Though he is a bit shy about having his photo taken, Mike is very open about everything else and answers all my questions about China...even when I want to know about the little kids with a big hole in their pants instead of diapers!
As I help him take the skin off the chicken legs, we talk about his first weeks in the Netherlands. He still was the typical Chinese guy, and even when he arrived at a friend's place dying of thirst, he didn't dare accept the first offer of a drink. In China, you should politely decline the first two times the host offers you something and then accept the third time. But here his friend just accepted the first no and didn't ask again. Leaving poor Mike with a parched mouth...
Also, when he would give people a light, he would expect them to touch his hands in thanks, which is polite in China. But in Holland this is deemed to be slightly too intimate when your cigarette is being lit by a stranger.
During the preparations I am blown away by the 25 kg bag of rice Mike has in the kitchen. This size would be enough to feed a small family for two months...
The rice is cooked in an electric rice cooker he brought over from Shen Yang, his home town. His cool pan (with Chinese symbols on the bottom) and many of the spices were purchased in a Chinese shop here in Holland.
Mike learnt to cook from his grandmother, but only really started practicing after he came here. He tells me less and less young people know how to cook nowadays, partly because they eat out a lot. The meal he is making for me tonight is a "famous meal", and he has downloaded a recipe from internet to be sure he does everything in the right order. The recipe looks very exotic to me!
The stir frying is a real show, the hot oil sizzling, especially when the omelet mix is thrown in...an enormous puffy omelet appears in just a few seconds. The omelet with tomato is a big success amongst Mike's European friends, probably because of the secret ingredient...sugar! And maybe because of the mysterious "chicken broth mix" from Knorr that Mike adds to the omelet and the chicken dish. The ingredients list corn starch, salt and monosodium glutamate (the famous flavour enhancer ve-tsin).
After everything is done I do my best with the chop sticks and enjoy the spicy chicken, chinese cabbage with glutinous vinegar sauce and sweet omelet with tomato. Mike tells me that if we had been in China, as a host he should have been sitting with his back to the door. This unspoken rule of communication also entails that in restaurants the person sitting in that position is the person that pays! Good to know if I ever make it to China...
Click here for the recipes:
Chinese Stir fried Chicken with Red Pepper
Chinese Sweet Omelet with Tomato
(The original post about this meal is from July 20, 2006)