutes later after I brought out the soup to the table, asking if they will have bread to dip into their soup. Bread to dip into wonton soup…wonder how would that taste like.

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5. When the dishes are out, people constantly ask what dish is what…

Sometimes I wonder whether people actually close their eyes, point their fingers at an item on the menu, and order whatever their intuition tells them to. So by the time the food comes out, they have no idea what they’ve just ordered.

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6. Ask whether the restaurant has chips as a side dish…

Does prawn cracker count? It is like asking if a burger place sells fried rice.

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7. Ask if the restaurant has any dish for those people (especially children) who don’t eat Chinese/Japanese/Korean food…

Then why you here at the first place? *facepalm*

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8. Ask every single Asian looking waiter/waitress/staff if s/he is related to the restaurant owner…

I don’t know. Maybe we all look the same. You  know, dark hair and dark eyes.

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9. Take the chopsticks home. Whether they’re the disposable or non-disposable ones…

Do you take forks and knives home from other restaurants? Do you? Do you? Then why here? *facepalm again”

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10. And shove the sticks into their (generally the ladies) hair buns.

One word: Eww!

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11. Drum their chopsticks or playing with it.

My worst pet peeve at a restaurant is when people start to drum their chopsticks. I understand how people get excited to use chopsticks but they are like knives and forks to us. I would never play with my eating utensils at other restaurants. They are for eating not playing. So show come respect please.

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12. Add sugar and milk to their green tea…

I am completely clueless at this one. Maybe it tastes better that way?

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13. Joke whether we sell dog/cat/xyz meat…

I had coughed out a dry “haha” when I heard this the first time. There afterward I just give them the awkward silence. Yes dear in case you don’t notice it is kind of racist to us. Or “waisis”.

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This post may sound very bias to the other non-Asian people who never done any of these things I’ve mentioned. But believe or not, this had happened to me and I am just airing my view out. So hopefully people can learn and respect each other’s culture.

In case you would like to find out more you can check out this webpage that gives you some points of Chinese table manners.

So Bon appetit, smaaklike ete, 慢慢吃~

[Travel & Food – Taiwan] Japanese cuisine with Taiwanese touch at Tian Cai Refreshment Saloon 添財日本料理

Name: Tian Cai Refreshment Saloon 添財日本料理
Visited Location: No. 6, Ln 16, Wuchang St Section 1, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City  武昌街一段16巷6號
Website: http://www.xn--qevngt1bf8pd6hz03b.tw/about.html
Price range: NT$ 400pp
Food: Taiwanese styled Japanese cuisine
Favourite dishes: Seared halibut nigiri, cabbage roll oden, daikon oden, burdock tempura oden

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Red lanterns hanging outside the restaurant

This family run restaurant has been around the Taipei Train Station for quite a while, and I went online and did some research and it is actually almost half a decade old!  Now it is managed by the second generation of the family.

The restaurant we visited is the main branch (there are only two anyway). Behind the Presidential Office and near the Ministry of Defense, the two-storey restaurant locates in a small dim alley, and is buzzing with customers. The decor of the restaurant is simple with wooden tables and chairs, but cramped. If you would like to check out the chefs working their magic, you are also welcome to choose to dine by the sushi bar. And have a look of the fresh ingredients and the catch of the day placed along the displaying fridge along the side of the bar. You will spot lots of different type of fish other than the common tuna, salmon and swordfish.

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Sushi bar

If you only had NT$200 are looking for some sushi just to filled your hungry tummy, you might need to stop reading now. This restaurant is relatively expensive because of their historical value, delicious food and great quality.

Despite its price, the place fills up very quickly and most of the customers are older and looking very comfortable with the staff and the restaurant. Regulars and nostalgia seeker I guess.

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Full house

After been seated, we were served promptly with hot tea and hot towel. On the menu, they offer a wide variety of Japanese dishes, from shashimi of various fish, donburi, grilled mackerel, chawanmushi (steamed egg custards), tempura, udon noodles, shabu shabu…

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Must-have items: Rolled cabbage, daikon and burdock tempura oden

To save you lots of time deciding what to order, the best to go for is the oden, one of the Tian Cai’s most appraised dishes. Oden consists of several ingredients, such as sliced daikon, fish balls, and tofu products, boiled in a soy broth. Tian Cai keeps a cooking vat of oden next to the sushi bar, and customers can choose the items they would like to eat from there. However unlike most odens of other eateries, Tian Cai does not offer the broth for customer’s consumption as the broth is only for the flavoring of the food. Their burdock tempura (牛蒡絲甜不辣), daikon (大根煮), and rolled cabbage (with hearty pork meatball in it) are a-must. With over 40 years of mastering their broth to perfection, all three mentioned above are soft, succulent and flavourful. It must be the best daikon oden I’ve had, you can still taste the sweetness of the daikon turnip even though the broth has cook the vegetable for hours. The cabbage rolled oden is completely different to the ones you get from 7-11! It is divine. The cabbage is sweet and meat brings out the appetizing aroma inside the vegetable.

