Wei Ya

I was SO FULL that I undid the top button of my new comfy pants in the taxi on the way back from wei ya— the traditional before-Chinese New Year dinner given by my school.  We taxied over to this excellent restaurant right across the street from the Nanjing Jieuenzhan (Nanjing MRT stop), and ate So Much FOOD!!!

The restaurant has a yellow sign with red lettering, and a lovely fish tank with beautiful orange fish.  All the chairs were slip covered in red silk, the walls and tablecloths were pink, and there were really beautiful brush paintings on the wall (though the far wall sported an illustration of Snoopy and his minions — my eyesight isn’t that good, but I thought I detected a bunch of Woodstocks frolicking around him– the pervasive nature of cartoon characters in Taiwan is a worthy subject of blogging for another time…).

Photographs will be forthcoming of the carving of the Peking Duck (cao ya)— which was scrumptious, with tender dark meat and a crispy golden skin. They served it by wheeling a special little cart directly to our table and carving it in front of us (the splitting of the duck’s head makes an especially evocative CRACK/crunching sort of sound). The man carving the duck had such fluid, graceful movements.  The sawing of our turkey back home would have looked positively barbaric next to the way he deftly lifted the duck, and placed precise cuts to remove the meat and skin slice by slice.  It was truly an art.

My director was rather cruel and silly, telling his tiny daughter that this is what happens to ducks that run away and get lost.  After the duck is carved, you take a slice of the crispy skin, a slice of dark tender meat, a green scallion, and a generous helping of the sweet brown sauce, wrap it up in a little pancake, and go into happy crunch yummy oblivion.

We had two green vegetable dishes, shwei ue (directly translated as “snow fish” but really is what we call halibut) served on a tray with little gaslamps underneath, an awesome shredded pork/lettuce dish (really tender delicious pork), a spicy eggplant that was soft and quite hot, a dish with celery dipped in mustard/wasabi sort of sauce which looked deceptively like peanut sauce– which seemed to clear out the sinuses quite quickly and sliced beef (well, I think it was beef, maybe it was lamb… it was dark brown?), clams with bok choy, duck soup, spicy duck, scallion pancakes, pot stickers, a wrapped vegetable thingie inside cooked dough with sesame seeds on it, and probably a dozen more things I’m forgetting.

And just when I thought I could never eat again, I’m feeling peckish thinking about the food again.  It really reminded me of huge family dinners at round tables bedecked with groaning lazy susans in fancy restaurants when we visited Taiwan long ago.  We’d be invited out for dinner or lunch, which would turn out to be at the fanciest restaurants in town, and we’d show up in shorts and a T-shirt that said “Hawaii” (one of our visits was part of a vacation where we stopped by Hawaii and I think Japan around the same time).   Of course, I was embarrassingly awkward with chopsticks (still somewhat am, as I lost one of my chopsticks tonight, but managed with my spoon for the rest of the dinner– fortunately, it was at the end when I was already entering food-stupor-coma and right before the orange slices).

We weren’t the only ones having our wei ya there that night.  The place was full of large round tables of colleagues (some more red-faced than others), and we could hear the raucous cheers and laughter of one group that I suspect must have had a royally good raffle going on.  My roommate is going to her wei ya  tomorrow at lunch, KTV with her colleagues afterwards, and a party that evening.  Her company has 20 raffle prizes… and 9 employees– though we’ll have to check out what booty she gets, maybe the prizes are gags from the 10 NT store?


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Free Rice

February 2007
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