|China Town Amsterdam|
Photo by Tonio Vega
For instance in the US I find most Chinese restaurants serve food that is battered, fried and greasy. In Spain you can enjoy a Chinese salad which basically comes down to a pile of lettuce, carrots, seaweed, vinegar, and some ham. In the Netherlands, where I'm from, ‘Chinese’ dishes usually have a very noticeable Indonesian slant which results in dishes like babi pangang, which is neither Chinese nor Indonesian.
This is probably why it was such a shock to me and my mum to find out that our weekly Chinese take-outs at home weren't Chinese at all. On a trip to Singapore, a long long time ago, my mother and I were quite peckish after a full day of sightseeing and exploring. We happened to find ourselves in Chinatown at dinner time, so we entered one of the Chinese restaurants and sat down. My mum looked at the menu and I could see a big question mark materialise above her head, so she got the waitress to come over.
This is how the conversation went: Mum: Don’t you have babi pangang, or nasi goreng special? Waitress: You want pork or duck? And pointed over her shoulder towards the kitchen where we could see the fried carcasses of aforementioned pigs and ducks hanging from the hooks in the window.
I think my mum wasn't quite prepared to put either on her plate and grabbed me and her purse and we left the restaurant. I think we had some chicken soup at a very western looking restaurant instead.
Things have changed in the Netherlands since then and even Amsterdam has got its very own Chinatown now, located around the Zeedijk and Nieuwmarkt area. Complete with dead chickens and ducks hanging in the windows. But the ‘Chinese restaurant’ in my home town Prinsenbeek, still does a mean babi pangang which definitely hits the spot. Every time.