The seared halibut nigiri is also one of my favourites. The smooth texture and creamy-ness of the fish is so yum and rich that we enjoyed it with great satisfaction. The other nigiri we had is salmon. Both fish is fresh and of great quality.

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Salmon and halibut nigiri

The miso soup is full of ingredients. Normally the miso soup we get from other restaurant lacks ingredients with a few tofu pieces, but here you can actually see the fish meat in their soup.

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Miso soup

The grilled chicken drumsticks are nicely grilled. The meat is tender and skin is crispy. They do not add any sauce to their grilled food so the flavouring might taste blend to some who likes heavy on their flavour. The grilled squid is also just above average.

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Grilled chicken

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Grilled squid

It is my first time trying the dobin mushi, and it is a great one as well. It is a traditional Japanese seafood broth, steamed and served in a tea pot with shrimp, chicken, soy sauce, and shitake mushroom. The broth is light with lots of fresh seafood.

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Light yet flavourful dobin mushi

If you are still hungry you can try their beef donburi (or gyudon), which is thinly sliced beef, fried onions and veggies served on top of rice. Their beef is tender and the onion is sweet. It fills you up quick!

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Beef donburi

The meal ended with a bowl of sweet mung bean and barley soup for dessert. It is tad sweet but great to clean your tummy after a sumptuous meal.

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Sweet mung bean and barley soup

Overall, the food is great and the service is fast. But somehow it just doesn’t arouse me to come back again, perhaps it is the ambiance or the cost can be one of the factors. But if you would like to try their fantastic Japanese cuisine, with a hint of Taiwanese flavour, the experience is definitely something to look forward to.

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40-odd years old = traditional Taiwanese with bits of Japanese influence decor

My Sushi Meter rating of Tian Cai (best of out five):
For ambiance:                               calicalicali
For Service & price:                    calicalicali
For food:                                             calicalicalicalicali

[Travel & Food – Taiwan] Start your day right with great breakfast at Yonghe Xin Shi Jie Soy Bean MIlk

Name: Yonghe Xin Shi Jie Soy Bean MIlk 永和世界豆漿大王
Visited Location: No. 284, Sec. 2, Yonghe Road, Yonghe city, Taipei 234, Taiwan 新北市永和區永和路二段284號
Website: 永和世界豆漿大王Facebook page
Price range: Less than NT$ 100pp
Food: Traditional Chinese breakfast
Favourite dishes: Hot soybean milk, Xiaolongbao, youtiao wrapped in a shoa bing (燒餅油條)

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Large bowl of soy milk and steaming hot xiaolongbao

Breakfast is an important meal in Taiwan, and this breakfast joint is one of Taipei’s most praised places ever. They open 24 hours a day and is relative easy to get to by the MRT (metro in Taipei). We arrived bright and early and the place is buzzing already. By the look of their clientele, it seems it is a popular spot for both the locals and the foreign visitors.

In my opinion, the must-have items are the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), the hot soy milk (especially during winter time), and youtiao wrapped in shoa bing. Everything was tasty. The service is fast and friendly.

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shoa bing with eggs

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I found that the xiaolongbao are puffier than the ones from Ding Tai Fung, and more dense with more meat packed into each xiaolongbao here. So I prefer the ones here more than Ding Tai Fung. And the price is wallet-friendlier as well! (My Ding Tai Fung review here)

The price of the food items were really cheap. Everything came out to under 250NT$ for the four of us with xiaolongbao being the priciest item at 90NT. We left with full, happy bellies and wallets. Would definitely go back if visiting the city again.

My Xiaolongbao rating of Yonghe Xin Shi Jie Soy Bean MIlk (best of out five):
For ambiance:                               baobaobao
For Service & price:                    baobaobaobaobao
For food:                                            baobaobaobao

[Travel & Food – Taiwan] Crazy California Rolls at NCIS

2014-07-23-11-04-55_decoName: NCISushi 德相美式加州壽司
Visited Location: No.4, Aly. 27, Ln. 216, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan (R.O.C.) 台北市大安區忠孝東路四段216巷27弄4號
Website: http://www.ncisushi.com/
Price range: NT$ 800pp
Food: Sushi, Asian fusion, Japanese
Favourite dishes: Black and White, Sleep Wu, Sofa-king BOMB, Salmonlicious, Pony a Go Go

If you are looking for a traditional sushi eatery, you might come to the wrong place, but that’s what NCIS is all about: A sushi restaurant with unusual, but surprisingly delicious combinations.

The menu is quite extensive (and quirky), designed to cater to any palate, which consist of some basic rolls, sashimi and nigiri on the front pages, and then at the back it showcasing all the specialty rolls with playful names and ingredients. I don’t know how their nigiri or sashimi is, but since they specifically market westernized style rolls, I would stick to rolls.

