Pea Tips and Spicy Pig's Ear
Americans, and probably Chinese too, come to the Asia City buffet for the crazy, all-you-can-eat bounty--fried rice sits next to mashed potatoes and gravy, gloopy broccoli-and-cheese casserole next to something that looks like chop suey.But it also includes well-rendered Chinese classics--and Frances led me to a few oddities that were certainly not put there for Americans.
Specifically, check out the first table on the left. Along with Jell-O, you'll find some rubbery-textured things such as seaweed salad and sliced pig ears. Frances calls these Chinese cold cuts: "In China you would eat them as a late-night snack or at the beginning of a banquet." She continued to wander the buffet with a practiced eye, quickly picking up her favorites and ignoring the rest: "these wide rice noodles are very good, and they do a pretty good mapo tofu, as well as these sesame balls."
We finished with two soups, red-bean-and-taro and white-fungus-and-date. Courtesy of Mrs. Kung, I knew to eat these with a spoon, because both are cold and sweet; hot, savory soups are drunk from the bowl.
Frances teaches a Beginning Chinese class at WCC. At the end of the semester, she always takes her students to TK Wu, where their final exam is to order a meal in Chinese. In April, she let me join them.