Real Chinese Food

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I don't know if anyone else can complain the way I can complain about Chinese food in Paris. All in all, if I was to actually start, you can bet this post could ride the length of the Great Wall. Chinese Food in Paris is a disgrace to anyone Chinese. It baffles me that the cooks can be so consistently mediocre there. Or that when everybody says it's the best Chinese food, it's actually the best Vietnamese food.

So last Friday, fresh off the plane and after a rather sullen journey to the bank, I asked my mother if she would like to have lunch with me. We went to my old favourite Chinese shop, Goldstone. The restaurant is like an aquarium, with giant flat glass windows on two sides, flanking the central dining area, and the opposite wall entirely covered with mirrors. You find yourself in this light air-conditioned place, where the front is dominated with the roasted bits of birds and pigs, boiling innards in brown sauce, funny orange chunks of cuttlefish, and two giant woks, giant stainless steel sinks, privy to the smells of a good Chinese diner.

Walking in I see the old waitress, the same one who was always there. I swear she has never taken a day off work. I've never ever been there when she wasn't there, and I used to go in almost every other day at one point. When I first started going there, about 8 years ago, she was a fresh faced young thing, looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed from 8am till midnight. Now, with her hair all butchered off, the skirt replaced with pants, and a slight limp in her walk, I have proof that time does change people. Actually, it's probably more like working everyday for the last 8 years non-stop that's turned her from girl-thing to hobbled granny.

On to the food. I get the usual: roasted duck on rice in a bowl, steamed kai lan and cheong fan stuffed with roasted pork. My mother opts for the amateur's choice, dumplings and noodles. The duck in this place is usually quite good. Today, it's excellent. Succulent, juicy, flavourful, meaty but not too much, and very crispy skin. I am swooning just sucking the juices off the bone. The best is they douse the meat with some of the roasting juices, and this juice seeps through your meat, and down into the rice. YUM! The veggies are green and sweet, acceptable standards. And the cheong fan is wonderfully correct: the skin thin and silky but with a little bit of elasticity, the roasted pork in small chunks buried underneath, and the sauce lapping up thinly against the bottom two rolls.

I mean, it's not like it's the most amazing thing in the universe. And it's not like going to bring us any closer to world peace. It's just, after the debacle of chinese cuisine in France, it's nice to come back and see standards being upheld. There's a satisfaction in dependability. Though this was just Chinese diner fare, not the haut cuisine stuff, or even a decent Cantonese steamed fish, or seaweed pork broth, nor a sweet-vinegared pork foot, or a dried scallop and mushroom stew, though this was just the normal street food, hot damn, it's great to be home.