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The sushi rolls we’ve ordered were delicious. There are quite a few that I would recommend:

1) Black and White, which is seared white sashimi with jalapeno and black caviar on top, the combination of the chili and the fish is quite sensational

Sofa-king BOMB

Sofa-king BOMB

2) Sofa-king BOMB. Even though the Sofa-king BOMB looks and taste nothing like what a sushi suppose to be, the deep-fried roll containing chicken strips, cream cheese and smoked salmon, then topped with pico de gallo… This concoction just taste incredible where the topping eases the heaviness of the fillings and the batter coating;

3) the simple yet refreshing Salmonlicious; It is basically a Philadelphia Roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber on the inside)  topped with fresh salmon and lemon. The cream cheese wasn’t overpowering and is just enough to get the taste.  The sliver of lemon also gives a refreshing taste to the roll;

4) Sleepy Wu. Have no idea where it get the name from but it is good. The fish is seared with cream cheese, tempura prawns and spicy tuna inside the roll. On top there is seared tuna, swordfish, avo, caviar and some awesome purple sauce. I really don’t know what the sauce is made out of but very delicious. (I order this every time I go there)

Sleepy Wu

Sleepy Wu

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[Travel & Food – Cape Town] Drooling over Beleza’s Fillet Medallions

Name: Beleza
Visited Location: Corner of Burnside and Kloof Nek Road, Cape Town, SA
Website: http://belezarestaurant.co.za/
Price range: R100-200 per person
Food: Italian, Portuguese
Favourite dishes: Fillet Medallions com Molho De Pimenta

Funny how the best steak I have ever eaten is not at a steakhouse but at this quaint, little place in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town!

IMAG5167_1Beleza is relaxed and chilled spot as you watched the traffic and people through the open windows during the day and by night it is a perfect spot for a romantic date where the fairy-light lights up in the restaurant.

After getting hooked on their awesome fillet with Jalapeno feta sauce (called Fillet Medallions com Molho De Pimenta). The meat just melts in the mouth and the spicy creamy sauce was out of this world. I have visited this beautiful place three times whenever I am in Cape Town and their food is consistently good. I have tried the fillet with red wine sauce, Fillet Medallions com Vinho Tinto, and tasted divine as well. The fillet steaks are on their dinner menu, however they do serve during lunch too.

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For lunch I would definitely recommend the beef prego and the chilli-popper burger, the meat is tender and juicy. The potatoes wedges on the side are delicious as well!

Even Beleza is located in the prime spot on Kloof Nek street in Cape Town, the restaurant service is generally slow but friendly. I guess in a positive way, the restaurant is trying to provide the patrons a relaxed and lazy ambiance so that everyone can enjoy the food.

Good pricing for the amount and the quality of food you get. Winelist is simple but reasonably priced as well. (Plus free unlimited wi-fi). Definitely a good place to pop by.

My Steak Meter rating of Beleza (best of out five):
For ambiance:             images (1)images (1)images (1)images (1)
For Service & price:                    images (1)images (1)images (1)images (1)
For food:                                             images (1)images (1)images (1)images (1)images (1)

[Travel & Food – Taiwan] Steaming hot Xiaolongbao 小籠包 at the Michelin star Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)

Name: Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) – Taipei 101
Visited Location: B1F., No.45, Shifu Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City 110 台北市信義區市府路45號B1(台北101購物中心)
Website: Din Tai Fung website 鼎泰豐官網
Price range: NT$ 400-500pp
Food: Chinese cuisine
Favourite dishes: Xiaolongbao/steamed pork dumplings

If traveling to Taiwan, one of the places that people will recommend to the visitors is indulge the xiaolongbao at one of Ding Tai Fung’s restaurants.

My first Din Tai Fung experience is at Taipei 101, this is the one of their newest stores so everything looks relatively new. Its decor is simple and clean.

Ding Tai Fung, a growing franchise,  is known for its xiaolongbao (小籠包), they have branches all over Asia and even in the US and Australia. I’ve spotted quite a few foreign tourists at the restaurant, can surely say Ding Tai Fung is a brand that can represent the Taiwan’s cuisine.

The restaurant is fairly big, with lots of seating, but with their worldwide popularity, the place is packed before 12pm. Luckily we came earlier so there were no queue. There are even 6 private rooms in the restaurants. Service was fast and the waitresses were attentive and accommodating. I was amazed by how most of the waitresses are bilingual/multilingual (overheard a few of them speak in English or Japanese to the customers). When seated, the waitress gave us the menus and served us tea and also provided a storage crate for us to put our belonging in there.

Din Tai Fung serves a wide variety of dishes, ranges from dumplings, noodles (fried noodles or soup noodles such as wonton soup noodles), appetizer, bun (sweet or savoury), to desserts.

With no clue what is good at the restuaurant, I’ve ordered: Xiaolongbao (x10 per order), beef noodle soup, Pork and Glutinous Rice Shaomai, Prawn Pan-fried Dumplings and Fried Tofu Rice Noodles. After finished ordering, the waitress provided us some shredded ginger on the table and you can eat it with the Xiaolongbao (or anything you want to eat it with).

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