Nanjing, July 5, 2013
Leaving lobster themidor and the hustle bustle of Guangzhou, we set off for Nanjing.
Nanjing has always been my favorite city in China, simply because of the warmth and the heart-felt hospitality from my local friends. After the 4-hour delay, we walk out to rainy Nanjing where our 2 Nanjing friends have been waiting patiently for 6 hours. Not a single frown on their faces, we head to Xinjiekou, the center of center of Nanjing to check in. Not sure if it is built in their DNA but the locals here do enjoy eating & drinking and they refuse to pass any occasion without making it a feast. Surprise, surprise! It is dinner that we head out to after checking in. A bunch of local friends already gather around at a local restaurant, ready to have that welcoming beer on us. That, is Nanjing hospitality!
Snow beer from Beijing, Tsingtao beer from Qingdao, and a feast of more than 10 dishes including yellow eel, dragon shrimp, pig jelly, pig intestines, frog, and what have you. The night starts on a high note. Beer is served Nanjing way, one cold and one hot beer being poured at the same time into the same glass. I could never tell the difference but according to the locals, it obviously tastes better that way!?!
As ganbei (bottoms up) being made one glass after another, whether to the whole group or one on one, the restaurant manager appears with his special of the day to pay respect to his loyal customers. Super proud of his special of the day, the manager asks us all to guess what type of veggie is used as key ingredient for the dish. Guess it wrong and you have to drink up your beer. Guess it right and he will punish himself with a full glass. That does not turn me on, but who cares? When in Rome…. The locals take turn but none gets it right. What do you know? It obviously is not a local specialty. “It’s your turn, Miss.” says the manager, getting all cocky with his veggie of mystery. All eyes are on me. No pressure! I take one bite, look around, and raise my eyebrows….
No one seems to get it. “It’s pickled cabbage, German style.” I announce in victory. It goes without saying, the whole room is filled with joy and laughters as the manager gobbles down his freshly poured beer.
We continue on through the night with a drinking game called “Wo ai ni – I love you” or “bu yao lian – sorry” (select a direction from your left or right and either say “I love you” or “sorry” and the next person either passes it on via the same direction or says the opposite to the one on the opposite direction). It strikes me, however, for the first time how much international influence has made it to China, even here in a local eel & frog restaurant in Nanjing….