10 April 2009

Yum Cha!

I went out on Wednesday night for drinks with a bunch of volunteer producers of Final Draft, the radio show I'm working on at 2SER. Check me out in the "producers" column! You can hear my first contribution in this episode of our podcast.

Well, after a few drinks, it became clear we needed food, and someone suggested Chinese food, as we were easily stumbling distance to Chinatown. I was lightly concerned. 1) I've never liked Chinese food. My family used to go, once a week, to Empress of China II on Johnson Ferry Rd., and it was gross. 2) I like being vegetarian, and even the menus in most Chinatown shops don't speak English, much less the waitstaff. The combination of 1 and 2 meant I could have ended up eating something gross and suddenly not be a vegetarian anymore.

But should I tell everyone that I wasn't comfortable with Chinese food, with Chinatown? Should I make the whole group bend to my picky desires? Probably not. The fact was I'd never even eaten in Chinatown, and it had been years since I'd given Chinese food a go. Also, Sydney is really different from Atlanta, right? I mean, I'm practically in Asia here--the Chinese has got to be different. I spent a few minutes trying to decide what to do. I know a few vegans that eat dumplings in Chinatown, so it can't be all bad. Also, I know that Chinese food in America isn't even close to Chinese food. So, maybe it'll be ok. I had been afraid of bubble teas until my new pal Aaron made me try one during Chinese New Year, and I love those things now. After all that pondering, I decided not to say anything, largely because we were already at the restaurant and ordering. I said it was stumbling distance from the bar, but I guess it would be more specific to call it pondering distance. Turns out there were several vegetarians in the group, and they knew what to order. Ma-po tofu, noodles, and vegetarian dumplings. The noodles probably had eggs and the dumplings definitely did, but I'm not even pretending to be vegan these days, so I wasn't that worried. As long as I can't taste the egg in your delicious birthday cake, I'll eat it. And the same goes for Chinese noodles and dumplings. The verdict? Chinese food is pretty good. Oily and comforting, exactly what you need when you've been drinking maybe a little too much with excellent company.

We talked about books, movies, and radio, and I started to feel a little sad. If I go to Canberra, I won't be able to hang out with these radio people any more. I might hang out with new radio people, but I really like these ones. For the first time, I felt like there was something specific about Sydney I would really miss. Canberra has another radio station and another food co-op, a nice lake instead of a beautiful harbour, but it doesn't have these specific people. Sydney's got nice restaurants, but so does every city. No wonderful Benedict from New Zealand who thinks he doesn't have a Kiwi accent, no extra-nice Paul Kildea who does the killer interviews. It probably won't stop me moving to Canberra, but it does feel really nice to know there's something about Sydney I'll miss.

Speaking of things I'll miss, yesterday Paul finally left this lonely lonely island once again. He had a few hours in Sydney before his plane left and I met him in Chinatown for a delicious bubble tea. He was hungry, so we decided to eat Chinese, and I had my newfound sense of confidence after the previous evening's adventure. Neither of us had ever had Yum Cha, essentially Chinese tapas. I decided on some steamed vegetarian rolls, we shared a cheap plate of noodles, and Paul got some "combination" dumplings. I think those are made of a mythical animal, part beef, part pig, part antelope or something. Who knows? He ate all of them, so they must be good.

I think it's a little funny that he had Yum Cha for the first time about six hours before he landed in Beijing for a nine-hour stopover. We did get those bubble teas, and then Paul left, for miles away and no time soon. I'm going to miss him, but we had a fun time on his last visit. I hope to see him again soon.

And I hope Final Draft does another drinks and Chinatown night next month; I'll take pictures next time--

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