The truth is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.  I was actually disappointed to discover that real Chinese restaurants (and by that I mean restaurants in China) don’t serve the entire menu on a heated buffet table complete with sneeze guards and a pizza or chicken nugget option.  They also don’t serve crab rangoon or offer fortune cookies with your check.  Free refills?  Forget about it.  There is a simple reason behind this madness . . . None of these things are Chinese.  They are however the result of brilliant, Chinese, immigrant entrepreneurs who understand a little something about business and globalization.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  When in America, give them a cookie.  It’s business 101.

This willingness to bend probably makes or breaks a lot of Chinese restaurants outside of China.  I don’t think the consequences are quite as dire for restaurants in China which makes it a much appreciated gesture when they go the extra mile and try to do something with me and my kind in mind.  Even though I am the foreigner, the visitor, the outsider and I represent less than a fraction of one percent of their target market they still make an effort to connect.

Pictures on menus are a huge relief when an illiterate (at least in Chinese) outsider like me sits down to a real Chinese meal. Translations in English are even better but hands down, the absolute best, are menus with pictures and horribly translated food titles.  They are the result of translators armed with nothing but a Chinese/English dictionary who take a “word for word, this equals that” approach.  The thought is nice but language is so much more than words and even the words themselves don’t translate easily sometimes.  It’s a simple and understandable mistake but the results are just plain gut busting (or more literally “bursting the intestines”).

So next time you’re bored with Moo Goo Gai Pan or General Tso’s Chicken, stop by and we’ll take you out for some authentic “The Garlic Burns the Stomach Strip” and “The Shredded Meat Burns the Long Eggplant.”  Mmmmmm!  Now that’s real Chinese.

Here are just a few more selections from (of all places) LaWanda’s hospital menu.

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