Pea Tips and Spicy Pig's Ear
Wei and Lisa tried to come up with some rules for ordering good Chinese food (my own rule No. 1 would be "invite Wei and Lisa out to dinner"). Wei noted an exception to his rule that geographic names are meaningless: "Mongolian beef actually is a classic Chinese recipe--although I don't know what they mean by it here," he said, scanning Kai Garden's regular menu with amusement--he'd never seen it: "I've seen this moo goo gai pan in other restaurants too. Gai means chicken," he says, then thinks a minute, "so I guess this means something like chicken and vegetables." Not a ringing endorsement of authenticity, despite the Chinese name. Also, he advises, "don't order anything with broccoli"--it's not a Chinese vegetable.
Lisa, after thinking a bit, says: "whole fish, that's pretty Chinese." And, broccoli aside, big piles of sauteed vegetables are very Cantonese, "but you don't often see them on a menu--it's too plain for most people." Her family is originally from Canton. She looks slyly at Wei: "In Beijing, they stew all their vegetables. You never see green ones there."
"You're right," Wei says mildly. "Personally I like Cantonese food the best. We do overcook our food in Beijing."