Friday, July 29, 2005

Shanghai 6 - Adventures in food,

From the Be-Careful-Where-You-Eat Department:

By far, the most popular restaurant in China is the ubiquitous KFC.
Although if you refer to the place as Kentucky Fried, as I have always done, they will look at your funny. It is "Kay Eff Cee"- that's it.
Technically, if your are discussing it in conversation among educated people (Chinese) and not gwailo (Foreign Devils) it will be referred to as " The House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel". Venerable, because he developed a method of preparing chicken in a unique and tasty manner, and inscrutable because he maintained the secrecy of his recipe of herbs and spices, taking it to the grave with him (or so they say).

You will see Harlan Saunders' smiling visage beaming down upon you virtually anywhere you travel in any major city in China. As a matter of fact, it is damned hard to find a place where KFC is not (literally) a stone's throw away. Because of it's popularity here, the local population think it is quite a treat to take any Western visitors to their favorite restaurant.
Now, I don't eat at KFC when I'm at home... Why the hell would I do it when I'm here?
(I've covered this before, back when I was here last year with the NBA... But I have some new information... Bear with me here...)

Now- The self-styled Colonel- (Remind me here... Exactly what army bestowed the rank of Colonel on him?) does put out a tasty meal, but why would I want American fast food when I'm in China?

But those wily Chinese have made a copy of the House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel...
To Wit:

As opposed to:

As you can see, the Logo is almost the same- the imposter being a little more Asian in appearance. The venerable and inscrutable colonel, however, looks the same as he does back in the 'States.
Now, the first time I saw the Sino-Colonel, I just thought the franchisee at that location had lost his copy of the official logo and had re-created it, using that good ol' Chinese "Screw it, I'll make it myself" mindset... But after seeing the Invenerable and Scrutable (heh) Colonel, I resolved that it probably wouldn't be a Good Thing, since they are just trying to copy the V & I Colonel, the food is probably substandard.

You have to say this, when you are trying to ride on someone's already-established reputation, you better do a good job of it. And in this case, they did.
Here's what happened:
I was walking around near my hotel in Shanghai the other night, and I was tired-tired-tired of the food in the cafe in the Hotel. The only other option that I knew of was a McDonalds a block or so away, and a KFC about a half block the other way.
Since neither of those appealed to me, I decided to walk a bit.
I headed beyond the KFC and was passing a building that had been cocooned; a sheaf of scaffolding had been erected around the place in order to give it a facelift.
As I was passing under the scaffolding I saw a small dumpling restaurant...
The pictures of shu mai, pork buns, and soup dumplings are not something I can willingly resist when the Quest For Food is underway.
I went in and found the one copy of the menu in Engrish that they had and proceded to order shrimp and crab soup dumplings, some pork and shrimp dumplings and an order of spring rolls.
It was ambrosia. Just awesome.
I was a happy camper...
The next day, as I was heading out with Mighty Zhou, I remembered to look back as we passed the dumpling place. I saw through the scaffolding the now-familiar face of the Unvenerable and Scrutable Colonel. Oh. My. God. I can't believe I ate at the Imposters!
And it was good!

The Moral of the Story:
Keep an open mind. You never know when you might run into a good dumpling.

TBG Out-

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