Waiter, there is a fly in my soup

Posted in Travel at 12:19 by RjZ

What’s the appropriate etiquette? I had nearly finished my stir fried eggplant dish in the only small restaurant near my hotel on Putuo, China. I’d already eaten there a few times, because there was no other choice. This time I was by myself and having some lunch. I ordered the dish by trying to say “youméiyou sùshi shipin,” (Do you have vegetarian food?) which the proprietor did not understand no matter how often I repeated it, but was able read it from my iPhone quite easily. (Thank you, Lonely Planet speaking phrasebook.)

She brought me over to where the live fish were swimming around in plastic buckets and above which was an array of slightly wilting vegetables. She pointed, I pointed, and later, she brought out a plate of eggs and tomatoes, along with another plate of eggplant. The stir fried food was drenched in oil and hot as blazes. I ate until I was nearly full and as I was reaching for what would be my last piece of eggplant, I noticed the finger sized cockroach, legs up, laying there in the dish looking a bit like a burnt piece of eggplant himself.

So what was I to do? Complain? Should I point at it and express dissatisfaction? The range of possible responses is bewildering.
‘What did you think? Surprised you didn’t get more of them!’
‘Oh! You got a bonus! Lucky you!’

I’m confident that it was sterile enough with all that boiling oil. Further, I am sure I’ve eaten worse in my life and not known about it, so I just paid for my food and went on my way. I wonder if they even noticed it and wondered why I didn’t freak out.

1 Comment »

  1. Aaron said,

    July 30, 2009 at 21:45

    I’ve been to several of these type of Chinese restaurants in Thailand. Even with a pushy vegetarian wife that speaks the language, ordering(well receiving anyway) what you want can be difficult.

    You might try using the word “J” pronounced just like the letter. That works in Thailand better than the dictionary provided phrases for “Vegetarian” and comes directly from the Chinese word.

    Technically it means a little bit more than vegetarian, like vegan with some limitations on spices and root vegetables like garlic. (I’ll spare you the quasi-macrobiotic reasoning based on the yang qualities of such food) But it might get you closer to what you’re looking for.

    That doesn’t really help you with the cockroaches…which to answer your final question, no they probably didn’t notice or care.

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